HAMPTON — Historic Fort Monroe is being eyed as a future home for the National Cold War Museum.
The executive director of the museum has met once with officials from Hampton and the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority to discuss the possibility once the Army vacates the post in September 2011, said Bill Armbruster, the authority's executive director.
Five other museums have expressed interest in opening satellite sites at Fort Monroe, including the Virginia Museum of Natural History, the Hampton History Museum, The Museum of the Confederacy, the Virginia War Museum and the Casemate Museum, which is already at Fort Monroe.
"We're looking at a variety of options to tell the 400-year history of Fort Monroe ... and each of these museums can bring a piece of it," Armbruster said. "We are very interested in the Cold War museum concept ... and want more specific information. At this point, the ball is in the museum's court."
Officially, the National Cold War Museum has no brick-and-mortar home. Although the museum has more than $3 million in Cold War relics and routinely has exhibits at museums worldwide, most of the museum's artifacts are stored in costly rental storage units, said Gary Powers Jr., the museum's executive director.
The museum spent two years negotiating with Fairfax County on a lease deal that collapsed last April, Powers said. He is the son of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. The senior Powers was held in Soviet custody until 1962, when he was traded for a Soviet agent who had been captured by the United States.
In the weeks after the Fairfax County deal fell apart, Powers said he received calls from other localities interested in the museum. He has narrowed his list to four contenders: Isle of Wight and Fauquier counties, and the cities of Fairfax and Hampton. The museum is also talking about sharing facilities with an existing military museum in Maryland.
"We're in the midst of talking with all the municipalities," Powers said. "The board is hoping to make a decision by the end of the year."
Once the museum has a lease in hand, it will be eligible for myriad federal grants and other revenue streams, Powers said. It will also spur contributions from several private donors who have pledged support once the museum has a physical address.
It would be years before the museum could open at Fort Monroe. Once the Army vacates the base in 2011, the process of transferring property and adapting military buildings for commercial use could take another year, Armbruster said. In contrast, Fauquier County — a fairly rural county about 60 miles outside Washington D.C. — has indicated it is prepared to seal a deal by December, Powers said.
Isle of Wight County is still looking into how opening the museum at Carrollton Nike Park — a former Nike missile site during the Cold War — would impact the county's future growth plan. The museum is hoping to talk city officials from Fairfax within the next couple of weeks.
Museum history The National Cold WarMuseum has been in the market for a permanent home since plans to openin Fairfax County fell through last April.Museum officials are looking at four Virginia sites: Hampton Fairfax Fauquier County Isle of Wight CountyCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun