Lee Chapel and Museum
The Lee Chapel, nestled in the hill below the historic Colonnade, has been the heart of Washington and Lee University’s campus for almost 140 years.
Today, the beautiful historic building, filled with tradition and a sense of heritage, remains a meeting place for University lectures, concerts, convocations, and contemplation. But it is so much more.
Inside, the Lee Chapel & Museum is alive!
Evoking memories of student years for our alumni;
Promising a new future to our students and the many couples who marry here;
Preserving a legacy of honor and civility, rooted in Robert E. Lee’s tenure as 11th president of Washington College;
Stimulating discovery and learning among our tens of thousands of visitors from across the nation, as they view the history of this institution made possible by a gift from the nation’s first president, George Washington.
In the Beginning...
June 1868…construction of the College Chapel was complete. The rich smells of fresh plaster, paint, and finished wood still hung in the air. The first graduation exercises in the new chapel had just taken place, and Washington College President Robert E. Lee settled into his new office in the lower level of the building.
The years of war were past; the future was a new frontier.
Following the Civil War, Lee envisioned a school that served the South and his reuniting country. He held a vision of combining the liberal arts with practical training for a future in which his students would enter the fields of law, medicine, journalism, business and science. Many in higher education thought this course revolutionary, but it was a vision that was decades ahead of its time, coming to fruition only in the 20th century.
The Lee Chapel & Museum also aspires to an innovative future, following
in Lee’s footsteps
“ In its name, Washington and Lee University harks back to the nation’s two births—in the colonial period and in that period of soul-searching after the Civil War. A university that has grown up with the nation is inherently valuable as a symbol of continuity and a vessel of tradition.”
--John Elrod, President’s Report: A Future Worthy of Our Past, 2000
The Lee Chapel & Museum exhibits two and a half centuries of history that reflect the evolution of the United States, but our story is unique.
No other institution in the country can claim the story of both George Washington’s vision of education in a new nation and Robert E. Lee’s important innovations as an educator and his leadership in reconciliation after the Civil War. Supported by a significant collection of historical artifacts, we pay tribute to the contributions of the University’s two namesakes. Our mission is to promote the value of learning and the virtues of honor, character, leadership and social responsibility demonstrated by these important figures in our nation’s history.