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Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center

Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center

African Arrival Commemoration and Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center Dedication

To commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English North America, the 2019 Commemoration presents a ceremony with hosts Fort Monroe Authority (FMA) and the National Park Service (NPS). The Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center project involves the renovation of the former Coast Artillery School Library at Fort Monroe and the addition of two wings. The galleries will tell the profound stories of Captain John Smith, the arrival of the first enslaved Africans and the culmination of 242 years of slavery as the first contrabands came to Fort Monroe to receive their emancipation. Additional activities at Fort Monroe during the weekend will include a remembrance ceremony, historical tours, cultural demonstrations, and a concert.


Dominion Energy is the presenting partner of the Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center.

Click below to download the 1/26/17 presentation.





The Fort Monroe Authority Welcomes New Trustees

Dr. Edward L. Ayers
University Professor and President Emeritus

Edward Ayers is President Emeritus of the University of Richmond, where he now serves as Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities. Previously Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he began teaching in 1980, Ayers was named the National Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2003.

A historian of the American South, Ayers has written and edited 10 books. The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history and the Beveridge Prize for the best book in English on the history of the Americas since 1492. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2013.

A pioneer in digital history, Ayers created “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” a website that has attracted millions of users and won major prizes in the teaching of history. He serves as co-editor of the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab and is a co-host of BackStory with the American History Guys, a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast.

Ayers has received a presidential appointment to the National Council on the Humanities, served as a Fulbright professor in the Netherlands and been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.



Dr. Maureen G. Elgersman Lee
Associate Professor/Chair, Political Science and History

Dr. Maureen Elgersman Lee is currently Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Department of Political Science and History at Hampton University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Redeemer University College, as well as a master’s degree in African and African American Studies and a doctorate in Humanities, with a concentration in African American Studies, both from Clark Atlanta University.  She joined the Hampton University faculty in Fall 2013.

Dr. Elgersman Lee specializes in the history of Black women in Canada and the British Caribbean as well as in Black community history.  She is the author of two books: Unyielding Spirits: Black Women and Slavery in Early Canada and Jamaica (Garland/Taylor and Francis), and Black Bangor: African Americans in a Maine Community, 1880-1950 (University Press of New England). She is the author of various articles, most notably “ ‘What They Lack in Numbers’: Locating Black Portland, 1870-1930” in Joseph A. Conforti, ed., Creating Portland: History and Place in Northern New England (University Press of New England) and “Slavery in Early Canada: Making Black Women Subject,” in Mona Gleason and Adele Perry, ed., Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women’s History, 5th ed. (Oxford University Press). For her work, Black Bangor,  Dr. Elgersman Lee received the Leadership in History Award of Merit from the American Association for the Study of State and Local History (AASLH) and the “Best of the Best of the University Presses—Outstanding Title” Award from the American Library Association (ALA).

Dr. Elgersman Lee regularly teaches the African American history survey as well as various upper level topics courses in Africana and women’s history.  She is currently working on a study of African Americans in Williamsburg, Virginia, after the Civil War.



Rex M. Ellis
Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, National Museum of African American History and Culture

Rex M. Ellis has served as the associate director for curatorial affairs at NMAAHC since 2008. He has the responsibility for planning, developing, directing and managing all curatorial, collections, education and outreach programs and activities.

Before joining NMAAHC, Ellis was vice president of the Historic Area for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, where he oversaw all programs and operations. Ellis was the first African American vice president in the foundation’s history and served in that position for eight years (2001-2008).

He received his bachelor of fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Master in Fine Arts from Wayne State University, a Master of Divinity from Virginia Union University and a doctor of education from the College of William and Mary. He has contributed articles to such publications as Journal of American History, Colonial Williamsburg Journal, August House Publications and History News. He is the author of two books, Beneath the Blazing Sun: Stories from the African American Journey and With a Banjo on My Knee, which chronicles the history of black banjo players from the time of slavery to the present.

