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Robert E. Lee Memorial reopens following multimillion research and structural overhaul

The mansion was the most visited house museum in the national park system before the rehabilitation, receiving around 650,000 tourists per year.

ARLINGTON, Va. — After a $12.35 million rehabilitation project and several reopening delays, the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial, reopened to the public for the first time since 2018.

In addition to several structural renovations at the historical mansion of the Confederacy general, the site has also updated the visitor educational experience, with new exhibits and artifacts that explore the history of the more than 100 enslaved people who worked on the estate’s plantation, according to a press release from the National Park Service (NPS).

“The reopening of the Arlington House provides a place for hard and important conversations that illuminate more perspectives, including the experiences of enslaved people and their descendants,” said Will Shafroth, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation.

The overhaul was made possible by philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, who has previously donated millions to renovate other D.C. landmarks like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Rubenstein said he believes the NPS has done a “spectacular job” at better documenting the stories of the Lee and Curtis’ family slaves that helped construct the mansion on the historic 1,100-acre plantation. As part of the rehabilitation process to tell a more complete history of the Arlington House, the NPS interviewed descendants of several once-enslaved families.

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“I hope many people get to visit and believe that Arlington House’s rich and complicated history will add to the necessary and important discussion in our country about racial justice,” he said.

Curators additionally acquired another 1,300 artifacts and reproductions to add to the site’s museum, many of which are traditionally associated with Black American history, according to the press release.

In addition to restabilizing the mansion’s foundations, the NPS also installed new electrical, lighting, security and fire suppressant systems, as well as realigning the historic grounds and kitchen gardens to allow for accessibility.

Built between 1802 and 1818 by George Washington Parke Curtis and his slaves, the plantation was confiscated in 1861 by the federal government and was quickly converted into the national cemetery where more than 250,000 soldiers have since been buried.

The mansion was the most visited house museum in the national park system before the rehabilitation, receiving around 650,000 tourists per year, according to the NPS press release.

Arlington House is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. To visit, guests are required to obtain a timed-ticket by visiting this website.

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