tv Arlington House Tour CSPAN November 25, 2016 8:59pm-9:48pm EST
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that enjoy and appreciate the national park system and as we close out here happy centennial to the national park service. a reminder this program will air tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern time once again in it's entirety and you'll see a full tour of arlington house just as if you were here yourself. thanks for being with us. >> each week american artifacts takes you to museums to reveal what artifacts reveal about american history. next he leads a tour of arlington house. the 19th century mansion situated on the hill above president john f. kennedy's grave in arlington national cemetery. today it is the most visited historic home in the national park service system which is
marking it's centennial this year. arlington house will close at the end of 2016 for a yearlong restoration made possible by a $12.35 million gift. >> i am a park service ranger. i have been here many years. i sometimes joke i spent more time in this house than robert e. lee did. although it was his home for 30 years. it's perhaps the most unique place in the entire national park service and perhaps in regards to historic houses one of the most in the entire country because what we have here is a place that truly represents the entire history of this country from its earliest founding with the original
colonists that came in the early 1600s through the revolutionary period. leaders of the american revolution. signers of the declaration of independent and representing in many ways one of the uglier aspects of american history and that is slavery. it played a crucial role in the american civil war. home of general robert e. lee prior to the war during the period he was a u.s. army officer for 32 years. he developed and became the great soldier that would lead him to become this extremely consequential man during the american civil war but this is where the story takes a dramatic twist. this home is a national memorial to honor robert e. lee but he's
a man that waged war against the united states government who lead an army against the united states government. that army is believed to have killed more u.s. soldiers more than any single enemy army in this country. yet here this house is a national memorial to honor him. so it really rehe presents the way the country developed in it's earliest years. how it divided and then how the nation somehow was able to come back together after that war because this home is a memorial to honor lee not for what he did during the war but what he did afterwards. when he became a leader in the south and promoting a reunion and reconciliation. telling southerners it was their
duty to restore peace and harmony to the nation and once again will they respect the authority of the national government across here and waged a terrible war against. and that's their government again and it was their duty to respect that. and healing this country and three years after the lincoln memorial was dedicated. and memorial bridge and avenue were across the river to symb symbolize and what adds to the nature of the story is this house was originally built as a
monument or a personal memorial to honor the memory of george washington and the father of the country. honored by washington's step grandson george washington and in many ways this house could be looked at is our first monument. for structure of any kind built to honor any man like that. this house had a fame all to itself apart from robert e. lee and then lee married into that family and bail part of the washington family and so with the coming of the civil war happened and lee was put in a very painful and difficult place in which he had to choose sides president lincoln wanted him to command federal troops and he couldn't find a war against virginia. his home and family as he
characterized it and so he was caught in this terrible dilemma and ultimately his massive impact and course of american history that would follow and would lead to the u.s. government taking this home and plantation away from his family to punish him and creating arlington national cemetery as a place to honor the dead and also a form of revenge or retribution against lee for that role he played as a confederate general. so what you're seeing here at arlington house is primarily the original instruction built between 1802 and 1818. we calculate 85% of the physical structure is intact but it's been here for about 200 years and it requires a great deal of care and effort to maintain, restore, conserve it and it's
been more m years since a major restoration effort has been undertaken here. there's going to be a lot of work done over the next year and a half to two years to bring this place back to its glory so at the end of this year the house will shutdown for proximately a year while this restoration work is done. so why don't we go inside the house and take a look. see how it is today. give you an idea of what it is and the work we'll be doing and you can come see us 2018 and see how much the improvement has been made to the restoration of this great ranch. so follow me inside. so here we are in the main hallway after arlington house. the center hall was designed to
impress. and wanted this house to be a memorial to george washington. he had the house designed to be like a gallery to be very monumental. to impress to what he thought could be some of the most important people in the country and presidents congress and senators will visit here to learn more about george washington. the original architect of the mansion was george hatfield. and do design work on the nation's capital. and one of the most prominent architects of the day and has a great history of architecture. and in the history of this country as well. it's not just because of the people that lived here and the events that took place here and the great meaning.