Ellis is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, American Association of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, National Association of Black Storytellers and the National Storytelling Association. He has served as consultant to organizations such as the Midland Independent school district in Texas, Los Angeles County School District and the National Constitution Center. He has also worked with various institutions in many countries around the world such as Africa, New Zealand, France and Israel.

His presentations, lectures, workshops and consultancies focus on public programming, diversity interpretation and African American history and culture. His interests also include the spoken word and early American history, with special emphasis on slavery.



John J. Reynolds

John J. Reynolds served 39 years in the National Park Service, including time as Deputy Director: Regional Director, Director Denver Service Center, Superintendent North Cascades National Park, Assistant Superintendent Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and park planner/landscape architect. He currently serves as a board member of the Presidio Trust, the Student Conservation Association, Chesapeake Conservancy, Global Parks and Shenandoah National Park Trust. Mr. Reynolds is the Commonwealth of Virginia Citizen Representative to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, member of North Cascades Institute Advisory Council, Chair of the Flight 93 National Memorial Federal Advisory Commission and the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail Advisory Council. He is also a past board member of the Landscape Architecture Foundation, George Wright Society, Yosemite Fund, Yosemite National Institutes, Association of Partners for Public Lands and past US Delegate to the World Heritage Committee. He has received Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards from the Department of the Interior and the LaGasse Conservation Award and Fellow, American Society of Landscape Architects. His college degrees include BSLA, Iowa State University and MLA, State University of New York at Syracuse. Mr. Reynolds also served in the New Jersey National Guard and United States Army Reserve 1966-1972.

Calendar of Events 2018

Voices of Freedom: Civil War to Civil Rights
Fort Monroe Community Center, Saturday, February 10 at 4:30 pm

Civil War Encampment
Garrison Life Parade Ground, Saturday, March 24 from 9 am – 5 pm and Sunday, March 25  from 10 am – 3 pm
A glimpse into garrison life at Fort Monroe during the American Civil War. Events can include: Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry drill, firing demos, raising/lowering flag, Pay Call, Church Call and more!      

Easter Sunrise Service hosted by the Chapel of the Centurion
Continental Park, Sunday, April 1 at 6:30 am

Contraband Commemorative Event Series

  • Freedom Concert  Continental Park, April 19, 7 pm, (Weather Date: April 26)
  • Living History Tours  Cannon Park, Saturday, May 5 from 11 am – 2 pm, Tours begin every 30 minutes. Living History tour explores the “Contraband Decision” and freedom seekers here at “Freedom’s Fortress.”
  • Contraband Commemoration Ceremony  Cannon Park, Thursday, May 24 at 7:30 pm. Ceremony to commemorate the 1861 “Contraband Decision.”

Memorial Day/Flag Retirement Ceremony
Colonies RV and Travel Park, Monday, May 28 at 11:30 am
Memorial Day and flag retirement ceremony for used flags.

Walking Tours
Casemate Museum Entrance. Daily, June 1 – September 3 at 11 am
Explore the park with a Ranger!   Walking tours are free of charge.

Music by the Bay Summer Concert Series
Continental Park, Thursday nights, June 7 – August 30 at 7 pm
Weekly variety of musical acts, performers and military bands. No concert July 5th. Free admission.

Campfire Talks
Colonies RV and Travel Park, Friday nights, June 15 – August 31 at 7 pm
Free educational programs for all ages! New topics each week will highlight the natural, historical or cultural wonders found at Fort Monroe!

Fourth of July Flag Ceremony
Flagstaff Bastion, Wednesday, July 4 at 10 am
Flag ceremony observing the 4th of July and the anniversary of the 1831 death of President James Monroe.

Fourth at the Fort
North Gate Area, Wednesday, July 4 from 6 – 9:45 pm
Vendors, exhibit booths, activities and military bands create a festive celebration of the 4th of July ending with a fireworks display!

African Arrival Day
Continental Park, August 25

Hampton Cup Regatta
Mill Creek September 29 & 30

Fort Monroe Ghost Walk
Main Gate, October 19 & 20, 6-10 pm
Discover where history meets mystery! The Fort Monroe Authority will host the annual guided Ghost Walks.

