Posted on August 2, 2019

Fort Monroe Officials Recommend Removing Letters Off Jefferson Davis Arch

Lisa Vernon Sparks, Virginian-Pilot, July 27, 2019

Fort Monroe’s historic preservation officer has a plan for the arch that honors the Confederacy’s only president at the former Army post that once imprisoned him — remove the letters that spell out “Jefferson Davis Memorial Park” from the arch and send them to the Casemate Museum.

In April, Gov. Ralph Northam called for the arch to be torn down. David Stroud, Fort Monroe’s historic preservation officer, offered his plan as an alternative, and it has the support of the state’s Department of Historic Resources.

The Army built the arch in 1956, on behalf of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The group’s gift to the Army came two years after the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education.


Critics have taken aim at the arch and its message, particularly as Fort Monroe prepares to host an observance of the 400th anniversary of the first Africans’ arrival to English North America, at Point Comfort.

Christine Gergely, a representative for the UDC in Newport News, on Friday declined additional comment about the arch.


A programmatic agreement, created after the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision, identifies the arch on Bernard and Ruckman roads as a contributing landscape.

Other documents, such as its listing on the national registry of historic places have different criteria and extend the period of significance to 1960.

Stroud and the Department of Historic Resources spent the last two months reviewing those criteria to determine whether removing the arch would have an “adverse effect” on Fort Monroe’s historic status, its listing and other historic structures.


Stroud outlined his recommendations via letter, crafting a plan going forward:

    • Carefully and deliberately remove the letters identifying the memorial park and re-dedication plaque after documenting the locations of both.
    • Provide letters and plaque to the Casemate Museum.
    • Provide contextualization by way of interpretative signage at the arch site.
    • Plan for and hold future exhibitions that address controversial commemorative works.


The general public also was given an opportunity to submit comments online, since May 31. The online comment period which ended Saturday, captured more than 1,000 responses. They are available to read online at

Some who commented said the arch is a war memorial and protected by state code. Stroud addressed those comments and said in this case the law doesn’t apply because the arch is on state property and “not within a locality,” he wrote.

Although authority officials say the arch has been a concern since the white-supremacist riots in 2017 in Charlottesville, the recent actions surfaced in February. A Hampton resident questioned the Board of Trustees about the arch, in light of the coming 1619 anniversary, {snip}