The construction on the Chapel began in 1867 at the request of Robert E. Lee, who served as president from 1865-1870 of what was once Washington College. Built of brick and native limestone, the Chapel was completed in time for graduation in 1868. Lee attended weekday worship services here and the lower level housed his office, the treasurer's office and the YMCA student center.
In 1883 the University made an addition to the building to house the memorial sculpture of “Recumbent Lee” by Edward Valentine and a family crypt in the lower level, where the president's remains were placed. His wife, mother, father ("Light-Horse Harry" Lee), his children and other relatives are now buried in the crypt as well. The remains of his beloved horse, Traveller, are located outside the museum entrance.
Lee's office is preserved much as he left it for the last time on Sept. 28, 1870. The rest of the lower level became a museum in 1928, and now displays an exhibit entitled Building and Rebuilding a Nation.
Lee Chapel was named a National Historic Landmark in 1961. The Chapel was restored once in 1962 and then again in 1998 by Washington and Lee to celebrate the University's 250th anniversary in 1999.