Fort Norfolk
War of 1812

It sits tucked away behind a US Corps of Engineers entrance gate.  The location is a four acre plot of land facing the historic harbor near the City of Norfolk's vibrant downtown.  The address is 801 Front Street.

It began in 1794 with an authorization by then President George Washington to build a series of 19 forts to protect America's harbors.  After the attack of the USS Chesapeake by the HMS Leopard near Norfolk on June 22, 1807, the fort was upgraded in anticipation of war with England.  Completion was about 1810. 

The fort protected Norfolk's harbor and hosted the frigate Constellation during the War of 1812.  The Battle of Craney Island was fought in its shadows.  It also supplied the CSS Virginia (Merrimack) during her nearby battle with the USS Monitor.

Today Fort Norfolk sits beautifully maintained but largely forgotten by all save history buffs and reenactors.  The former Carpenter's Shop & Storeroom serves as a Headquarters and Welcome Center for the Norfolk Historical Society.  On the sunny March 31, 2007 day of our visit, those who honor her memory felt a part of its history.   


Following Lord Dunmore's bombardment of Norfolk in January 1776, the Virginia legislature ordered the construction of a fort on this site, and another at Fort Nelson across the river, to protect the area of Norfolk Town.  The Forts were not sufficiently manned and were ineffective against Sir George Collier's British fleet in May 1779.  About 1810 Fort Norfolk was rebuilt with the present exterior brick walls and many of the interior buildings were constructed.  The fort was manned by the Virginia militia during the War of 1812, but no shots were fired.  The Navy acquired use of the fort as an ammunition depot in 1849 and built the large magazine in 1856.  Following the Confederate evacuation of Norfolk in May 1862, Federal troops used the fort briefly as a prison.  From 1863 to 1878 it was again a Naval installation.  From 1921 through 1983 the old fort was occupied by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Since 1991 the Norfolk Historical Society has used the fort as its headquarters and as an historical attraction.  City of Norfolk.




Visitors still enter Fort Norfolk from the same arched main gate that has opened its doors to the world since 1810.  To the right one passes historical markers detailing the building's past.

Fort Norfolk C. 1810 is registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Honor of the 750 Virginians who were stationed at Fort Norfolk during the War of 1812 and all Virginians who fought in that war defending their country against the invading British.  Presented By The Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia.  July 15, 2000



As one enters the gate a grate covering a small window to the dungeon greets the visitor from the right.  The small Dungeon or Black Hole is built into the rampart.  To the left the complex begins with a Soldier's Barrack / Tank House followed by the large Navy Magazine.  Attached to the south side of the Magazine is what was once a Workshop & Stable.



To the right one first passes the Carpenter's Shop / Storeroom, which is now used as a headquarters by the Norfolk Historical Society.  One then discovers the Officers Quarters / Shell House.  Inside a second floor room in the Officers Quarter is a restored wall which contains graffiti written by captured Blockade runners during the Civil War.








04/26/2007 09:41:10 PM