US Army Relinquishes Keys to Historic Ft. Monroe

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The U.S. Army has turned over management of historic Fort Monroe to the commonwealth of Virginia.
    
The Hampton, Va., landmark, which has been operating since 1823, was ordered closed six years ago as part of a plan to cut costs.

The stone citadel was named after President James Monroe and became a haven for slaves during the Civil War.

Blacks who managed to make it to the fort were declared contraband of war by the fort's commander and were given their freedom.
    
Now the commonwealth is hoping to transform parts of Fort Monroe into a national park.

"The Army's departure opens these doors to a much broader audience - the American people," Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said during the citadel's deactivation ceremony.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday the National Park Service is taking the matter under advisement.

"We have heard loud and clear from the local community, Commonwealth and federal officials, and stakeholders everywhere that Fort Monroe is a place of unique historical and cultural significance that merits protection - and we agree," Salazar said in a statement. 

"Fort Monroe helps tell the compelling story of our nation's arc from the Civil War to Civil Rights," he added.

"With such a rich history, it's no wonder that so many feel passionately about ensuring the site is preserved for future generations," Salazar said.

While the fort is in now under the control of the commonwealth, transfer of ownership won't be complete until January.

In the meantime, Gov. Bob McDonnell is asking the White House to have the military base declared a national monument and place it under federal control.

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