A master plan forFort Monroe envisions it as a visitor magnet and teacher institute that would draw on the post's Civil War heritage and its role in the demise of slavery.
The interpretive plan for Fort Monroe, created by a Pennsylvania-based firm, was discussed at the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority's board meeting last month.
Although the document is only a conceptual vision, it outlines how the post can be marketed to visitors after the Army leaves in September 2011, a consultant said.
"The overwhelming story that comes through is the idea of freedom in one way or another," said Ann Clausen, a principal with Interpretive Solutions of West Chester, Pa.
To that end, the plan highlights museums that Fort Monroe could work with as partners and how vacant and existing buildings could be reused. Each museum or cultural institution could set up a presence at the post along with interpretive networks and trails.
A large number of study groups had input in drawing up the vision with an overarching theme that Fort Monroe's background as "Freedom's Fortress" would be emphasized, Clausen said.
"I think we are going to be seeing a lot of heritage tourism based on people who come to learn Fort Monroe's Civil War story ... Freedom's Fortress is one of the big Civil War stories here," she said.
Educational programs would play a large part in the future of Fort Monroe under the study which reinvents the post as a "learning laboratory" with a teacher institute on site and facilities for multi-day school class visits and extended learning.
A number of potential partners have been identified to potentially run programs at Fort Monroe that could blossom into a permanent presence at a later date. They include the Casemate Museum, which is already at Fort Monroe, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Virginia Living Museum, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Hampton History Museum, Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia War Museum and Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center.
Potential partners include the Contraband Historical Society, The Mariners' Museum, Hampton University, Colonial Williamsburg and the Virginia Air and Space Center.
Under the plan, Fort Monroe would attract five categories of visitor: heritage tourists, recreational visitors, school classes, teachers and longer-stay visitors or researchers.
"Just the fact that this was the Union Fort that was held successfully in Confederate territory is a huge story which we wish to address," Clausen said.
The interpretation will focus on some of the firsts that took place at Fort Monroe, said Clausen. For example, the first surveillance balloon was launched at Fort Monroe and the first battle of the ironclads took place nearby.
The military history of Fort Monroe will be broken down in its interpretation: how the fort was built and how the post evolved to meet the changing military climate.
Interpretive Solutions also highlights some buildings and areas at Fort Monroe that could play an important part in its future as a tourist attraction:
•The 35,000-square-foot post exchange store could be used for ticketing and orientation and to create visitor center exhibits.
•The fitness center near the main gate could be a reception area.
•The Old Guardhouse that is currently used as a band building could be adapted for galleries and exhibition space.
•Small exhibits could be placed in the current library.
•The dormitory building at Randolph Hall could be used as lodging for students and the teacher institute.
•An Environmental Education Center could be constructed near Mill Creek.
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Where it's been; where it's going 1607-1818: Colonial period, dominated by exploration and settlement of Hampton Roads and the James River. This area serves as a temporary fort.1819-present: The military base serves for artillery training and is an active Army base.2005: The Pentagon announces that Fort Monroe will close as part of a military realignment to cuts costs and make the military more efficient.September 2011: Army is scheduled to leave. The land will transfer to Virginia and be managed by the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times