it's somehow a work house and structure and takes on a meeting and people that live there and this house was built to be consequential. it has that history to it as well and robert e. lee married into that in this parlor on june 30th, 1831 under the arch way where you can see the uniform and the dress on display. 24-year-old lieutenant robert e. lee of the u.s. army married marianna randolph. the sweetheart of robert e. lees as well as a great granddaughter of martha washington but this wasn't the only wedding that took place here in fact it wasn't the first wedding. the first wedding took place here ten years earlier when a woman named mariah carter
married charles and what made that wedding important in the history of this place is that they were both enslaved here and mariah was believed to have been the daughter of the master and so she was an enslaved woman from some type of relationship that existed which george washington fathered a child by one of the enslaved women here. and this is forcing us in many ways to reexamine how we interpret the history of arlington. because here we have the story of slavery and this place represents the founding ideas of this country. this home built to honor george washington to celebrate the values and believes of the father of the country. the house itself built by slaves but then you have the family as
well. the family relationship and in essence he had two daughters. one was -- wife married robert e. lee and one was enslaved. both great granddaughters of martha washington so in that regard he is a representative of the first first family of the country that spent 55 years of his life promoting and celebrating that was in essence also representative of another aspect of the history of this country and the first family of this country was by racial and we recently reenacted that and representing both charles and miranda and that was the wedding of selena norris and thornton
grey also enslaved. that was arranged and this wedding took place in this party and selena grey and her family would live in one of the two enslaved quarters that we maintain that exist and are going to be restored as part of this big project as well. we are in the process and by a year we'll begin this restoration project but all the furnishings have to be removed before we can do that work so you can see the boxes in place and preparation being made.
and historically there were numerous portraits hanging in this project. and washington and other members of the family. however those are been removed but at the same time there are holes in our collection. and our new restoration project to this general donation will in fact allow us to inquire and reproduction ib colluding paintings so that we can represent the true appearance of this house and thereby be examples like this. this plaster on the wall. this plaster was -- is not just something we chose to leave exposed for no good reason. actually what we discovered during a recent about 7 years
ago restoration project where we stripped down paint down to the plaster and we repainted different rooms we found writing. we found grafiti and some of this writing is very faint on the walls but this we think even predates the civil war. some of the graffiti is civil war related. some predates the civil war and goes back to the earliest construction of the house and so it's something that we're leaving exposed because it's he representative of that history and we wanted to be able to expose it and we're not exactly sure what the writing says so it's a mystery that is going to be left to us to solve in the future. this is the family dining room and at least one of a couple of rooms that were used as dining
rooms in the mansion and what makes this room so significant is the large number of original furnishings that do exist including china that is on the dining room table t. blue and white plates you see at the front, cincinnati china that belonged to george washington and other china we believed belongs to martha washington. and george washington when he moved here in 1802 brought with him as much of the washington family positions as he could possibly collect. inheriting things from martha washington as well as purchasing things from estate sales. he gathered together his washington treasury and he built this house to house those items in and to exhibit them to the public. and you could have come and dined with them and eaten off of
the same china that george and martha washington had eaten off of. today we have a number of washington items still in our collection but the civil war threatened at and the beginning of the civil war as robert e. lee left here and they were worried that union soldierers would take over and steal items from the house she removed most of what she considered to be the most precious washington family heirlooms including the bed george washington died in and another of other pieces and later he family donated those things, many of those things to mt. vernon, to washington and lee university and and you can visit those places and also get a better understanding of what was here historically. >> the backhaul was his trophy
hall. as a true gentleman of the day. his two favorite past times were horse racing and hunting but he was also a great artist. when i say a great artist, perhaps not a fine artist but a passionate artist. he devoted his life to creative pursuits. he wrote and produced musical plays and american themes and was a pioneer in the idea of american form of theater. and it's his favorite subject by far and his step grandfather george washington. and painting images of the american revolution which we'll see in the others. so as we step through this