Veterans Day Ceremony
DeRussy/Church Field Saturday, November 10 at 9 am
Veterans Day observance followed by the installation of US flags.

Fort Monroe Tree Lighting Ceremony
Cannon Park, Thursday, December 6 at 5:30 pm
Annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at Cannon Park.

Fort Monroe Mistletoe Homes Tour
20 Ingalls Road, Saturday, December 8 from 11 am – 5 pm
Celebrate the season with a walking tour of Fort Monroe’s most beautiful, historic homes, decorated for the holidays.



Programs are subject to change. Outdoor programs are weather permitting.

Fort Monroe Awarded Major Challenge Grant

The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, a prestigious Virginia grantor, has awarded the Fort Monroe Foundation a $250,000 Challenge toward the site’s priority projects over the next five years.

To secure the Challenge, the Fort Monroe Foundation must raise $1,000,000 in new gifts or pledges – or secure increased support from previous donors by next December 2018. Fort Monroe’s next phase of development of public resources and programs is estimated to require $19,500,000. Among the major projects is the new Visitor and Education Center, along with way-finding signage and plans for the old Post Theater and Old Quarters One restoration.

With significant early support from the federal government, Commonwealth of Virginia and select private donors, a balance of $13,500,000 is being sought to support these five-year projects and resources for a growing audience.

Music by the Bay 2017 Outdoor Concert Series

Free and Open to the Public

Opening Concert | Friday, June 2
Thursday Evenings | June 8 – August 31 (No concert July 6)
Fourth at the Fort | Monday, July 4

Bring your own picnic, chairs and Frisbee to enjoy summer sunsets
by the Chesapeake Bay, along with great military band music. 

Large groups welcome. Drop-off at Continental Park, bus parking
at Outlook Beach parking lot. Free parking onsite.

Casemate Museum News

Visits and Events

Spring and summer saw excellent visitation as well as increased volunteer hours at the Casemate Museum. The Museum collaborated with partner organizations on a number of public programs, including a Commemoration of the 153rd Anniversary of the Contraband Decision, an Educator Symposium on the War of 1812 and an “Artillery School of Practice” kids’ activity for the “Fourth at the Fort” Independence Day Celebration. Two new tour opportunities were also added. Casemate staff continued to lead popular walking tours with introductory talks provided by National Park Service Rangers.


New Historian Welcomed

The Casemate Museum proudly welcomes Robert Kelly as Museum Historian. Robert has been working with the Historic Preservation Department of the Fort Monroe Authority for the past three years. He brings a wealth of knowledge to his new position, related especially to the Fort’s diverse architecture and associated maps, plans and other primary source documents. As historian, Robert is responsible for managing museum archives, conducting primary research and supporting education, collections and preservation initiatives. Robert Kelly is a graduate of Old Dominion University, where he received his Bachelor of History in 2009. While studying at ODU, Robert focused on Civil War, Virginia, and Maritime History. Currently, he is working on his Masters in American History at Norwich University. Robert served as the Research and Preservation Assistant for the Fort Monroe Authority from 2011 – 2014 and this past spring was named the Casemate Museum Historian. With parents originally from Hampton Roads and a grandmother who worked at Fort Monroe following World War II, Robert is no stranger to Freedom’s Fortress. He admires the rich history and natural beauty of Fort Monroe and is excited to be a part of its future.


Historic Structures Report – Structural Monitoring & Testing at the Casemate Museum

As part of a the continuing partnership between the Fort Monroe Authority, the National Park Service’s Fort Monroe National Monument, and the Department of Defense, the Historic Architecture, Conservation & Engineering (HACE) Center for the Northeast Region of the National Park Service will be working on the completion of a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for the Fort Monroe Authority’s Casemate Museum from May 2014 through June 2015, utilizing grant funding from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment. The HSR will provide the Fort Monroe Authority with a comprehensive understanding of the Casemate Museum and Archives section of the fortifications that will be critical to addressing ongoing structural and aesthetic issues in a manner sensitive to the historic fabric and character of the Fort Monroe National Monument and National Historic Landmark.

