History Is Made: Fort Monroe Becomes Newest National Monument

History was made on November 1, when President Obama proclaimed a shuttered Army fort in Virginia with an important role in the nation’s slavery history to be a national monument.

Using his authority under the century-old Antiquities law for the first time in his presidency, Mr. Obama signed a proclamation designating Fort Monroe a national monument. That saves it from major development and preserves its history for generations.

Edgar Allen Poe Wrote “Annabel Lee” Here

The star fort was built in the 1800s with construction overseen by Robert E. Lee. At Fort Monroe, Edgar Allen Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” while serving in the military here; both Chief Blackhawk and Jefferson Davis were imprisoned within its walls; and Harriet Tubman nursed the sick at the fort’s hospital.

From The Washington Post:

At a signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Obama said the fort had played a “remarkable role in the history of our nation.” He said he looked forward to visiting and taking daughters Malia and Sasha along to get “a sense of their history.”

The fort and the land it sits on are historically significant because it was where Dutch traders first brought enslaved Africans in 1619. It remained in Union possession during the Civil War and became a place where escaped slaves could find refuge. Confederate President Jefferson Davis also was imprisoned there after the Civil War.

Obama said the fort also helped create the environment that led President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.

But the government decided in a 2005 cost-cutting move to close the fort and many other military installations. In September, the Army ended its 188-year presence there.

President Obama Grabbed The Chance To Talk About Jobs

And the President did not miss the opportunity to push his agenda.

In addition to its historical significance, Mr. Obama noted the economic value of Fort Monroe’s designation as a national monument. He said local officials have estimated that a plan for reusing the site would help create nearly 3,000 jobs in next-door Virginia. Was he weighing the importance of winning Virginia in 2012?

“Fort Monroe has played a part in some of the darkest and some of the most heroic moments in American history. But today isn’t just about preserving a national landmark. It’s about helping to create jobs and grow the local economy,” Obama said in a paper statement released earlier Tuesday. “Steps like these won’t replace the bold action we need from Congress to get our economy moving and strengthen middle-class families, but they will make a difference.”

The Grand Canyon, Statue Of Liberty, Ellis Island, Protected By Antiquities Act

Although this is the first time President Obama has utilized the Antiquities Act, presidents dating to Theodore Roosevelt have used the 1906 law to protect sites deemed to have natural, historical or scientific significance, including the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Welcome, Fort Monroe, to the hundred or so existing national monuments.

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Photo Credit: Anthony Prater

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Cherry M.
Cherry M.4 years ago

I am not a big fan of our president but we must give credit where credit is due. The writer just had to bring up the election, didn't she? This is an excellent thing Obama did, I believe we need to preserve and cherish American history, preserve it so generations to come will have a sense of who we are. Obama signed this into law, it is a very good thing and I applaud him for it......end of story!

Sheryl D.
Sheryl D.4 years ago

So much negativity when people read about things that are for a positive situation. If you people who only read between lines that are not there, can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I am sick of reading your crap!! Saving this Fort is a good thing; we humans are already destroying so much land and the oceans. Why not save a Fort? WTG President Obama!! Cheers!!!

Winn Adams
Winn Adams4 years ago

Thanks for the info

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.4 years ago

"Was he weighing the importance of winning Virginia in 2012?" Comments like this do discredit to all of us and I am sad to see it coming from a commenter; enough comments like these come from the media and so-call political pundits.. Perhaps it is as the President said, preserving history and an important part of our history while creating jobs.

Can't we give the rhetoric a rest once in ahwile?

Barbara S.

I'm glad he did this. I think preserving Historical Sites for as long as we can, is important.

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo4 years ago

Way to go, Mr. President!

Barbara V.
Barbara V.4 years ago

I don't know about the timing here. Seems to me there are many, many other situations needing to be seen to before another National monument.

Penny C.
Penny C.4 years ago


Linda Clark
Linda C.4 years ago

Actually George W Bush did establish Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. It is considered one of the greatest environmental legacies of a U.S. President. It covers 215 million acres.

Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M.4 years ago

Wonderful-an important part of our history and heritage. It is as important as our national parks and should not be forgotten or worse yet, have a Wal Mart built over it, or next door to it. We lose so much of our history daily.