Scientific Analysis of Historic Bricks to Shed Light on History at Arlington House

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Date: August 6, 2015
Contact: Aaron LaRocca, 202 438 6619

Arlington, Va.— To help inform the strategy and techniques that will be used to restore Arlington House, the National Park Service is learning more about the people who built the home between 1802 and 1818, and bricks used in the home's original construction. The restoration work is part of the project funded by businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein's $12.35 million lead centennial gift in the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

Yesterday, the National Park Service conducted an exploratory investigation of deteriorating sections of the home’s brick foundation. A National Park Service mason removed several small sections of brickwork to assess the hidden interior of the brick foundation. Some of these bricks will be taken to a lab in Pennsylvania for a detailed scientific analysis of their chemical and material composition. Engineers will also evaluate the level of deterioration and pressure test the bricks.

Researching the bricks will help the National Park Service tell the complete story at Arlington House and better preserve the original brick foundation. Preserving as much of the original structure as possible provides a link to the people, both free and enslaved, who inhabited Arlington House. The bricks that make up the foundation were most likely made by the enslaved people of the Arlington estate.

The residence of Robert E. Lee and his family before the Civil War, Arlington House connects many important figures, issues and events in American history. Built by George Washington Parke Custis and his slaves, the house and grounds have served many purposes over the last 200 years: a family home for the Lees and Custises, a plantation estate and home to 63 enslaved workers, a monument honoring George Washington, a military headquarters for Union troops, a community for emancipated slaves and a national cemetery. With 650,000 visitors per year, Arlington House is the most visited historic house museum in the national park system.

Pictures and a video of the work are available on the park's website at

Last updated: August 6, 2015

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