396th National Park
Contact: Adam Fetcher (DOI), 202-208-6416
Contact: David Barna (NPS), 202-208-6843
NPS Director Jarvis Names Superintendent of Newest Park
WASHINGTON - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar hailed the decision by President Obama to establish Fort Monroe National Monument - a 19th century former Army post in Hampton, Virginia that is integral to the history of slavery, the Civil War, and the U.S. military - the 396th park in the National Park System.
"Fort Monroe is a crown jewel in the history of America's march toward a more perfect Union," Secretary Salazar said. "We heard loud and clear from the local community, state and federal officials, and stakeholders everywhere that Fort Monroe is a place of unique historical and cultural significance that merits protection, so it's especially meaningful that President Obama has ensured the site is preserved for future generations."
"The stories of Fort Monroe National Monument are as diverse as the nation itself," said the National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "Two hundred and forty-two years after the first enslaved Africans landed on this peninsula, the Fort became a safe haven for slaves seeking refuge during the Civil War. As a 'contraband camp' Fort Monroe provided a pathway to freedom for thousands. As our nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the National Park Service is proud to add Fort Monroe to our arsenal of places that tell the American story."
The new national park is expected to bring significant economic benefits to the local community by creating jobs and driving tourism. In 2009, the National Park System received over 285 million recreation visits, with visitors spending nearly $12 billion in local gateway regions and supporting 247,000 jobs nationally. Overall, each federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least four dollars of economic value to the public.
Today twenty-year National Park Service veteran Kirsten Talken-Spaulding was named as superintendent of the new park. She assumes her duties immediately.
"National Parks have been called 'America's best idea'," said Jarvis. "Kirsten has the intelligence, passion and leadership skills to ensure that Fort Monroe National Monument honors the site's history and natural resources as it takes its place as America's newest national park."
Talken-Spaulding is currently a National Park Service Bevinetto Congressional Fellow who has worked in both the NPS Washington legislative affairs and a congressional committee office on Capitol Hill during the two-year leadership program. Talken-Spaulding previously served at National Capital Parks-East as chief ranger. She has held other management positions at Prince William Forest Park (Va.), Haleakala National Park (Hawaii), and Mojave National Preserve (Calif.).
"Coming to Ft. Monroe is like coming home. I grew up in this area," said Talken-Spaulding. "Several generations of my family have served in the military, and I'm honored to work with the community, park partners, and the City of Hampton who first developed the vision for this national monument."
Talken-Spaulding served in the United States Navy Reserve. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Biology from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.
While the National Park Service works with the community to start the planning for the new park, most of Fort Monroe will continue to be open to the public. More information is available at the new website: www.nps.gov/fomr.
President Obama established the new park yesterday under the Antiquities Act, which has been used by 15 presidents since 1906 to protect some of the most inspiring and unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, California's giant sequoias, and the Statue of Liberty. Fort Monroe National Monument marks the fifth national park established under President Obama.
Background on Fort Monroe:
Built between 1819 and 1834, the Fort occupies a strategic position for coastal defense dating back to the earliest days of the Virginia Colony. It was the place where Dutch traders first brought enslaved Africans in 1619. During the Civil War, the fort remained in Union hands and became notable as a historic and symbolic site of early freedom for escaped slaves to find refuge.
Named after President James Monroe and later known as "Freedom's Fortress," Fort Monroe was the site of General Benjamin Butler's "Contraband Decision" in 1861, that provided a pathway to freedom for thousands of enslaved people during the Civil War and served as a forerunner of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. It was also the staging area for General George B. McClellan's 1862 Peninsula Campaign. After the war ended, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at the fort for two years.
From the Civil War through World War II, Fort Monroe served as a headquarters for coastal defense and boasted an impressive array of coastal artillery including guns capable of firing a 2,000 pound projectile 25 miles.
After World War II, Fort Monroe remained an active military base until it was deactivated in September in accordance with the recommendations of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. It had been the third oldest U.S. Army post in continuous active service.
Fort Monroe includes 170 historic buildings and nearly 200 acres of natural resources, including 8 miles of waterfront, 3.2 miles of beaches on the Chesapeake Bay, 110 acres of submerged lands, and 85 acres of wetlands.
In recent years, Fort Monroe has become a popular historical site. The Casemate Museum, opened in 1951, depicts the history of Fort Monroe and Old Point Comfort, with special emphasis on the Civil War period. It offers a view of Confederate President Jefferson Davis' prison cell. Also shown are the quarters occupied by 1st Lt. Robert E. Lee in 1831-34, and the quarters where President Abraham Lincoln was a guest in May 1862.
For more information, please see www.nps.gov/fomr.
Did You Know?
Booker T. Washington worked at the Hygeia Hotel at Fort Monroe while he was a student at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia (now Hampton University)