Key sections of the HSR:

  • Describe the general history of Fort Monroe and the people and events that make the fort a National Historic Landmark, paying particular attention to the history of the casemates in the context of Fort Monroe.
  • Focus on the construction of the casemates, modifications and alterations to the structures, and the historical use of the casemates, with particular attention to the Casemate Museum and Archives.
  • Focus on the investigation, documentation, and description of the physical elements and characteristics of the Casemate Museum and Archives, discussing the existing conditions and historical integrity of the structures and their architectural elements
  • Provide a systematic assessment of material and component deterioration and performance, structural behavior, and interior environmental issues, with classification of condition and treatment priority.
  • Provide recommended remedial treatment(s) and impacts related to historic fabric and occupancy requirements in compliance with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and National Park Service Director’s Order 28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline.

In order to gather crucial structural and environmental data necessary for the systematic assessment described for the HSR, HACE staff has and will continue to install and monitor a variety of measuring and diagnostic equipment, including crack monitors mounted to walls and ceilings. HACE staff will also utilize limited materials sampling methods for laboratory analysis of material compositions and strengths, working with Casemate Museum and Archive management and staff to minimize the visual impacts of these samples and the disruption to both museum operations and visitor experience. Stay tuned for further information as the HSR investigation process unfolds over the next 12 months.

Lafayette’s visit to Fort Monroe in 1824
as Guest of the Nation

By Robert Kelly, Casemate Museum Historian

In 1824, President James Monroe, the last of the founding-father presidents, invited Marquis de Lafayette, the last surviving general of the Revolutionary War, to visit the United States, as an official “Guest of the Nation.” Forty-eight years had passed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and 43 since the British surrender at Yorktown. As the generation of Revolutionary War veterans passed away, fewer and fewer Americans remembered the bloody struggle for liberty and freedom from England. President Monroe recognized that it was a crucial time in the country’s history. He felt it was important for the younger generation to recognize that freedom and democracy had come at a great cost. The President looked to Lafayette, the hero of both France and America, to return and remind Americans of the sacrifices and heroism of the time.

In the summer of 1777, wealthy French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette, captivated with the ongoing American struggle for independence, used his personal wealth to purchase a ship and sail to America. Volunteering in the Continental Army, the 19-year-old Lafayette soon earned the command of a division and the high respect of his American soldiers. He was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, accompanied General Washington at Valley Forge that winter, escaped capture by Lord Cornwallis at Richmond and was with Washington during the decisive Yorktown campaign in 1781. By the age of 25, Lafayette had earned the reputation as a fearless leader and had become General Washington’s top-ranking officer and devoted friend. Following the War, Lafayette returned to France and Americans recognized the significant role that he had played in securing victory against England. Twentieth-century Lafayette biographer Martha Foote Crow capsulated his career succinctly as “the boy Cornwallis could not catch, the man Napoleon could not intimidate.”

Lafayette’s return to America in 1824 lasted 13 months during which time he visited all 24 states, traveled an estimated 5,000 miles and was hosted by the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. He was hosted by former Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe and two future presidents, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He was accompanied by his only son, 45-year-old George Washington Lafayette, his secretary Auguste Levasseur and his personal servant. Revered with immense admiration, Lafayette was given a hero’s welcome everywhere he visited. Lavish parties, cotillions, concerts, parades and speeches were a regular occurrence that celebrated his heroism, fame and legacy. On one such occasion when addressing and welcoming Lafayette in the New York Senate Chamber on September 13, 1824, Mayor of Albany Ambrose Spencer proclaimed, “Franklin, the wisest man of the age, pronounced you the most distinguished he ever knew, Washington, the illustrious hero of the new world, honored you with friendship the most sincere and with confidence the most unlimited…”

