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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.

The Waterfront Park Project and 7 Mile Trail

7 mile trail and programmed spaces
7 mile trail and programmed spaces

The Fort Monroe Authority has selected the design team for the Waterfront Park and negotiated a fee of approximately $100,000. The Foundation has secured two pledges of $50,000 and the design team will soon meet with the Fort Monroe Authority staff to begin the design process. The conceptual design will be completed in 2015 and will include a public design charrette as well as public presentations to the Fort Monroe Authority Board of Trustees. This Waterfront Park design will include a conceptual plan for the entire waterfront owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The conceptual plan will be supplemented by more detailed drawings of individual park spaces in the Waterfront Park. These spaces will include sites such as Continental Park, the Kayak Launch Area, and Outlook Beach. Additionally, the Waterfront Park concept plan will be further supplemented with perspective drawings to better illustrate what the spaces will look like from the ground level and approximate cost estimates will be provided so that the Foundation can begin to market projects to philanthropic organizations interested in improving Fort Monroe. The ultimate goal is that the park would be an opportunity for people to invest in portions of the site as small as a brick paver to larger donations that would include naming rights to specific areas.

Pictured are Michael Monteith, President of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Bob Aston, Chairman and CEO of TowneBank.
Pictured are Michael Monteith, President of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Bob Aston, Chairman and CEO of TowneBank.

As part of the Waterfront Park conceptual design, the Fort Monroe Authority is also securing the services of a sign consultant who specializes in signage for campus settings such as Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe is challenged by internal signage to direct people to our historic sites, our individual buildings, as well as displaying property regulations. This service will be invaluable to both the Waterfront Park as well as the entire Fort Monroe campus. Once the contract is negotiated, the Foundation will assume responsibility for finding sponsors or grants to pay for this additional portion of the design project.

Thank you to the Peninsula Community Foundation and the TowneBank Foundation for their generous support.

Sisterhood on the Fort:
Social Enjoyment and Civic Engagement

This past summer the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast approached the Casemate Museum with a proposal for a temporary exhibit to tell the story of Girl Scouting at Fort Monroe. Girl scouting began at Fort Monroe in 1926 and the Post provided them space within a Casemate for their meeting room. Throughout their history, the Fort Monroe Girl Scouts camped on the Fort’s Parade Ground, performed countless beautification projects around the Post and actively contributed to local charitable organizations.

The exhibit incorporates a 1926 Fort Monroe Girl Scout scrapbook and photographs from the Museum archives, as well as historic uniforms and scout handbooks on loan from the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast. On Saturday October 4, 2014, the exhibit officially opened with an evening reception attended by over 50 people. Those in attendance included Fort Monroe Girl Scout alumnae, numerous executives and board members of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, representatives from Top Guard Security and the National Park Service. The exhibit will be on display until the spring of 2015.

A generous $1,250 donation by the Museum’s security contractor, Top Guard Security, made the exhibit and opening reception possible.

Message from the Executive Director

Many great things happened at Fort Monroe over the spring and summer and we are looking forward to an exciting fall and winter. There has been an increase in visitor traffic this year and it is in large part due to a wide array of special events that have become very popular with the public.

On Thursday evenings this summer, Fort Monroe was again proud to host its Music by the Bay Summer Concert Series featuring military bands and patriotic music. To kick off this year’s concert series, the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band performed a special commemorative concert for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. As a complement to the summer concert series, the Casemate Museum implemented the Discover Fort Monroe: Pre-Concert Walking Tour Series. Casemate Museum staff and National Park Service Rangers conducted 45-minute walking tours of Fort Monroe, emphasizing the history of the site, prior to each concert. Again, we were thrilled to conclude our summer concert series with the stirring performance of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

Fort Monroe’s Fourth at the Fort Celebration was again a huge success. An estimated 17,000 visitors enjoyed food vendors; free, family-friendly activities; musical entertainment provided by the United States Navy Fleet Forces Wind Ensemble and a spectacular close-proximity July 4th fireworks show.

As fall and winter approach, Fort Monroe is excited to provide three additional opportunities to explore the site and learn the history of one of the nation’s oldest treasures. On October 24 and 25, costumed storytellers will share classic Fort Monroe ghost tales during Fort Monroe Ghost Walk: Where History Meets Mystery. Holiday events at Fort Monroe will include a free concert by the Hampton Roads Philharmonic Orchestra and a tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, December 7, as well as a Holiday Homes Tour on the afternoon of Saturday, December 13. (Read more about these events here.)

Finally, the Fort Monroe Foundation would like to extend its appreciation to our sponsors who make special programming possible and to the public for attending. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, it is our hope that your enjoyment of historic Fort Monroe will often include attending our special events. From all of us at FMA, thank you for your support. We hope to see you again—and again.


G. Glenn Oder, ASLA
Executive Director, Fort Monroe Authority

Day of Service at Fort Monroe

Joan Baker, Human Resources Manager at Fort Monroe Authority, worked with Tracy King from the Church of the Latter Day Saints to organize a “Day of Service” at Fort Monroe. The Church brought 145 volunteers to the property and, if you counted all of the children, the total number exceeded 200 participants. Their assignment was to remove the weeds and plant growth on the seawall area along the land side of Gulick Road next to the Bay. This is a public space along the boardwalk that is not maintained by our landscape contractor and some weeds reached three feet in height. At the conclusion of the effort the property was substantially improved and over 200 bags of debris were filled and stacked along Gulick Road. Special thanks to Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward who was first approached by this group and directed them to the FMA to coordinate this volunteer effort.

