Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
|Location:||Arlington, Virginia, USA|
|Area:||28.08 acres (11.36 ha)|
|Architectural style:||Greek Revival|
|Governing body:||National Park Service|
|Added to NRHP:||October 15, 1966|
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a Greek revival style mansion located in Arlington, Virginia, USA that was once the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It overlooks the Potomac River and the National Mall in Washington, D.C. During the American Civil War, the grounds of the mansion were selected as the site of Arlington National Cemetery, in part to ensure that Lee would never again be able to return to his home. However, the United States has since designated the mansion as a National Memorial to Lee, a mark of widespread respect for him in both the North and South. Arlington Woods, located behind Arlington House, contains the oldest and largest tract of climax eastern hardwood forest that still exists in Arlington County.
Construction and early history 
The mansion was built on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson and adopted son of George Washington and only grandson of Martha Custis Washington. Custis was a prominent resident of what was then known as Alexandria County, at the time a part of the District of Columbia.
Arlington House was built at a high point on an 1,100 acre (445 ha) estate that Custis' father, John Parke Custis, had purchased in 1778. ("Jacky" Custis died in 1781 at Yorktown after the British surrender.) George Washington Parke Custis decided to build his home on the property in 1802, following the death of Martha Washington and three years after the death of George Washington. Custis originally wanted to name the property "Mount Washington", but was persuaded by family members to name it "Arlington House" after the Custis family's homestead on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
George Hadfield, an English architect who also worked on the design of the United States Capitol, designed the mansion. Construction began eleven years after L'Enfant's Plan for the future city of Washington, D.C., had designated an area directly across the Potomac River to be the site of the "President's house" (now the White House) and the "Congress house" (now the United States Capitol).
The north and south wings were completed between 1802 and 1804. The large center section and the portico, presenting an imposing front 140 ft (43 m) long, were finished 13 years later. The house has two kitchens, a summer and a winter. The most prominent features of the house are the 8 massive columns of the portico, each 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter.
Custis was a prominent resident of the jurisdiction that was then named Alexandria County and is now named Arlington County. Guests at the house included such notable people as Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette, who visited in 1824. At Arlington, Custis experimented with new methods of animal husbandry and other agriculture. The property also included Arlington Spring, a picnic ground on the banks of the Potomac that Custis originally built for private use but later opened to the public, eventually operating it as a commercial enterprise.
Custis married Mary Lee Fitzhugh. Their only child to survive to adulthood was Mary Anna Randolph Custis. Robert E. Lee, whose mother was a cousin of Mrs. Custis, frequently visited Arlington and knew Mary Anna as they grew up. Two years after graduating from West Point, Lieutenant Lee married Mary Anna Custis at Arlington on June 30, 1831. For 30 years Arlington House was home to the Lees. They spent much of their married life traveling between U.S. Army duty stations and Arlington, where six of their seven children were born. They shared this home with Mary's parents. After their deaths, Mary's parents were buried not far from the house on land that is now part of Arlington National Cemetery.
Upon George Washington Parke Custis' death in 1857, he left the Arlington estate to Mary Custis Lee for her lifetime and thence to the Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. The estate needed much repair and reorganization, and Gen. Lee, as executor of Custis' will, took a leave of absence from the Army until 1860 to begin the necessary agricultural and financial improvements.
Civil War 
On April 17, 1861, just days after the American Civil War began with the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12–13 (surrender on the 14th), the Virginia Legislature voted to secede from the Union. (Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia ratified by popular vote on May 23 the Commonwealth's articles of secession, essentially finalizing separation from the Union. See: Secession in the United States and Virginia in the American Civil War.) Also on April 17, US President Abraham Lincoln decided to offer the Command of the Union Army to Robert E. Lee. The next day, Lee, who at that time was a colonel who had served in the United States Army for 35 years, was offered command of the Federal Army by Francis Preston Blair (at Blair House) during a visit across the Potomac to Washington. Lee had disapproved of secession, but decided that he could not fight against his native State of Virginia. Instead of accepting the Union command, he resigned his commission in the Army in a letter written at Arlington House on April 20. Within days of his resignation, Lee reported to Richmond for the duty of commanding Virginia's Provisional Army. He joined the Confederate States Army with Virginia's forces a month later and was promoted to general. Lee was concerned for the safety of his wife, who was still residing at the mansion and convinced her to vacate the property, at least temporarily. She managed to send many of the family's valuables off to safety, as she had advance notice of the impending Union occupation from her cousin, Orton W. Williams. Robert E. Lee never set foot on the property again, but shortly before her 1873 death, Mary Anna Custis Lee visited her Arlington once more.
