Monday, August 27, 2012

Washington Didn't Sleep Here

Construction on Fort Monroe in present-day Hampton, Virginia
(also part of the original Elizabeth Cittie Shire)
 began in 1819, two decades after George Washington died.
So the exaggeration that "George Washington slept here," 
so common to small inns around the Commonwealth, 
isn't a claim made when listing the famous persons 
who once stayed inside Fort Monroe.

Although George didn't sleep here, his namesake did.
George Washington Custis Lee, son of Robert E. Lee 
and Mary Anna Randolph Custis,
who was the great granddaughter of Martha Washington,
was born in the house pictured below 
when a young Lieutenant Lee was stationed on Fort Monroe.

Edgar Allan Poe, another US Army soldier who later became famous, 
was also stationed there. 
Although I learned somewhere that the casemates,
the arched rooms inside the Fort's walls, 
were mainly used by officers and their families,
Edgar Allan Poe must have on some occasions experienced first hand 
the dank, damp, and chilly air that pervades those chambers 
and the seawall batteries to this day. 
It certainly had to have inspired some of his more morose, bone-chilling tales.

Two other famed men also stayed on the Fort.
The Marquis de Lafayette stayed in Quarters No. 1
when he visited Fort Monroe in the early 19th century.
President Abraham Lincoln also stayed in Quarters No. 1,
pictured below, when planning the bombing of Norfolk during the Civil War.
The building is a private residence today.

For another view of the house and its three levels of verandas,
(a view without raindrops on the camera lens),
there's a photo of it in this interesting article about Fort Monroe 
written by Randy Johnson:

Google Images with the term Quarters No. 1 Fort Monroe.

When one goes through the East Gate into the old Fort,
the front staircase for Quarters No. 1 is aligned with the arch.

Its symmetrical composition shows careful planning 
and an appreciation for order and balance. 
Perhaps Simon Bernard, the primary engineer for the Fort's construction, 
was in part responsible.
When I walked through this Gate recently, 
I wondered if Abraham Lincoln's carriage had also entered through it.
Since his visit was during the War,  
he more likely would have come through the Postern Gate, 
the secret entrance to the Fort:

This next photo is inside the Postern Gate, 
which turns left and then right again 
before entering or exiting the Fort's interior:

It is fun to speculate about what might have been when the famous came to call.
There's one more famous personage who lived at the Fort.
But unlike the others, this one was a prisoner.
Find out who it was and what happened to him tomorrow.

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