Fort Monroe Joins the National Monument Club!

Okay, it’s not actually called the “National Monument Club,” but it sounds fun, right? I’d wear a button.

On November 1, 2011 President Obama designated Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA a National Monument using his presidential power designated in the Antiquities Act of 1906.

 The Antiquities Act states:

The President of the United States is authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Read here to learn which Presidents have designated which monuments. It began with Teddy Roosevelt and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

Devil's Tower (future) National Monument, ca. 1900.

The PreservationNation blog gives you the full scoop on the efforts by the National Trust, politicians and citizens to persuade the President to designate Fort Monroe. Here is a brief bit of history about Fort Monroe, from Rob Nieweg at PreservatioNation:

Located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Monroe is a principal landmark of African American heritage. Old Point Comfort was the site of the 1619 First Landing of enslaved Africans in the English-speaking New World, and in 1861 it became the unique birthplace of the Civil War-era freedom movement. The May 1861 events at Fort Monroe inspired 500,000 African American women, children, and men – dubbed “contrabands” by the Union Army – to liberate themselves from bondage. They didn’t wait for permission, but made their way at great risk to relative safety behind Union lines, first at Fort Monroe and shortly thereafter at the ring of fortifications surrounding the nation’s capital. The courage and plight of the freedom seekers influenced national politics and hastened President Lincoln’s formal Emancipation Proclamation.

Fort Monroe. Image from Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park. Click for source & CFMNP website.

Read the rest of the article and browse through the blog for more information. If you’re happy to hear this news, join the National Trust in thanking President Obama for his efforts and designation. (It’s a simple form to fill out, but as your parents should have taught you, saying thank you goes a long way.)

Wondering the difference between a National Park &  a National Monument? The National Park Service describes it as such:

The two classes of reservations comprising the national-park and national-monument system differ primarily in the reasons for which they are established. National parks are areas set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States generally, because of some outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena. Although many years ago several small parks were established, under present policies national parks must be sufficiently large to yield to effective administration and broad use. The principal qualities considered in studying areas for park purposes are their inspirational, educational, and recreational values.

National monuments, on the other hand, are areas reserved by the National Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest. Ordinarily established by presidential proclamation under authority of Congress, occasionally these areas also are established by direct action of Congress. Size is unimportant in the case of the national monuments.

Thanks to everyone for your efforts. Here’s to another success story in preserving our national heritage!