The Union Army occupied the Arlington estate soon after the Lees left their property, whereupon Arlington House became the headquarters of the Union's Army of Northeastern Virginia (see: Army of the Potomac) under Brigadier General Irvin McDowell. Many of the George Washington heirlooms that George Washington Parke Custis had collected were eventually moved to the Patent Office for safekeeping. Some items, however, including a few of the Mount Vernon heirlooms, were looted and scattered by Union soldiers living in or visiting the house. In 1864, the federal government of the United States confiscated the house and property because the property's owner, Mary Anna Custis Lee, had not paid her property tax in person.
By 1864, the military cemeteries of Washington and Alexandria were filled with Union dead, and Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs quickly selected Arlington as the site for a new cemetery. Meigs, a Georgian who had served under Lee in the U.S. Army and who considered that Lee had made a treasonous decision to fight against the Union, ordered the burial of 26 Union soldiers in Mrs. Lee's prized rose garden. In October, Meigs' own son was killed in the war, and was later buried at Arlington alongside his mother and father.
During the war, Union Army troops cut down many of the trees on the Arlington estate, especially those to the north and east of Arlington House in and near Fort Whipple (north of the House) and Arlington Springs (near the Potomac River). However, a number of large trees remained, particularly those in a forested area (now Arlington Woods) that had provided a westward backdrop to the House.
Post-Civil War 
After his surrender on April 9, 1865, to Union Army Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia (see: Appomattox Court House National Historical Park), Robert E. Lee and his wife chose not to contest the federal government's seizure of their home, apparently because Lee felt that it would be too divisive. In 1870, after his father's death, the Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee (who had earlier been a Major General in the Confederate Army (see: General officers in the Confederate States Army)), filed a lawsuit against the United States government in the Alexandria Circuit Court to regain his property. In 1882, the Supreme Court of the United States finally ruled on the case in a 5-4 decision (United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196 (1882)). The court found that the estate had been 'illegally confiscated' in 1864 and ordered it returned, along with 1,100 acres (4 km2) of surrounding property. In its decision, the court cited as precedential a similar case that it had decided in 1870 (Bennett v. Hunter, 76 US (9 Wall.) 326 (1870)) that had involved the nearby Abingdon estate. In 1883, Custis Lee sold the mansion and property to the U.S. government for $150,000 (roughly equal to $3.5 million in 2011 dollars) at a signing ceremony with Secretary of War, Robert Todd Lincoln.
In 1920, the Virginia General Assembly renamed Alexandria County as Arlington County, to honor Robert E. Lee and to end the ongoing confusion between Alexandria County and the independent city of Alexandria.
The mansion and some 28 acres around it are managed by the National Park Service as a memorial to Robert E. Lee. The grounds, flower garden, and kitchen garden are Colonial Revival in style. The land surrounding the mansion, over half of the original plantation's 1,100 acres, and known as Arlington National Cemetery, is managed by the Department of the Army.
Expansion of Arlington National Cemetery into Arlington Woods 
On February 22, 1995, officials of the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Department of the Army signed an agreement to transfer from Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, to the Army a part of Arlington Woods, which was located in Section 29 of the National Park System (NPS) at Arlington National Cemetery between Arlington House and Fort Myer. The property transfer, which involved 12 acres (4.9 ha) of NPS land, was intended to enable the Cemetery to increase its space for burials. Environmentalists expressed concerns that the agreement would result in the destruction of part of a 24 acres (9.7 ha) stand of trees.
On September 23, 1996, Public Law 104-201 authorized the Secretary of the Interior to transfer to the Secretary of the Army all of the land in Section 29 that was within an "Arlington National Cemetery Interment Zone" and some of the land in the Section that was within a "Robert E. Lee Memorial Preservation Zone". The legislation required the Secretary of the Interior to submit to two Congressional committees no later than October 31, 1997 "a summary of any environmental analysis required with respect to the transfer under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969" and other information relevant to the transfer.
On March 5, 1998, the NPS, which is a component of the Department of the Interior, informed the National Capital Planning Commission that it wanted to transfer only 4 acres (1.6 ha) to the Cemetery, rather than the 12 acres (4.9 ha) that the 1995 agreement had described. In response, Metzler stated: "I was surprised. But we will continue to work with the Department of Interior and see what happens."
