Robert E Lee’s home on market for $5.9m – but listing fails to mention him

<span>Photograph: Steve Helber/AP</span>
Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
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The house at 607-601 Oronoco Street in Alexandria, Virginia – a 226-year-old, six-bedroom, 8,145 sq ft mansion – appears by every measure a highly desirable place to live, if at an asking price of $5.9m.

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But in a listing, the realtor selling the house fails to mention one thing.

It was once home of Robert E Lee, the Confederate general who enslaved people and fought to preserve slavery in the American civil war.

Furthermore, as the Washington Post noted, a photo in the listing appears to have been altered to edit out a large plaque in front of the property which marks it as “Lee’s boyhood home”.

Amid a national atmosphere of reckoning over systemic racism triggered by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, statues of Lee have been the targets of protests and the subjects of removals.

Only last month, a huge Lee statue was removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, the Virginia state capital.

Attending the removal, one Virginian told the Guardian: “It’s a beautiful day for democracy. It’s time for us to be honest about our history. Germany has zero statues of Hitler or Rommel. They learned the lesson and we have to learn the lesson: we cannot coddle white supremacy in this country.”

The Lee house in Alexandria is certainly a place where an owner could come to feel coddled.

“The grand entrance greets you to a storybook foyer,” the realtor’s listing says, “with magnificent architecture juxtaposed with historic period details and natural light creating both a majestic yet warm scene.”

The listing also promises “patios, countless specimen trees and lush grounds” as part of a “truly magical” estate, and “easy access to National Airport, Metro, Amazon HQ2 and major commuter routes”.

Nearby schools include a highly-rated elementary … named in part for Thomas Jefferson, another giant of US history who enslaved people.

Jefferson-Houston is also named for Charles Hamilton Houston, the first general counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a pioneer of school integration. On its website, it promises “Equity for All”.

On Saturday, the Guardian left a message for Lauren Bishop of McEnearney Associates, the listing agent for the Lee house. She did not immediately respond.

The history of the house is not in doubt. It is listed in the Library of Congress as a one-time home of Lee, who was born in 1807 at Stratford Hall plantation in Westmoreland county but lived in Alexandria after his father was released from debtor’s prison.

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Lee lived at the Alexandria house until he left for West Point, the US military academy, in 1825. He rose to fame in the service of his country but when Virginia seceded in 1861 rejected command of union forces in order to serve his state and slavery.

A plaque in front of the Alexandria house claims Lee returned after his final defeat, at Appomattox in 1865, climbing over a wall in order to see the garden.

Lee’s even grander home at Arlington still stands, as part of the national cemetery the US government built on its grounds. The original burial ground there, Section 27, contains the remains of nearly 4,000 people enslaved before the civil war.

According to the Washingtonian, in 2019, when the Alexandria house was last on the market, the identity of its historic occupant was on full display. It fetched $4.7m, and has since undergone renovations and restoration.