Discover Virginia and American history from three centuries at the Lee-Fendall House Museum. Located in historic Alexandria, this museum interprets the experiences of the people who lived and worked in the house from 1785 to 1969. Explore stories of everyone who has left their mark -- merchants and politicians, enslaved and free African Americans, housewives and actresses, liquor dealers and labor leaders.
The Lee-Fendall House was built in 1785 as a home for Philip Richard Fendall and his wife Mary Lee. The first child born in the house was their son, Philip Richard Fendall II. Young Fendall would grow up to become a lawyer and politician during the tumultuous decades leading up to the American Civil War. Fendall and his contemporaries, like John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay, wrestled with issues like slavery and the power of the federal government. Fendall served as assistant secretary for the American Colonization Society, a group whose mission was to send former slaves to Africa to live in the colony of Liberia. The Society believed slavery should end, but unlike the abolitionists, they believed it should happen gradually and that the best solution to slavery in America was colonization, not coexistence.
In 1841, Fendall was appointed District Attorney of Washington, D.C., a position he served under various administrations throughout the 1840s and 1850s. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, it forced hard choices on the Fendall family. Unlike his first cousin, Robert E. Lee, Fendall remained loyal to the Union. One of Fendall's sons fought for the Confederacy while two fought for the Union. During the war, Fendall's childhood home, the Lee-Fendall House, was turned into a Union Army hospital where many soldiers suffered and died.