Lee Chapel and Museum on the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, will close for the installation of a new fire suppression system from Dec. 12 through late March 2015, part of W&L’s continuing efforts to preserve its historic buildings.
Additional renovations will include upgrading the museum’s track lighting system with energy-efficient LEDs and creation of a new hall exhibition gallery and text panel.
Washington and Lee’s entire front campus, including Lee Chapel, has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior. Lee Chapel, built in 1868, remains the university’s largest meeting space and is home to many campus events, lectures, concerts and weddings. It is also Lexington’s and Rockbridge County’s foremost tourist venue, attracting some 40,000 visitors each year.
In addition to famous paintings of George Washington and Robert E. Lee and distinctive architectural features, the upper level, or auditorium portion, contains the acclaimed white marble statue, “Recumbent Lee” by Edward Valentine. Robert E. Lee served as the university’s president from 1865-70, saving it from financial ruin.
The lower level houses a permanent exhibition, “Educating to Build and Re-Build a Nation,” which details the contributions of Lee and Washington to higher education in America while showcasing numerous historical artifacts. It also features Lee’s preserved office, his tomb in the Lee family crypt, changing exhibitions and a museum shop. Lee’s famous horse, Traveller, is buried just outside the building.
The university will pay for installation of the fire suppression system. The lighting upgrade and fabrication of the hall exhibition gallery will be provided by the Lee Chapel Endowment Fund.