I'll never forget the first time I went to Arlington National Cemetery in 1989. We got there first thing in the morning with all of the crowds in July. As we walked among all the graves, I saw high on a hill a mansion and Southern Belles walking around...Arlington House!
I couldn't imagine how this house managed to get in the middle of a national cemetery. The history was fascinating. I couldn't wait to show this place to my kids. Since we had gotten lost and we ended up taking busy hwy 1 into Arlington after all, it was 330pm by the time we arrived at the cemetery. We weren't sure how to get to the top of the hill to Arlington House. By the time we did, it was 4pm and we just missed the last tour. We were allowed to do a self tour. The house is being renovated and this time there were no Southern Belles. (I thought it would have been fun for my kids to see those dresses and hoop skirts!) Since it's being renovated, there wasn't much on the inside to see. The furniture was gone and the walls were being repaired.
After walking through the house we sat on a bench and reviewed the history. This lovely home was built by George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and her first husband, Daniel Custis! George Washington Parke Custis grew up at Mount Vernon with his sister when his father died. He adored his adoptive grandfather, President George Washington so much, that he filled this house with Washington treasures and heirlooms as a tribute. In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette visited Custis while he was on his grand tour of America. (Everywhere we went on our vacation, the Marquis was there! The kids had so much finding him everywhere!) While the Marquis stood in the Center Hall of the mansion and looked at the view of Washington DC across the Potomac River he said that it was the "finest view in the world." Today one can see all of the memorials (in this particular picture you can see the Washington Monument, Capitol and Jefferson Memorial)....
...and the Pentagon.
Arlington House was an 1100 acre plantation. The daughter of George Washington Parke Custis married Robert E. Lee. Arlington House later became their home. When Lee made the fateful decision to join the Confederacy, they had to flee. During the Civil War, the land was used to bury dead soldiers. Eventually it became a national cemetery.
Last time I was here, due to all of the crowds, I was barely able to see changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This time without the crowds, we were able to easily watch this honored occasion. DS was impressed with the precision. I highly recommend going in the afternoon. It is especially calm and beautiful with the sun setting. Without the crowds, it was easy to listen to the solitude and feel the solemnity.