On July 12, 1999, the NPS issued a Federal Register notice that announced the availability of an environmental assessment (EA) for the transfer. The EA stated that the Interment Zone contained the oldest and largest tract of climax eastern hardwood forest in Arlington County. This forest was the same type that once covered the Arlington estate, and had regenerated from trees that were present historically. A forestry study determined that a representative tree was 258 years old. The Interment Zone was also determined to contain significant archeological and cultural landscape resources, in addition to those in the Preservation Zone. The EA described four alternative courses of action.
In contrast to the NPS's March 1998 statement to the National Capital Planning Commission, the 1999 EA stated that the preferred alternative (Alternative 1) would transfer to the Cemetery approximately 9.6 acres (3.9 ha), comprising most of the Interment Zone and the northern tip of the Preservation Zone. Another alternative (Alternative 3) would transfer to the Cemetery the 12 acres (4.9 ha) Interment Zone, while keeping the 12.5 acres (5.1 ha) Preservation Zone under NPS jurisdiction.  The EA concluded:
Public Law 104-201 directed the Secretary of the Interior to transfer to the Secretary of the Army jurisdiction over the Interment Zone, which is the plan in Alternative 3. Adoption of any of the other alternatives would require legislative action to amend the existing law.
On December 28, 2001, Public Law 107-107 repealed the "obsolete" part of Public Law 104-201 that had authorized the transfer of portions of Section 29 to the Secretary of the Army. The new legislation required the Secretary of the Interior to transfer to the Secretary of the Army within 30 days the approximately 12 acres (4.9 ha) Interment Zone. The transfer therefore involved the entire 12 acres (4.9 ha) of NPS land that the 1995 agreement and Alternative 3 in the 1999 EA had described.
The 2001 legislation required the Secretary of the Army to use the Interment Zone for in-ground burial sites and columbarium. In addition, the legislation required the Secretary of the Interior to manage the remainder of Section 29 "in perpetuity to provide a natural setting and visual buffer for Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial."
On December 12, 2012, the United States Army Corps of Engineers asked for comments on a draft EA that described a further expansion of Arlington National Cemetery as part of the Millennium Project. The 2012 draft EA was intended to implement conversion into burial space of the 17 acres (6.9 ha) of Ft. Myer grounds as well as 10 acres (4.0 ha) of Section 29 woodland. The draft EA described seven alternatives. The preferred alternative (Alternative E) called for the removal of about one-half of the 1,700 trees with a diameter of 6 inches (15 cm) or greater on the site. About 640 of the trees are within a 135-year-old portion of Arlington Woods. The draft EA concluded:
Based on the evaluation of environmental impacts ....., no significant impacts would be expected from the Proposed Action; therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement will not be prepared and a Finding of No Significant Impact will be prepared and signed.
On March 12, 2013, after receiving public comments on the draft EA, the Corps of Engineers released a revised EA for the Millennium Project. The revised EA stated that, of the 882 trees to be removed, 732 trees were healthy native trees that had diameters of up to 41 inches. Approximately 167 trees would be removed from a 145 year-old woodland. About 503 trees would be removed from an area of trees that is approximately 105 years old. Approximately 212 trees with ages of 50 to 145 years would be removed from a former picnic area. A number of comments on the draft EA criticized the project and parts of the EA while proposing alternative locations for new military burials near the Cemetery and elsewhere. However, the Department of Forestry of the Commonwealth of Virginia found that, based on information in the draft EA, the project would not have a significant adverse impact on the Commonwealth's forest resources.
The revised EA did not change the preferred alternative (Alternative E) or the Army's plans to prepare and sign a Finding of No Significant Impact that the draft EA had described. The Corps of Engineers stated that the public comment period for the revised EA would close on April 12, 2013.
In 1919, a replica was built for the short-lived Lanier University in Atlanta, designed by architect A. Ten Eyck Brown. It is still standing at 1140 University Drive NE, housing the Canterbury School. Arlington Hall, in Dallas' Lee Park, is a two-thirds scale replica of Arlington House.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Robert E. Lee National Memorial|
- Official website: "Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
- Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial Virtual Museum Exhibit, National Park Service
- Horton, James Oliver (February 16, 2009). "The Future of Slavery's Historical Spaces". Southern Spaces.
- PBS Interview with education programs manager at Arlington House