doorway we're stepping into a room called the white parlor. this is one of the last rooms of the house that was actually finished. it was largely decorated according to robert e. lee's tastes. he wrote letters to his wife in which he described how he wanted a room to be painted white. both because he said it was such a dark house and would help brighten things but he also complained about the fact that the family was at that time a bit short on money. they were struggling a little bit financially and so he said it was also the cheapest color. so it was painted white and did brighten the house. he bought much of the red velvet furniture for the home up at westpoint when he was superintendent of the u.s. military academy. he designed the marble mantles with oak leafs and a corns
celebrating and honoring the forest and more than half of the estate with oak. only 12 acres of it still exists. the rest swallowed up by the cemetery and some of it does still exist and is part of the robert eflt l robert e. lee memorial to be preserved as long as nature itself be preserve it. >> we have robert e. lee in the mansion and shows him as the young army officer. it's not the version that most people expect. of course most people think of him as the great confederate general but what arlington house represents is his life before the civil war. his family. that he married his wife here. six of his seven children were
born here. this is the place he sacrificed. to side with virginia. to fight for a larger concept of what he considered to be his home and family and that was virginia but it kale with a very knowing sacrifice and while robert e. lee would be in the minds of many during that war and the years to follow some what of a villain in history labeled a traitor to his country by the u.s. govern m and still a controversial figure. many during his lifetime including many officers and soldiers respected lee in large part because of that sacrifice he was willing to make. a congressman from miff mitch, his father served in union army during the war and fought against robert e. lee's army in virginia that first proposed the legislation and would dedicate this as a memorial to robert e.
lee. such was the respect given to him even by many of his enemies. as we come into here this is the room. one of the oldest rooms in the house. also one of the most significant. it was built in 1804 and it was in 1811 that robert e. lee and his family first visited arlington. and his future wife was just 2.5. so we like to think this might have been the room when they first met. as chish. as young children there is a story and family tradition that suggests they were childhood sweethearts growing up that as teenagers they became romantic but he suffered a number of tragedies in his early life. his father died when he was quite wrung. his mother died right after he
graduated from westpoint. he didn't inherit wealth. he didn't inherit property so he had in many ways to take life seriously from a young age and devote himself to a career in the army so he went to westpoint and graduated second in his class and following that he turned his attention to her here and courted here and married her and became part of this family. this room then in many ways and symbolizes how he was connected to this place. almost his entire life arlington meant something important to robert e. lee and almost all of it revolved around the relationship he had. and they were both passionate
artists. and the window over here to the left. and important revolutionary war scenes. all of these paintings done to represent washington as the great hero of the revolution. the indispensable man. you see hi on his white horse in front of the army. and within just a few feet of them. and at the battle of trenton. these paintings glorified washington and that was the purpose and it wasn't just to glorify washington. it was also to promote washington and his believes. his ideals and his values. when this country was first created years following the american revolution it was
completely designed between the followers of thomas jefferson that believed in limited national government and states rights and the rights to leave the union and the right of an armed rebellion against the government and believed it was a union. when he started dating this house in 1902 the man that was president of the united states, thomas jefferson so some believe he built this house on this prominent hill, this fashion out front almost as a way of thumbing his nose at jefferson across the river. well that may be something of an exaggeration and make a political statement and this is to represent the believes and ideals of george washington and
that included once again the idea that this nation would exist forever. but how ironic is it that that man's daughter would marry robert e. lee and became the great confederate general and perhaps the man that kale closest than any other man in history to destroying the nation that was created in the american revolution. it was just through that doorway that robert e. lee made that choice and made that decision to side with virginia and leave the union. he was a u.s. army officer getting 33 years. and he spent his entire adult life in the service of the united states army and he loved his country and also believed in preserving the union.
