The Building of Arlington House
Murray Nelligan


1 Joseph Pearson Farley, Three Rivers (Neale Publishing Co., N.Y. & Wash., 1910), 126.

2 Rosalie S. Calvert to Jean Charles Stier, July 3, 1802, printed in William D. Hoyt, Jr., ed., “The Calvert-Stier Correspondence,” Md. Hist. Mag., XXXVIII (1943), 130–131.

3 Mrs. Robert E. Lee to Mrs. Laura C. Holloway, n.d., printed in the latter’s, The Ladies of the White House (2 vols. Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1886), II, 59.

4 That Hadfield designed the wings as well as the portico is demonstrated by the windows in the former being almost identical to those in the old City Hall, now the District Court, in Washington, a building which is indisputably his. They also closely resemble those seen in the plans and elevations of a “Country House near Washington,” dated 1798, and signed by George Hadfield. These plans, now in the library of the School of Architecture at Columbia University, are the only ones by Hadfield known to be still in existence in this country. Other evidence, too detailed to present here, confirms this belief.

5 In the Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, D.C.), Feb. 13, 1826.

6 For Elliot’s attribution, see his letter to the editor, ibid., June 17, 1833; for his having been a pupil of Hadfield’s, see same to same, Feb. 20, 1835; and for the quotations, see same to same, ibid., Apr. 25, 1840.

7 Facing page 150.

8 History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (G. P. Scott & Co., New York, 1834), I, 336.

9 Gilbert L. Rodier, “Arlington House,” Architectural Forum, XL (March, 1924), 89, 92. The woodwork in this wing is now being refinished, and the removal of the old paint has verified Mr. Rodier’s observations. The findings of L. M. Leisenring, “An Account of the Restoration of Arlington House,” Federal Architect, July, 1932, 8, are in substantial agreement with those of Mr. Rodier. Mr. Leisenring was the architect in charge when the Lee Mansion was restored by the War Department about 1930.

10 Until the restoration of the mansion, it was believed that the larger room had not been finished off until about 1857, but the finding of a strip of wallpaper of classic design under a more modern mantel, indicated that the room was finished at an early period, op. cit.

11 This fact, too, was disclosed during the restoration, for which see L. M. Leisenring, “The Restoration of Arlington House,” Quartermaster Review, March, April, 1934, 20.

12 Cornelia Lee (?) to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee (?), April 13, 1804, photostat in Lee Family Papers, Library of Congress. She adds: “The room we were in was 24 feet Square & 18 high,” most likely the present Dining-room in the south wing.

13 Daily National Intelligencer, May 7, 1811.

14 Notably the letter of Cornelia Lee cited above.

15 In Holloway, The Ladies of the White House, II, 59; Marietta M. Andrews, George Washington’s Country (E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1930), 149.

16 See the advertisement for Randolph’s cement, in Daily National Intelligencer, Aug. 19, 1818.

17 Letter to editor of the N.Y. Republican Chronicle, dated March 16, 1818, reprinted in the Washington (D.C.) Gazette, May 7, 1818.

18 Including a bill for $300 from Cornelius McLean, builder, to G. W. P. Custis, April 18, 1818, Custis Papers, Va. Hist. Soc.; and letter of G. W. P. Custis to Edward Stabler (?), in Eleanor Leadbeater, “The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop, Alexandria, Va., 1792–1933,” American Pharmaceutical Association Journal, XXIII (Nov., 1934), 1139.

19 Auguste Levasseur, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 (2 vols. Carey & Lea, Philadelphia, 1829), II, 12, Trans. by John D. Godman.

20 For the tradition, see John Ball Osborne, The Story of Arlington (J. B. Osborne, Washington, D.C.) 14. Custis did own brickmolds, bought at public sale held at Mount Vernon in 1803, for which see Eugene E. Prussing, The Estate of George Washington, Deceased (Little, Brown, & Co., Boston, 1927), 457.

21 For the pediment being scored see Jonathan Elliot, Historical Sketches of the Ten Miles Square (J. Elliot, Jr., Washington, 1830), 291. Whether the columns had drum lines originally cannot be said, the old stucco having been stripped off and the columns replastered about 1890. It is likely, however, that the lines in the present coating were copied from the older ones.

22 For the details of the material used in the construction of the mansion and the construction itself, the author is indebted to Mr. L. M. Leisenring, who kindly made available to him a copy of his unpublished lecture, entitled “The Restoration of Arlington House,” containing much specific information discovered at the time the house was restored. It should be mentioned that, according to tradition, all the wood used in the house was cut on the estate, from which came, too, the stone used in parts of the foundation. It is known that Custis did have a sawmill and quarry on a nearby tract, for he advertised them for sale in the Georgetown (D.C.) Federal Republican, Sept. 8, 1813; and Arlington was noted for the quality and variety of its standing timber.

23 Levasseur, 1829, says it was modeled after the Theseum; Jonathan Elliot, 1830, the Temple at Paestum, as does William M. Morrison, Morrison’s Stranger’s Guide to the City of Washington (Washington 1852), 120; while Benson J. Lossing, 1853, says the Theseum. All with the exception of Morrison have been cited above.

24 L. M. Leisenring gives their dimensions and compares their proportions in the unpublished manuscript previously cited.

25 Fiske Kimball, Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and the Early Republic (Chas. Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1922), 180.

26 Robert E. Lee’s interest in “renovating” the mansion is evident in the letter to Mrs. Lee, Aug. 20, 1855, printed in Edmund Jennings Lee, Lee of Virginia (E. J. Lee, Philadelphia, 1895), 433–435.