Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Arlington House front view.JPG
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial is located in Washington, D.C.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
Location Arlington, Virginia, USA
Coordinates 38°52′52.2″N 77°4′21.54″W / 38.881167°N 77.0726500°W / 38.881167; -77.0726500Coordinates: 38°52′52.2″N 77°4′21.54″W / 38.881167°N 77.0726500°W / 38.881167; -77.0726500
Area 28.08 acres (11.36 ha)[1]
Built 1803
Architect George Hadfield
Architectural style Greek Revival
Visitation 576,816 (2011)[2]
Governing body National Park Service
NRHP Reference # 66000040
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[3][4]

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion,[5][6] 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[edit]

Arlington House from a pre-1861 sketch, published in 1875

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.[7] ("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.[8]

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 "Federal City" (later called "Washington City", then Washington D.C.) had designated an area directly across the Potomac River to be the site of the "President's House" (later called the "Executive Mansion", now the White House) and the "Congress House" (now the United States Capitol).

The north and south wings were completed in 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 Lafayette, who visited in 1824 (see: Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States). 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.

The Custises extensively developed the Arlington estate. Much of the steep slope to the east of the house became a cultivated English landscape park, while a large flower garden with an arbor was constructed and planted south of the house. To the west of Arlington House, tall grass and low native plants led down a slope into a natural area of close-growing trees the Custises called "the Grove."[9] About 60 feet (18 m) to the west of the flower garden, "the Grove" contained tall elm and oak trees which formed a canopy. An informal flower garden was planted beneath the trees and maintained by the Custis daughters.[10] It is not clear when "the Grove" began to be developed, but it was under way by at least 1853.[10]

Upon George Washington Parke Custis' death in 1857, he left the Arlington estate to Mary Custis Lee for her lifetime and thence to the Lees' eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee. The estate needed much repair and reorganization, and Robert E. Lee, as executor of Custis' will, took a three-year leave of absence from the Army to begin the necessary agricultural and financial improvements. The will also required the executor to free the slaves on the estate within five years of Custis' death. Robert E. Lee fulfilled this requirement by manumitting the slaved in December 1862.[11]

Civil War[edit]

East front of Custis-Lee Mansion with Union Soldiers on lawn

In April 1861, Virginia seceded from the United States. Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the United States Army on April 20, 1861, and joined the military forces of the Confederate States of America.[12] With Arlington House on high ground overlooking the capital, the government of the United States knew it must occupy the mansion or be left in an untenable military position.[13] Although unwilling to leave Arlington House, Mary Lee believed her estate would soon be invested with federal soldiers and left to stay with relatives on May 14.[14][15] Union troops occupied Arlington without opposition on May 24.[16]

In June 1862, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation which imposed a property tax on all land in "insurrectionary" areas of the United States.[17] The 1863 amendments to the statute required these taxes to be paid in person.[15][18] But Mary Lee, afflicted with severe rheumatoid arthritis and behind Confederate lines, could not pay the tax in person.[18] The Arlington estate was seized for nonpayment of taxes. It was auctioned off on January 11, 1864, and the U.S. government won the property for $26,800 ($412,895 in 2014 dollars).[15][19]

During the war, Union 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 known as Arlington Woods) west of the house.[20]

By early 1864, the military cemeteries of Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, were rapidly filling with war dead. Quartermaster General of the United States Army Montgomery C. Meigs proposed using 200 acres (81 ha) of the Arlington estate as a cemetery.[12] United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton approved the establishment of a military cemetery on June 15, 1864, creating Arlington National Cemetery.[15][21] Meigs believed Lee committed treason in deciding to fight against the Union,[22] and denying Lee use of the mansion after the war was politically advantageous.[23] Meigs decided that a large number of burials should occurr close to Arlington House to render it unlivable. Officers were to be buried next to the main flower garden south of the hourse, and the first burial occurred here on May 17.[24] Meigs ordered that additional burials commence immediately on the grounds of Arlington House in mid-June.[24] When Union officers bivouacked in the mansion complained and had the burials temporarily stopped, Meigs countermanded their orders and had another 44 dead officers buried along the southern and eastern sides of the main flower garden within a month.[24]

In September 1866, a memorial and a burial vault containing the remains of 2,111 Union and Confederate soldiers who died at the First Battle of Bull Run, Second Battle of Bull Run, and along the Rappahannock River were buried on the former site of "the Grove" southeast of the mansion beneath the Civil War Unknowns Monument.[12][25]

Post-Civil War[edit]

The second-floor chamber shared by Lee and his wife. A replica c. 1850 U. S. Army (lieutenant of engineers) uniform lies across the bed.

