Virginia lawmakers urge Department of the Interior to accept commonwealth’s donation of 40 acres on Fort Monroe

Hampton

FORT MONROE, Va. (WAVY) — Two U.S. senators and a congresswoman from Virginia are urging the U.S. Department of the Interior to accept a donation of about 40 acres of land on Fort Monroe.

The donation would come from the Commonwealth of Virginia and go to the National Park Service. The donation would help “unify the two divided sections of Fort Monroe and achieve an unbroken coastline along the Chesapeake Bay.”

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland Thursday requesting that she direct the park service to accept Virginia’s donation.

Warner and Kaine introduced the legislation to expand and protect the Fort Monroe National Monument back in July 2019, after the Trump administration did not accept the land donation.

“Despite Fort Monroe’s significance to American history and exceptional recreational value, the monument, as it exists today, includes a very small number of historic buildings and fee ownership of less than half the property’s 565 acres. The fortress itself – the largest stone fort constructed in North America – remains in state ownership, while an easement allows the Park Service some control over its use. Virginia retains full responsibility for the fortress and the dozens of historic buildings on the property,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter Thursday.

The lawmakers added they believe the park service would be able to unlock “untapped potential.”

The Fort Monroe Authority said the 40 acres would include everything east of Fenwick Road from Battery Irwin to the south to Battery DeRussy to the north (which the US park service currently owns).

Image provided by Fort Monroe

Fort Monroe — which is on land where the first Africans landed when they were taken to the New World as slaves in 1619 — was built between 1819 and 1834 to protect the entrance to Hampton Roads.

During the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler also issued the “contraband decision,” which was at Fort Monroe and ordered that escaped slaves who reached the Union line could not be returned to bondage. Fort Monroe carries the nickname “Freedom’s Fortress.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.

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