Washington and Lee University, Lexington

#5 of 20 in Things to do in Lexington
Historic Site · Tourist Spot
Washington and Lee University (Washington and Lee or W&L) is a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia. Established in 1749 as the Augusta Academy, the university is among the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Washington and Lee's 325-acre campus sits at the edge of Lexington and abuts the campus of the Virginia Military Institute in the Shenandoah Valley region between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains. The campus is approximately 50 miles (80 km) northeast from Roanoke, 140 miles (230 km) west from the state capital of Richmond, and 180 miles (290 km) inland southwest from the national capital at Washington, D.C.

Washington and Lee was originally a small classical school, and was founded as the Augusta Academy (later renamed Liberty Hall Academy) by Scots-Irish Presbyterian pioneers, though the university has never claimed any sectarian affiliation. In 1796, shortly before the end of his second term as U.S. President, George Washington endowed the struggling academy with a gift of stock, one of the largest gifts to an educational institution at that time. In gratitude, the school was renamed for Washington, the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War, president at the 1787 Federal Constitutional Convention, and first President of the United States.

In 1865, shortly after his April 9 surrender to Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Armies, former Confederate States Army general-in-chief Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) served as president of the college for five years until his death in 1870, when the college was thereafter renamed the "Washington and Lee University."

One of the oldest institutions of higher education in the American South, W&L is the second-oldest in the Commonwealth of Virginia (next to the College of William & Mary, founded in 1693).

The university consists of three academic units: the college itself; the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; and the School of Law. The university hosts 24 intercollegiate varsity athletic teams which compete as part of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division III).

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228 reviews
  • Historical university with so much character & life! Parking is not the easiest but you can definitely drive around to see this beautiful university!  more »
  • W&L is located right next to VMI so we visited both campuses in the same day. October is definitely a good time to go as both campuses were beautiful with their fall colors and stately buildings...  more »
  • Really good place to go if you want to be in a small class room setting and have knowledgeable teachers. Graduated in 2018 and I defiantly got my moneys worth.
  • What a great campus! Such a beautiful setting and in a charming town. The old Academy was cool to see. I really could imagine how life was like on each floor of the building.

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