Anyone who's been to Fort Monroe will have to forgive my lapse in not mentioning the post's most famous landmark - The Chamberlin. This grand, 10-story building has graced the waterfront skyline since the 1920's, serving as the grand dame of luxury hotels in Hampton for private and military travelers. It is still standing, with a brand new role.
We arrived at Monroe in the summer of 2005, and when the BRAC announcement was made later that year, every local I met wanted to know what would happen to the fort and the Chamberlin. It seemed they all had memories of vacations, weddings and family celebrations held at the Chamberlin. My cousins were no exception. Including 16th birthdays at the hotel's dining room, they spent their teenage years attending the Friday night teen dances at the YMCA on post, which had since been converted to the fitness center. My daughters were jealous they didn't get to enjoy teen dances while there.
The hotel was an empty shell when we got there, having suffered - along with the fort - terrible damage in Hurricane Isabel. With the BRAC announcement, rumors flew - it would be renovated, it would be a new Trump casino/resort, it would be torn down. Then trucks and crews started arriving and the hotel was refitted inside and out - into a senior living apartment complex. Because the building is on the National Landmark Register, it can only have one owner, so residents lease their one or two bedroom apartments.
For those of us of a certain age, The Chamberlin is an attractive retirement living option. Who wouldn't want to live on the water in a area with mild winters and tremendous military history. You Navy folks would have a front row seat watching the carriers, subs and cruisers come in and out of Norfolk Naval Base from the rooftop deck. Healthcare options abound at Langley, Eustis and Portsmouth, along with commissary, NEX and BEX services. The post marina is still operating. Check out their website at historicchamberlin.com. Now, if only I could convince my spouse.
If you have a memory of Fort Monroe, please share with us.