Lafayette spent eight days in the Tidewater of Virginia, October 18-25, 1824, one of his longest stays in a single geographical area. After visiting Yorktown, Jamestown, Williamsburg and Norfolk, General Lafayette arrived at Fort Monroe on Sunday October 24, 1824. The Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald {October 27, 1824}, which covered his visit extensively stated, “…the general left here {Norfolk} on Sunday afternoon for a visit to Fortress Monroe where he was received with highest military honors.” The General was escorted throughout Fort Monroe by Colonel Abraham

Eustis, the commanding officer. Later in the evening, Colonel Eustis received Lafayette at Quarters No. 1 where he partook of a “handsome cotillion party and spent the evening.” The next morning he received the troops and officers of Fort Monroe and after taking breakfast with Colonel Eustis visited the adjacent fortifications of Castle Calhoun (Fort Wool). Captain Rufus Baker, an army engineer at Fort Monroe, described Lafayette’s visit in a letter to his mother penned just a few days after his visit:

“Lafayette visited our post and stayed all night with us – receiving our Regiments and eat and drank, and then eat and drank again_In fact Mother, He eats like our doberman and always has a keen appetite for duplicate dinners suppers and breakfasts and I am told the he conquers York River Oysters that fill a tumbler.” Garrisoned only 15 months prior to Lafayette’s visit, Fort Monroe was still under construction. According to 1824 U.S. Army Engineer drawings, the water battery on the east side of the Fort had been completed and the majority of the stone walls erected. However, the moat remained incomplete, the brick-faced casemates unfinished, only a handful of permanent buildings completed and plans for a hospital only recently finalized. The parade ground had been leveled and graded only two weeks prior on October 6, 1824, in preparation for his visit.

Lafayette would have had more than a passing interest in the engineering of the fortifications at Fort Monroe and Castle Calhoun. President Madison had appointed French-born engineer Simon Bernard to design Fort Monroe and Castle Calhoun on the personal recommendation of Lafayette. In a letter to President Madison on November 11, 1815, Lafayette concluded, “I am so sensible of the value of Genl. Bernard that I will feel highly happy to hear his proposal has obtained your approbation.” One year later on November 16, 1816, Bernard was appointed assistant engineer with the rank and pay of brigadier general of United States Army engineers. Bernard would eventually design some of the United States’ most important and impressive fortifications including Forts Monroe, Adams, Hamilton, Macon and Morgan. Bernard’s service to America and his fortifications are a standing testament to Lafayette’s sphere of influence in the defense and preservation of American freedom.

Lafayette’s triumphant return to America concluded the following year when he departed Washington for France aboard the newly commissioned frigate Brandywine on September 7, 1825. When Lafayette died in France on May 20, 1834, President Andrew Jackson proclaimed that, “the same honors be rendered on this occasion at the different military and naval stations as were observed upon the decease of Washington…” Today, on the main floor of Quarters No. 1 adjacent to the “Lincoln Bedroom” is the “Lafayette Room” where Lafayette presumably spent the Sunday night of October 24, 1824. It now serves as the office of the Executive Director of the Fort Monroe Authority and will eventually transfer to the Fort Monroe National Monument to be managed by the National Park Service.

Marquis de Lafayette personified courage, honor and victory to early American’s but most importantly, he represented freedom. Today, Fort Monroe epitomizes all aspects of American history including the pursuit for freedom and the arc of slavery for African Americans. As the Casemate Museum transitions from an army museum to the responsibility of the Fort Monroe Authority, it is important to keep the Fort’s legacy alive and to continue interpreting its rich history. We are at a juncture where we look to figures such as Lafayette for inspiration in the hope that we may continue our forefathers’ dream of opportunity and the preservation of freedom for all. October 24, 2014, marks the 190th anniversary of Lafayette’s visit to Fort Monroe. This special occasion allows us to stop and consider where history has taken us, where it may lead us and how we are the ultimate stewards of Fort Monroe and the Casemate Museum for future generations.