A Host of Distinguished Guests
With the ringing of a bell, enslaved servants led by Charles Syphax summoned the family and their guests to eat. Many famous visitors dined at the Custis-Lee dining table, including Washington Irving, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Pierce. George Washington Parke Custis entertained company with stories about George and Martha Washington. The elegant table was set with china and silverware from Mount Vernon.
The Marquis de Lafayette visited Arlington in the 1820s. He tried to convince George Washington Parke Custis to stop relying on enslaved labor at Arlington.
“If Mr. Custis, instead of…slaves…would employ a dozen free labourers...he would soon have one of the most delightful properties, not only of the District of Columbia, but of all of Virginia.”–Lafayette’s secretary on the conversation between Lafayette and Mr. Custis.
Montgomery Meigs, a friend of Robert E. Lee from the US Army, dined at Arlington House in the 1850s. He later ordered the first graves dug here.