At the conclusion of this activity, the FMA Special Events Department roped off an area near Outlook Beach for a restricted picnic area. They found numerous picnic tables in various locations on the property and a couple of “smoking shelters” near commercial office buildings that were no longer in use. Working with Veolia, they had the tables and shelters delivered to the special roped off area. As a test, the FMA allowed the Church volunteers to use the space for a private picnic area. We are pleased to report the space was a huge success and the FMA Special Events Team now considers this area as a leasable space known as Picnic Area 2. We expect this area will be another source of revenue for the FMA next spring and summer

To reserve the picnic area as well as other venues at Fort Monroe, contact Aaron Whittington, Special Events Coordinator at 757 690-8061 or

New Businesses Coming to Fort Monroe

Alternatives, Inc., which has signed a 10-year lease with the Fort Monroe Authority, occupies approximately 5,800 square feet in Building 263. The company’s programs and services are focused on increasing the creativity and civic leadership of young people. Goals include building youthful self-confidence, social competency, critical thinking and an appreciation of diversity in cultures and beliefs.

Liberty-Source PBC has taken approximately 6,000 square feet in Building 260 and an additional 3,000 square feet in Building 259. A new business services outsourcing model, Liberty- Source supports their clients’ evolving goals through transparent governance, flexible agreements and introduction of the latest innovations. The company acquires staff from the U.S. military community and, at full build-out, will have the potential of bringing 600 jobs to Fort Monroe.

American Great:
Booker T. Washington at Fort Monroe

In the fall of 1872, a 16-year-old African American with little more than the tattered clothes on his back arrived in Hampton, Virginia, hoping to enroll in Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University. Initially turned away, he would become Hampton’s most famous graduate. Born a slave in Hale’s Ford, Virginia, Booker T. Washington had experienced the Civil War and seen the evils of slavery firsthand. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and the 13th Amendment that officially abolished slavery in 1865 provided inspiration and the opportunity for the inquisitive, intelligent and hard-working Washington to seek a higher education.

Washington recalled in his book Up From Slavery that his stepfather, Ferguson Washington, had escaped slavery during the Civil War “…by running away and following the Federal soldiers…” Historian Michael Rudolph West concludes in his book The Education of Booker T. Washington, that Ferguson Washington indeed sought refuge from slavery by becoming a Union Contraband of War. He traveled with the Union army from Virginia to West Virginia and ultimately settled there after the War.

Following the Civil War, while working as a coal miner deep within the mountains of West Virginia, the young Booker T. Washington overheard whispers from other workers about a school for African Americans somewhere in Virginia. He saved what money he could, asked for help and eventually set out on his journey east, determined to reach the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. He traveled over 500 miles, mostly on foot, sleeping wherever he could and essentially living off the land. Washington’s determination to reach Hampton was similar to his stepfather’s earlier struggle for freedom and opportunity, or for that matter, comparable to the perseverance of the tens of thousands of African Americans who risked their lives to seek refuge as Contrabands during the Civil War.

After completing his first year of schooling, Washington did not have enough money to travel home for the summer or pay his next year’s tuition. He was in desperate need of a job and looked throughout Hampton for employment. Washington recalled in Up From Slavery, that “After trying for several days in and near the town of Hampton, I finally secured work in a restaurant at Fortress Monroe.” He continues, “At night, and between meals, I found considerable time for study and reading; and in this direction I improved myself very much during the summer.” The restaurant in which Washington worked was likely the Hygeia Dining Saloon and was located directly beside the Baltimore Wharf within present day Continental Park at the terminus of Ingalls Road. Although no remnants remain of the restaurant or Wharf, a historic photograph and an 1873 map included in the Casemate Museum’s archives, provide a unique opportunity to step back in time. Looking at the photograph allows us to reflect and imagine the influence Fort Monroe may have had on the young Booker T. Washington. We can still walk in his footsteps as he worked his way through his school years. Washington graduated from Hampton with honors in 1875.

Fort Monroe, located at Old Point Comfort, Virginia, is a site that encapsulates the African American struggle for freedom. From the first documented Africans to arrive in English North America in 1619 to the heroics of the three slaves who escaped and became Contrabands of War in 1861, Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort is an epicenter for African American history. Anthony and Isabella, William Tucker, Frank Baker, James Townsend, Sheppard Mallory, Mary Peake, Harriet Tubman and Booker T. Washington are just a few of the African Americans whose heroism can be traced directly to Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort, the largest stone Fort in North America and a shining beacon for freedom.

Following his time at Hampton, Booker T. Washington became nationally acclaimed as an orator, author of 14 books, advisor to Presidents of the United States and the first teacher at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, eventually becoming the principal. He held this position from 1881 until his death in 1915 at the young age of 59. This coming November 14th marks the 99th anniversary of his death and provides an opportunity to remember him as a great American and true champion of education and freedom.

Written by Robert Kelly, Casemate Museum Historian