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Partnership Presents Exciting New Tools For Examining, Interpreting And Managing Fort Monroe

National Park News

The partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the Fort Monroe Authority (FMA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center (LaRC) presents exciting new tools for examining, interpreting and managing Fort Monroe

First designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960, Fort Monroe in Hampton Virginia became a National Monument in 2011 by Presidential proclamation. Noted for its rich history, English colonists established Fort Algernourne on the peninsula which was originally named “Pointe Comfort” by Captain John Smith in 1607. Since then, Fort Monroe served as a key point in the protection of our Nation. During the Civil War, it stood as a Union stronghold in Confederate Virginia becoming a refuge for freedom seekers declared “contraband” and a strategic location for President Lincoln who strategized the attack on Norfolk from the fort.

In 2005, Fort Monroe was one of the military installations on the Department of Defense’s list of Base Realignment and Closure actions.  A programmatic agreement between the Army, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Virginia State Historic Preservation Officer, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the National Park Service and the FMA required certain responses to the closure, such as collecting historic materials in the Fort Monroe archives for use in the protection and preservation of the National Historic Landmark district after the Army’s departure. Gathering the information and materials led to the awareness of the role these historical materials could play in identifying future use and adaptation opportunities.

Pushing the envelope on connecting people to their history, the NASA Langley Research Center and FMA created a Geographic Information System (GIS) activated website that allows you to view historical maps side-by-side. Josh Gillespie, the Interim Director of Heritage Assets & Historic Preservation Officer of the Fort Monroe Authority, praised the partnership saying, “I think the interactive maps are so successful because they allow viewers to visualize and compare the many layers of history and changes over the years, side-by-side rather than in a static view, requiring users to turn mapping layers on and off.”  

Once the Army digitized all of Fort Monroe’s archives, the Langley Research Center and FMA were able to use historical maps and aerial comparisons to construct other reference tools. FMA’s Gillespie highlighted the unique insights this tool provides saying, “These maps are really special because they are primary documents that allow people to view Fort Monroe history that might otherwise be intangible. People can now learn about the resource themselves and see things that would normally not be obvious. Changing the perspective helps tell the natural and cultural history of Fort Monroe.” 

The NPS continues to contribute resources and expertise since the creation of the national monument. In the future, FMA and the Langley Research Center hope their interactive maps are used by scholars and others interested in Fort Monroe’s development to help tell different stories such as: coastal zone management, significant landscape and shoreline areas of the peninsula, and how providing limited access may be the best way to protect some natural and cultural areas. Gillespie applauds the ongoing partnership for facility management of Fort Monroe and is excited to participate in the collaborations between federal, state and local agencies in telling Fort Monroe’s story.

The comparison tool can be accessed online at:

The other tools mentioned in the article can be accessed via these links:,,


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