Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lexington in October

When he had the opportunity to get tickets to the dedication of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, my dad was so excited to have the opportunity to pack all the kids up in one vehicle and take them to Washington as a family.
 
We drove part way on Wednesday, met up with my younger brother (younger as in least oldest, not as in younger than me) and his wife and headed up I-81 on Thursday, October 12.
 
I love I-81 in Virginia. The Valley of Virginia is so beautiful with the Allegheny Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge to the east. It was mid-October, but unfortunately the leaves were not yet at their peak. They were starting to turn, though, and the weather was beautiful.
 
We had to eat lunch somewhere, so I suggested (insisted?) we stop at Lexington. I love Lexington, Virginia. It is such a beautiful little town, big enough to have the usual conveniences, but small enough to be super friendly. And so incredibly quiet. Peaceful and quiet are not words that usually come to mind when you think of a college town, but walking around the Washington & Lee and Virginia Military Institute campuses almost feels like walking around in a library.
 
I have many more pictures for later posts from my 2008 visit to Lexington. This stop was just a quick midday break in a long travel day. We ate a sandwich, drove over to Washington & Lee, walked around a little, drove down to get a look at an old house I had read about, then got back on the road.
 
My parents and I had been to Lexington before, but the rest of the family hadn't. Being a family of history buffs, we had to visit Lee Chapel. Following the Civil War, Robert E. Lee spent the last five years of his life as president of Washington College (renamed Washington & Lee after his death). The Civil War had left the little school nearly destitute with only a handful of students, but Lee's leadership built it into a thriving institution.
 
 
Lee had the chapel built on campus. While chapel attendance was not required, Lee led by example. Because he was in attendance at every chapel service, so were most students.
Sitting down the hill from the colonnade, Lee Chapel adds a touch of gothic to the otherwise classical front campus. The chapel blends into the landscape so well that it looks very small when it is actually fairly large on the inside.
 
 
Detail of the brick walkway.

After General Lee died, he was buried in the basement of the chapel. Later the chapel was extended to house Valentine's recumbent statue of Lee asleep on the battlefield with a crypt for the entire Lee family beneath it.
 
Normally photography is not allowed in the statue chamber, but the docent who met us told us they were making an exception that day for a particular reason:
 
We were there on the 136th anniversary of Lee's death.

Lee's favorite horse Traveller is buried just outside the door from the Lee crypt.


People leave flowers, apples, and pennies on Traveller's grave.
 
 

The Lee House is the home of the university president. Lee had the house built during his tenure with two key objectives: (1) wide verandas where Mrs. Lee, who was confined to a wheelchair, could get outside and knit with her cats, and (2) an attached stable for his horses Traveller and Lucy Long so that Lee and Traveller could live under the same roof.
(It's in the details about horses and cats that you find what history is really about, but we'll save more horse and cat stories for later.)
 
The stable has been converted to the president's garage, but, as policy, the doors are always left open so that Traveller's spirit may roam free.
The US and Virginia flags fly from the Lee House.
Everything in Lexington is uphill ...
... in town, and out. Thorn Hill sits atop this one.
Thorn Hill was owned by the commander of the Stonewall Bridge.
Lexington countryside.
 
 
 

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