Robert E. Lee made no attempt to visit or restore his title to Arlington before his death in 1870. Mary Lee died in 1873, having visited to the house only once, a few months before her death. (Too upset at its condition, she refused to enter and left after just a few moments.)[25]

In April 1874, Robert E. Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, filed suit against the United States government in a Virginia circuit court to regain his property.[16] [26] A jury found in favor of Lee,[27] leading to extensive appeals by both parties. In 1882, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Lee in United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196. The court, by a 5-4 majority, found that the estate had been "illegally confiscated" in 1864 and ordered it returned.[28][29][30] But Lee was less interested in obtaining the estate than he was in just compensation for it. After several months of difficult negotiations, Lee and the federal government settled on a sale price of $150,000 ($3,796,607 in 2014 dollars).[31][25] Congress enacted legislation funding the purchase on March 3, 1883; Lee signed over the title on March 31; and the title transfer was recorded on May 14, 1883.[31][25]

In 1920, the Virginia General Assembly changed the name of Alexandria County to Arlington County to end ongoing confusion between Alexandria County and the independent city of Alexandria. The name, Arlington, was chosen to reflect the presence of the Arlington estate.[32]

In 1925, the War Department began to restore Arlington House, and the Department of the Army continues to manage over half of the original plantation's 1,100 acres, as Arlington National Cemetery. On March 4, 1925, Congress passed legislation (Public Resolution – NO. 74) that authorized the restoration of the Lee Mansion in the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. However, for several years after the 1925 legislation was passed, when the War Department was responsible for managing the house and grounds, the enabling legislation was largely ignored. In direct violation of the enabling legislation, the War Department, largely at the insistence of Commission of Fine Arts director Charles Moore, decided to furnish and interpret to “the first half of the republic.” This decision was based, in part, on the popularity of the Colonial Revival movement which was still popular in 1925. The Mansion was restored to the period of George Washington Custis, and no furniture manufactured after 1830 was accepted. This approach utterly negated Lee’s role and presence at Arlington.

In 1955, Congress passed Public Law 107 officially designating Arlington House as a permanent Memorial to Robert E. Lee and ensuring that the correct interpretation of its history would be applied. Gradually the house was furnished and interpreted to the period of Robert E. Lee as specified in the original legislation.

The National Park Service received jurisdiction over the building and some 28 acres of adjacent gardens (distinguished from the cemetery) beginning in 1933.[33]

Recent history[edit]

In 1995, officials of the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Department of the Army signed an agreement to transfer 22 acres (89,000 m2) of Arlington Woods from Arlington House to Arlington National Cemetery in order to increase burial space.[34][35][36] Environmentalists expressed concerns that the agreement would result in the partial destruction of the 24 acres (9.7 ha) remnant of an historically important stand of native trees.[37] Congress enacted legislation in September 1996 authorizing the transfer.[36][38] The size of the transfer was later scaled back to just 4 acres (16,000 m2) in 1998,[35] and (barring any legal challenges) a final environmental impact assessment finalizing the transfer and reclamation of the land for burials published in June 2013.[39]

Beginning in 2007, Arlington House and its outbuildings and gardens underwent a five-year, $6 million refurbishment. This included general repairs as well as restoration of the north slave quarters, frescoes in the mansion's hunting hall, and replacement some of the doors and windows.[40]

Arlington House suffered moderate damage in the 2011 Virginia earthquake, requiring the closure of the back halls and upper floor pending an architectural assessment.[41] On July 17, 2014, philanthropist David Rubenstein donated $12.5 million to the National Park Foundation (the arm of the National Park Service which raises funds through private contributions) to rehabilitate Arlington House, its outbuildings, and grounds. The 30-month project is intended to restore the mansion, buildings, and grounds to the way they looked in 1860. The project will repair the earthquake-damaged foundation, and add new interior lighting and a modern climate-control system. National Park Service officials said they are likely to close Arlington House and the slave quarters for several months in 2016, during which most of the work will be done.[40]

