Lee Chapel, Washington and Lee University
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Lee Chapel
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Location: Lexington, Virginia
Coordinates: 37°47′14″N 79°26′32″W / 37.78722°N 79.44222°W / 37.78722; -79.44222Coordinates: 37°47′14″N 79°26′32″W / 37.78722°N 79.44222°W / 37.78722; -79.44222
Built/Founded: 1867
Architectural style(s): Late Victorian
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: December 19, 1960[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000914

Lee Chapel is a National Historic Landmark in Lexington, Virginia, on the campus of Washington and Lee University. It was constructed during 1867-68 at the request of Robert E. Lee, who was President of the University (then known as Washington College) at the time, and after whom the building is named. The Victorian brick architectural design was probably the work of his son, George Washington Custis Lee, with details contributed by Col. Thomas Williamson, an architect and professor of engineering at the neighboring Virginia Military Institute. General Lee, along with much of the rest of the Lexington community, attended church services at Grace Episcopal Church, a hundred yards south, at the edge of the college campus. (That church was later renamed R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church)

When Lee died in 1870, he was buried beneath the chapel. His body remains there to this day, and for this reason among others, the Chapel is one of Lexington's major historical tourist attractions.

A centerpiece on the stage of the chapel -- where the pulpit would be in a more secular place of worship -- is a statue of Lee, in his uniform, asleep on the battlefield (the "Recumbent Lee"), designed by Edward Valentine. On the walls are two nearly priceless paintings: one of General Washington himself, by Charles Willson Peale, from the Washington family collections, and the other of Lee in his uniform, painted by Edward Pine, currently on loan to a traveling exhibit.

In the basement a crypt (added after Lee's burial) contains much of Lee's direct family: the General himself, his wife Mary, his seven children, and his parents - Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, who had been a general during the Revolution, and Anne Carter Lee. Lee's favorite horse, Traveller, is buried just outside the Chapel, where students of Washington & Lee traditionally leave coins in hopes of being compensated with good fortune in their studies. In the basement of the Chapel is a museum that illuminates the history of the family of George Washington and Lee as well as that of the university itself. Lee's office has been meticulously preserved in almost exactly the same condition as it was when he died.

Further, the Chapel continues to play an important role in the modern operation of Washington and Lee. It seats about 600 in its main area and a small, three-sided balcony. Freshmen are brought there to hear a lecture from the President of the University's student-run Executive Committee on the school's famous Honor System. Important school-wide lectures, concerts, and other notable activities are also held here from time to time.

Lee Chapel was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. It is open for tours based on the following schedule:

  • Apr 1 - Oct 31: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays
  • Nov 1 - Mar 31: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://www.nr.nps.gov/. 
  2. "Lee Chapel, Washington and Lee University". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=693&ResourceType=Building. Retrieved 2008-06-26. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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