The Historical Traveler Visits Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery

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(Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

For my latest travels, I visited Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Arlington National Cemetery is a military cemetery that is on the opposite side of the Potomac River in our Nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Arlington National Cemetery is a site of many amazing military history exhibits including The Women in Military Service for America Memorial. It is also the home of the historic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the burial place of two US Presidents: William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy. I spent the majority of my visit at what is known as “Arlington House” or the “Custis-Lee” mansion which was once the home of General Robert E. Lee and family. It was a very interesting visit to the house and I learned first-hand the rich history of the house starting from the construction of the house many years ago.

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(In front of Arlington House, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

The property was originally owned by Martha Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, and was built in 1802 and completed around 1818. When George Washington Parke Custis passed away in 1857, he left the estate to his only child, Mary Anna Custis Lee, who was married to Robert E. Lee.

In 1862 during the Civil War, the government took possession of the home due to the owners not being able to pay the property taxes in person. General Lee was away at war and Mrs. Lee had fled the property due to impending danger. She tried to have a relative pay the taxes for her in person but it was not allowed and so therefore, the federal government took possession. To most likely punish the Lee’s, who were thought of traitors for siding with the Confederacy, the grounds surrounding the home were converted by 1864 into a cemetery for the war dead with the first burial being in Mrs. Lee’s beloved rose garden – all done in spite to ensure the Lee’s never returned to the property.

In1882, twelve years after Robert E. Lee’s death, the family sued the U.S. government for illegally confiscating their land. United States v. Lee concluded with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Lee family. Since the years had passed and so many were now buried on the property, the family decided to sell the property to the US government.

In 1925, the US Congress passed a law to make Arlington House a memorial to Robert E. Lee. In the 1930’s, the National Park Service obtained the house where it has remained a staple for every history buffs enjoyment

The house maintains original furniture, which is predominantly showcased in my two favorite rooms of the house: the White Parlor and the Family Parlor. The White Parlor (which is located on the left upon entering the house) has Robert E. Lee’s famous red furniture and a bookcase that belonged to our first President himself, George Washington!

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(The White Parlor, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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(George Washington’s Bookcase, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

The Family Parlor is directly across the hall of the White Parlor, and was used as a recreational room for the Lee children. There’s an easel with painting supplies which are original pieces including a self-portrait done by one of the Lee children. The desk on the far left is a piece I learned was recently donated by one of Lee’s descendants, as well as many other pieces in the house.

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(The Family Parlor, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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(The easel, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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(The desk, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

This coming August, Arlington House will be temporarily closed for two years due to upcoming updates to the museum including how visitors experience the house.

Fun fact: The updates are all being paid for by David Rubenstein, a philanthropist who demonstrated his passion for American history by paying for the Washington Monument to be restored following the 2011 earthquake.

You should definitely visit Arlington House before they’re closed for two years and make sure to go on one of the tours offered at the top of every hour. To plan your visit to Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery, click here: http://www.nps.gov/arho/index.htm

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(The view from the house, Photo Credit: The Historical Traveler)

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