Replicas[edit]

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, and houses the Ben H. Zimmeerman Religious School and the Canterbury School.[42] Arlington Hall, a two-thirds scale replica of Arlington House, was built in 1939 in Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, Texas.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  3. ^ "National Register of Historic Places: NPS Focus". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  4. ^ Seagraves, Anna; Fuqua, Ann; Veloz, Nicholas, George Washington Memorial Parkway, National Capital Region, National Park Service (1980-01-15). "Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial". United States Department of the Interior: National Park Service: National Register of Historic Places — Nomination Form for Federal Properties. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Archived from the original on 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-17. 
  5. ^ Patterson, Michael Robert (2004-12-14). "Arlington House (The Custis-Lee Mansion)". Arlington National Cemetery website. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  6. ^ "Today in History: May 13: Arlington National Cemetery". American Memory. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2011-080-22. 
  7. ^ Peters, p. 3
  8. ^ Peters, p. 5
  9. ^ Hanna October 2001, p. 54.
  10. ^ a b Hanna October 2001, p. 59.
  11. ^ Fellman 2003, pp. 195-200.
  12. ^ a b c Arlington National Cemetery 2009, p. 77.
  13. ^ Chase 1930, p. 173.
  14. ^ McCaslin 2004, pp. 79-80.
  15. ^ a b c d Atkinson 2007, p. 25.
  16. ^ a b Chase 1930, p. 176.
  17. ^ Arlington 2000, p. 77.
  18. ^ a b Poole 2009, pp. 54-55.
  19. ^ Poole 2009, p. 55.
  20. ^ Hanna October 2001, pp. 77-78, 87-88.
  21. ^ McCaslin 2004, p. 82.
  22. ^ Peters 1986, p. 142.
  23. ^ Hanna October 2001, p. 88.
  24. ^ a b c Hanna October 2001, p. 86.
  25. ^ a b c d Atkinson 2007, p. 26.
  26. ^ Randall 1913, p. 35.
  27. ^ Chase 1930, p. 191.
  28. ^ Meyer 1998, p. 140.
  29. ^ Amar 1987, p. 1512.
  30. ^ Grant 1996, p. 203, fn 254.
  31. ^ a b Holt 2010, p. 336.
  32. ^ Fernandez 2013, p. 63.
  33. ^ United States of America. National Park Service. Arlington House The Robert E. Lee Memorial. Washington D.C: US Department of the Interior, 1985.
  34. ^ "Arlington House Historic District (2013 Boundary Increase & Additional Documentation). National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, NPS Form 10-900" (PDF). National Park Service. United States Department of the Interior. January 30, 2014. p. Section 8, page 133. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  35. ^ a b Wee, Eric L. (March 6, 1998). "Good News for Tree Lovers, Not for Arlington Cemetery". The Washington Post. p. B7. 
  36. ^ a b Williams, Rudi (May 27, 2005). "Arlington National Cemetery Gains 70 Acres of Land". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  37. ^ Gearan, Anne (July 3, 1995). "Admirers of Lee Upset by Cemetery Expansion Plan". Associated Press. Retrieved March 20, 2013 ; Nakashima, Ellen (July 6, 1995). "Environmentalists Fear Effects of Expanded Arlington Cemetery". The Washington Post. p. B3. 
  38. ^ Vogel, Steve (1999-10-08). "Arlington Cemetery Gains Land to Expand". Metro (The Washington Post). p. B1. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  39. ^ United States Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District (June 2013). Arlington National Cemetery Millennium Project Final Environmental Assessment (PDF). Norfolk, Va. Retrieved July 17, 2013 ; Sullivan, Patricia (June 12, 2013). "Army Corps Says Go Ahead With Arlington Cemetery Expansion". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  40. ^ a b Ruane, Michael E. (July 17, 2014). "Robert E. Lee's Arlington Mansion Gets $12 Million Donation From David Rubenstein". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  41. ^ "Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial." National Park Service. August 30, 2011. Accessed 2011-09-26.
  42. ^ Davis & Davis 2011, p. 138.
  43. ^ Gerem 2004, p. 426.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]