Lee Portrait

General Robert E. Lee


The goal of this project is to explore Robert E. Lee’s original vision for Lee Chapel through the recovery of original documents, photographs, and blueprints detailing his ideas and construction of the chapel. We aim to inform viewers of the Chapel’s original purpose through Lee’s writings and explore why Lee Chapel was never completely redone, as was proposed by the Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1920s.

Research Questions

Overarching Questions
What was Lee’s intent for the purpose of the chapel, and how has that purpose changed over time, especially from its construction starting in 1867 through the 1920’s?

Supporting Questions
How did Lee’s family perceive the chapel’s purpose during the time of the 1920s proposed renovations?
How would the renovations have altered the Washington and Lee campus?


The chapel’s original purpose was for religious services and a meeting place for the student body; Lee wanted it to become a sort of “student center.”

After Lee’s death, it evolved into a memorial or a shrine to Lee with the addition of the mausoleum and the recumbent statue.

The proposal to expand it was disputed and eventually turned down because the local chapter of The Daughters of the Confederacy felt that the Chapel was a representation of Lee’s last contributions and should be preserved.

Gallery and Photographs

We chose to use historic photographs to give viewers a visual look into the construction of Lee Chapel and the subtle interior modifications over the years.  Our photos also show how the Washington and Lee Campus changed with the addition of the chapel.  Quite simply, the photos also serve as an interesting way to view history; rather than writing about Lee’s funeral procession, for example, our visitors can see a picture of it.


The timeline is meant to provide a concise summary of Lee Chapel’s history.  The events included on the timeline that are unrelated to the Chapel give context of the large macroevents in Washington and Lee and United States history in relation to the building’s construction and renovation.

Letters and Correspondence

Original scans of letters and correspondence between Robert E. Lee, his family, and others involved in major university transactions provide a first-hand understanding of the issues we discuss on this site.  The handwritten pieces displayed give a new level of intimacy with and understanding of these materials.  All letters and correspondence on this site come from Special Collections at Washington and Lee University. An excerpt from Sons of the Revolution Quarterly magazine was exported from Google Books.

Blueprints and Sketches

The blueprints and sketches of Lee “Cathedral” show how large the proposed renovations would have made the building in comparison to the Chapel today.  They also give a view of the proposed “cathedral” in relation to the immediate surrounding areas of Lexington and Washington and Lee University.

3D Models

The 3D models help viewers visualize what they’ve seen in the photos and sketches.  The models of the proposed renovations provide a much clearer picture of the size of Lee “Cathedral” and allow them to see the planned building in a more realistic light.  The 3D model of Recumbent Lee allows viewers to see this statue without visiting Lee Chapel, but also shows a new angle that is impossible even for Chapel visitors to see.

Tech Used

SketchUp, Voyant, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Agisoft PhotoScan

Plug-ins Used

PrettyPhoto, HotSpot, Google Earth, SketchFab Viewer, NextGEN Gallery, iFrame, NextPage, ListPages, Table of Contents, Google Fonts

Our Team

Our team is composed of 4 undergraduate students enrolled in the Introduction to Digital Humanities course at Washington and Lee University.

Ulemj Enkhbold ’17
Ryan Grant ’16
Nicole Porter ’16
Hollis Tardy ’17

Work in Progress

Please be patient as we continue to compile information and update the site.

On behalf of our group, we would like to thank you for visiting.


We would like to thank Special Collections at Washington and Lee University for generously providing the original documents, letters and photographs that are available for viewing on this site.  We would also like to thank the Lee Chapel museum for their guidance and information. Additionally, we would like to thank the Scholars Lab at UVA for jumpstarting our project.
Our course website


Limited information on this site comes from Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society.
Keefe, Robert S., ed. Proceedings of the Rockbridge Historical Society. Vol. XIII. 2009. Print.