Lee Chapel Proposal

Statement of problem: What was Lee’s vision for Lee Chapel and how is it different today?  What was its purpose for the W&L community and how has the Chapel’s meaning been interpreted over time?

Motivation: One of General Lee’s last contributions to Washington and Lee was Lee Chapel, yet many of us do not know what he envisioned for the chapel.  In the 1920s, the school thought about renovating as well as adding to Lee Chapel, yet they decided not to go through with it.  Lee Chapel is an icon to the university and one of many representations of Lee.  We believe the community should be educated on Lee’s vision for Lee Chapel and how that vision has been molded over time, especially during the 1920s when a major renovation almost changed its entire appearance.

Related Work: To our knowledge, digitizing archives of the Chapel and analyzing Lee’s motivation has never been done before, although Special Collections has preserved many of the documents, blueprints, and pictures that we will be using in our project.

Construction of Research Question: We first started with a completely different topic, but we were limited in the data available on this topic.  After deliberation and a long conversation with the Scholars Lab at UVA, we decided to go a different direction to the topic of Lee Chapel.  Given the current controversy and national attention over the confederate flags in Lee Chapel, we wanted to keep our project as apolitical as possible. This dissuaded our focus from morality, honor, and ethics, and centered it rather on the building itself. Our research is primarily focused on Lee Chapel’s history and proposed architectural changes in the building.

Hypotheses: We think the physical structure of Lee Chapel, overall, is similar to what Lee envisioned, given the fact that the renovations and changes never happened.  A lot of building is kept the same way that Lee commissioned it, with minor necessary modernizations added over time.  We predict that the function of Lee Chapel has in fact evolved from what he initially intended, given an addition of a museum and a crypt.  With more research, we intend to uncover Lee’s true intentions for the Chapel.

Methodology: We are collaborating with Special Collections to study blueprints, historic photographs, planned renovations, trustee meeting notes, and any other sources available to give us a clear picture of the intentions for Lee Chapel.  We plan to construct 3-D models, create an online timeline, and analyze any available textual resources regarding proposed renovations, in addition to displaying raw photographs and other data on our site.  It is our hope that we will openly present records forgotten or unknown to the public online so that Lee’s original plans and the history of Lee Chapel can be known and appreciated both now and in future years.