and he cannot fight a war against home and family. and letter after letter after letter. great conflict in his heart and soul over making this decision but in the end that was the only choice he felt he could make but one of the aspects of that decision that made it so consequential was that lee was first offered command of federal troops and president lincoln wanted him to command him to become the union army. and the army that would cross the river and suppress rebellion and turned it down. >> and that decision would be in many ways a great pivotal moment in american history. and many believe it had chosen
to much shorter and certainly hundreds of thousands of lives would have been spared but at the same time the great political cultural change and social change that occurred in this country because of that including slavery and might have happened very differently. we'll never know. it's one of those unanswerable questions. but it's very clear that the decision robert e. lee made in that room had a profound influence on the course of american history. he had no way of predicting that. the one thing he did know that was very clear because that view out front he knew the union army had to take over arlington to defend washington. arlington may have been one of the most important properties in the entire country because which ever army controlled it here at arlington controlled the fate of the nations capital. had to be held at all cost by
the united states army. and so he expected when he left here two days after re-signing that his family was likely to lose their home his wife had hopes they could return here once the war was over but by the end of the first summer when most americans became more and more aware of the fact that this war is going to be terrible. it's going to be long and bloody and they became more and more re-signed to the fact that they would never live in their home again and they never did. >> here we are on the second floor of arlington house where the main bedrooms are. rooms that robert e. lee and his wife and 7 children slept in. now what we're doing with the mansion as you saw downstairs and you'll see in other parts of
the house, this is the way the house has appeared for decades and this was really the legacy of a previous restoration project and research that goes back 40 plus years. well, what we're doing now is in part of the great generosity and we're able to update our research. we have a new historic furnishing report that's been completed and has more specific and more detailed history of the way they were used and the type of furnishings that exist in here and we also have the ability now of the funding to be able to make this a better visitor experience. now we get over 500,000 visitors walk through this mansion every
year it's the most visited historic house in the national park service. it's in the top five most historic or visited historic houses of any kind in the country. and so we get a large number of people walk through here. but we have to think what are they experiencing? what are they getting out of their visit? are they getting anything? do they just take a quick walk through the house and get at the end and they don't even know what they saw? i have talked to some visitors that have gone through the mansion and they'll ask him in the backyard who lived here again? and so we're going to have
panels explaining history and delving into important aspects of the history and speaking of and we're going to be created a more aesthetic experience. some of the items we have in the house that you may have seen, our old outdated fashion, if you want to call it that. and toward the function. that will be repaired. we update it and that will be made more efficient. so now we can properly preserve the historic artifacts in the house through climate control. >> we're going to be installing
museum quality lighting so that you don't see these standing lamps all over the place that were essentially purchased from target and home depot. that's what we had to work with. and we have many priceless historic artifacts and we have many other items as well that need protection and that need protection at all costs. and so we're going to have a brand new and updated security system installed. new electrical wiring and it's surprising to think that in this house some of the wiring goes back, again, half a century. that's a little frightening when you think about it. and it's a great fear.
never had a fire of any significance and after the historic period and the period in which the national park service has maintained it. and help be that group of people that in shape or form allow this house to burn down and so fire suppressions were added into the house and so this house is going to be brought up through all current museums standings. and that will also allow us to borrow priceless historic artifacts that were once here in arlington house, all part of bringing this house back to its -- not only it's authentic appearance and in a sense it's glory because arlington house was a special place during this historic period.
and it was a tourist attraction during it's day, a very noteworthy structure and it impressed people when they visited. well, we want to impress people today. >> the two wings were one story and it's never used as a living space and it was never finished. in the summer it was too hot. and it wasn't suitable. and it's a storage area.
and it's not just a tourist attraction. and government officials and others that they saw they saw the u.s. flag flying over and maybe he would take to take it and many pieces are stolen. and there's a lot of graffiti in the house compared to other southern mansions that we read about. and both up in the attic and other parts of the house that we covered in our most resent restoration. this was the room robert eflt lee and his wife mary shared
here in arlington. now this was in many ways a very typical army marriage. a lot of people identified this very easily. and many separations from his family. and he was often sent to far away places and this country and separated from his family for months. and coming back at tiles during holiday seasons and there were times when his wife and children travelled with him. and lived in other parts of the country as well. and there were many separations than lee himself.
and he could spend more time with his family. it's part of the frustration he felt come the beginning of the civil war. considering that he spent most of his adult life longing to be here with his family and then having to make the decision that would cost his family his home. and in many ways this was the where he also made that final decision. and he spent a long sleepless night in this room soul searching. making that final decision before going down to his office on the first floor and writing his letter of resignation. behind the bed this is for he and his wife sharon. and gave birth to six of their 7 children and when you start thinking about reasons why this place was so important to the lees you don't have to look much
further than that and the fact that the children were born here and went to great trouble to make sure that they haven't made arlington that much more important to them and that much more painful to sacrifice. we're now in the summer kitchen. we have very fortunate to have two original slave quarters that had been preserved here at arlington house. and they are part of the robert e. lee memorial so it's a great deal of irony to that and one of the concerns that we have had for many years now and how it is best to interpret those two seemingly conflicting aspects of the history of this site to form a more complete and accurate interpretation of the history here at arlington house.
