Fort Monroe

Fort Monroe Authority, Hampton, VA

Town Hall Meeting Setup for The Fort Monroe Interpretive Planning Project

Scope: Interpretive Master Plan, Creating A Tourism Destination

Download: Interpretive Master Plan

The original mission of Fort Monroe (built 1819-1834) was to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads and the several port cities that had access to its waters after the War of 1812. During the Civil War, the fort became well known as the site where Major General Benjamin Butler declared that escaped slaves could be considered contraband of war. His decision led thousands of self-liberated slaves to flee to the safety of Fort Monroe, creating “Freedom’s Fortress” for thousands seeking refuge from enslavement. Ironically, since the first African slaves are said to have entered the New World at the site, the fort can be considered the site of both the beginning, and the beginning of the end, of slavery in America.

The Interpretive Master Plan (IMP) developed by Interpretive Solutions was part of the transition of Fort Monroe from a U.S. Army installation to a major tourism destination. The Fort’s multiple stories addressed the history of slavery, the Civil War, and the experience of the U.S. military over several centuries. The site’s historical core was designated an NPS National Monument by President Obama in Nov. 2011. The IMP created a vision for public and educational programming at this former U.S. Army base. The project was complex because in addition to the interpretive experience, the site was charged with supporting the creation of a vibrant residential, business, and resort community that had to attract tourists to its outstanding historical, natural, and recreational assets. Therefore, the site required an interpretive perspective that spans the nation’s history from the Jamestown Colony era in Virginia through the 20th century to the Army’s training mission today. The work required a particular focus on the significance of nearly 300 buildings constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries and the stories they represent.