Built by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and raised by her husband and his step-grandfather George Washington, Arlington House is more widely known as the pre-Civil War home of Robert E. Lee, who married Custis’s daughter Mary Randolph Custis, who inherited the home in 1857.
Lee lived in Arlington House between 1831 and 1861, with periods of absence due to military service. After Fort Sumter fell in April 1861, Lee, in Richmond at the time, resigned his commission in the Union Army; Mary left the home in May, and it soon became the domain of Northern troops and home to a Freedman’s Village of former slaves.
When U.S. Quartermaster Gen. Montgomery Meigs searched for a location to bury the growing number of war dead in the area, he zeroed in on Arlington House. As far as Meigs was concerned, the closer the Union dead were buried to the mansion, the better; Meigs wanted to punish Lee for siding with the Confederacy and to ensure Lee would never return to the home.
Currently undergoing renovations, Arlington House is unfurnished and remains a construction site but is open for visits. Park officials estimate that the work will be concluded and the house refurnished by 2012.
In front of this Georgian Revival mansion lies the grave of Washington city planner and Revolutionary War hero Pierre L’Enfant. Recognizing L’Enfant’s importance to the nation and the city, government officials relocated his body from Prince George County, Maryland, to a prominent spot in the cemetery in 1909.