Exploring Fort Monroe National Monument (Virginia, USA)

Fort Monroe – which I had the opportunity to visit yesterday – is an interesting place. It was first fortified in 1609 by the Jamestown settlers (which makes it VERY historic, by American standards!), and developed more heavily as an army base in the nineteenth century. (Robert E. Lee, for one, was stationed there for a time, pre-Civil War.) It was held by the Union for the duration of the Civil War, with Abraham Lincoln visiting there at one point, and Jefferson Davis being imprisoned there post-war. It was decommissioned as an army base in 2011 – and later that year, President Obama designated it a national monument.

That’s the thumbnail history! Wikipedia – of course – has more detail, as does the National Park Service site I linked to above (click on “Fort Monroe,” the first words of this post!)

It was an interesting place to poke around. It’s a little shabby – but in a compelling way, because it’s clear that it’s in a process of transition. It’s being developed right now, not only as an historic site, but for residential and business use.

It reminded me (on a considerably smaller scale) of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia – which is an interesting mix of historic buildings and museums, residences, businesses, and outdoor opportunities. Fort Monroe has a ways to go before it gets there, but you can see, walking around, that the seeds have been planted already. It was fun to see it in these early stages and to think about what five more years or so might do.

I took a lot of pictures! (The photography bug, which was largely dormant for about a year, has awoken recently with a VENGEANCE!!!)

Here are some:

The lighthouse, which dates from 1802:

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The house Lincoln stayed in when he visited:

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Various other historic structures:

The museum was nice. I still have a lot of editing to do to on those images though, so don’t have many to post here yet. I think what I have is mostly salvageable, so perhaps I’ll come back later and add some – but it was pretty dim in there! (I don’t use a flash, so I tend to have to do a lot of messing-around, post-processing, to get images I like in those situations…which takes a little time!)

Here’s the main entrance (outside), and one of the interior, at least. (Those would be my ten-year-old and eight-year-old kids in the interior shot, examining a model of the original, seventeenth-century fort.) The museum is located within the old fort – which in itself is pretty cool. It’s basically a bunch of stone and brick interconnected chambers – so it has a lot of atmosphere!:

You can walk up along the ramparts of the old fort, too, where they kept the cannons once-upon-a-time, and view the Chesapeake Bay:

There’s a beach area along the bay as well and we spent about an hour there. It was interesting in that it’s basically a bunch of little coves, delineated by (man-made) piles of rocks. There’s not much in the way of waves (being the bay, not the actual ocean!), but there was sand for castle-building, and water to get your feet wet, so (from my kids’ perspective, at least), it had it all! It didn’t hurt anything that, being so close to Norfolk (where there’s a big naval base), they got to see some big ships passing by on their way out to sea:

I think my favorite part, though, was seeing the big old oak trees on the grounds – at least one of which, we read, was 500 years old!!! They were amazing. My pictures in no way do them justice:

All-in-all, it was a beautiful day for exploring and an interesting site to explore – and I think we made the most of it! 🙂

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One thought on “Exploring Fort Monroe National Monument (Virginia, USA)

  1. Fort Monroe is where Ben Butler first entered the history books. He later went on to attack Wilmington, North Carolina and failed to take it. Butler was justifying his failure to a Congressional committee, claiming it was impossible to take the city, when word arrived Wilmington had fallen

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