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Cover Image For Lee Chapel at 150: A History (HB)

Lee Chapel at 150: A History (HB)

In September 1865, five months after his surrender at Appomattox that effectively ended the Civil War, Robert E. Lee came to Lexington, Virginia, to begin a new life, to rebuild Washington College that had called him as its president, and to restore what peace and prosperity he could to a nation devastated by the most brutal conflict in its history. After one year, he had succeeded so well on his first two goals that, regarding the second, the college quickly outgrew its facilities. Lee called for a new chapel large enough to allow the growing faculty and student body to meet together for religious and academic gatherings. By June 1868, it was finished.

Two years later, Lee died. He was interred in that building. At the same time, the college renamed itself Washington and Lee University.

Over the 150 years of its existence, the association between Lee and the structure he was responsible for creating made it more than another college building. It has been used for many purposes: a place for celebrations, lectures, and academic assemblies; a mausoleum, shrine, museum, and even a place of pilgrimage. For some, it is the “heart” of the university.

This is its story.

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