for one, we want to remind people arlington house first and foremost is a national memorial. it is not a confederate monument that does not exist to honor robert e. lee for being a general. this honored him for his war in promoting rewrun i don't know once the war was over. his period of course his experience, his leadership as confederate general was recognized but we don't want people who visit here to think of this place to be put off by some preconception of what they might think the interpretation of this place is. we are determined to make this as comprehensive as impossible and that means telling the full story of the enslaved people here at arlington.
arlington national cemetery was once a plantation. a lot of visitors were surprised by that. over 4 million visitors to our arlington national cemeteries and a few it seems are aware of that. to see how this place changed and evolved from a plan toigs aa cemetery during the war and what it is now is a great part of the story here that we interpret daily. slavery is a big part of that. for visitors to washington we get so many of the same tourists this maybe the one time we have a chance to step and slide. and historic slave quarters as part of a visit to washington and to learn about this painful
aspect of our country's history. so part of our restoration project that is upcoming is to enhance and expand our interpretation of african american history and that means both of the historic slave quarters creating new exhibits to tell the story and to examine it from all of it's many angles. it's one of the things that's remarkable about the history of slavery here at arlington is there are so many different facets to it. it's not just a simple story and nobody should ever be mistaken in thinking that slavery, the story of slavery was a simple story. it certainly was not. but here at arlington you have it in all the complexities.
you have the fact that george washington, inherited people from the estate of martha washington. came here from mt. vernon. and breaking them up in the process as george washington freed the people as many people came here from mt. vernon. they created families with family identities. at mt. vernon george washington owned about 200 slaves and he did not record family names. it was as if they did not even have family identities. and they gain family identities and when he died in 1857 he put it in his will that all the people he owned nearly 200 would be set free and we have a list. we have an inventory of those people and we have them by
families. so it's an extraordinary evolution that took place in a short period of time it seems. so you have these large families here and those families would find their freedom during the war and they would gain their freedom and then would move off of the estate and to a local community and many of them setting up homes in neighborhoods nearby and this legacy in which this community of arlington county and arlington county connected. because of this movement. and it was created during the war. and thousands of former slaves and find freedom work and production and many of them once the village was closed in 1900 would move out to the community
and are actually four local churches that originated at the village and we're busy working with descendents of the enslaved people here at arlington to get their story. to do more research and to include their perspectives. in the interpretation of this site. >> and our recent donation and ability to restore the mansion and create new exhibits is not only possible but coincides with the sen tin y'all of the national park service. it gives us the opportunity to examine and reexamine what this place meant over the last several decades since the national park service first took it over in 1933.
and what it means moving into the future. because as a country we always need to examine and reexamine our history in order to decide where we want to go forward. and arlington house is an amazing place to be able to do that. so we could examine the meaning of the civil war. we can examine sul the life of robert e. lee and the impact his decision made out of history. the lives of the enslaved people here. the consequences of that war surrounding this pangs arlington cemetery was created. both as a means to honor the dead and as a way of gaining revenge or justice perhaps against robert e. lee. but how do we as a country view the events of that war?
and it's after effects? the period of reconstruction and determined the national park service was determined to move forward and lead the nation here in an effort to come to terms with that period in time and to make more of it. to make something of it that can help us. move as a nation and as culture into the future. theme here is division and reunion. well, division perhaps is easier to define. but reunion, what does that really mean? we know the country was reunited more than sound but culturally and racially and many ways his country remains divided.
and will help americans and people from other parts of the world too. to examine that -- examine their own believes and see what they can make of it moving into the future. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website at cspan.org/history. >> each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn what artifacts reveal about american history. next we visit arlington house, the robert e. lee memorial in arlington national cemetery to hear from descendents of one of the enslaved families on this 19th century plantation. in about ten minutes we'll hear from craig that