Where Memories Are Made
Beautiful country, warm people, and lots of history.
Sam Houston was born near Lexington.
General George C Marshall, Chief of Staff of the US Army, US Secretary of State, author of the Marshall Plan which brought economic recovery to Europe after World War II, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was educated at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
George Washington was a patron and donor to a small school that then chaged its name to Washington College. After the Civil War Robert E Lee became president of Washington College and it eventually became Washington & Lee University.
Generals Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried here.
Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper in a workshop north of Lexington.
The Virginia Natural Bridge and Caverns are south of town. (Please see my page on the Natural Bridge.)
Today, in addition to these fine educational institutions (VMI and Washington & Lee University), you will find Lexington to be a (bigger than average) college town with a flavor of days gone by throughout. A great place to visit, perhaps an even better place to live if you are ready to get away from the worst parts of the rat race, although there are all of the cultural advantages of a college town.
VMI Walking Tour, Part 2
"Where the Boys Are"
Across and slightly to your right as you exit Jackson Memorial Hall is a huge complex of buildings which compose the barracks for VMI cadets. You probably will not be able to tour the barracks so continue on keeping the barracks on your left and Cocke Hall, the gymnasium, on your right, you will see several things of note just ahead of you. Perhaps the most familiar will be a statue of George Washington. It is slightly atypical of the other historical monuments, statues, and artifacts on campus because he is the only American so honored who never had any direct connection to VMI or the Lexington Arsenal.
In front of the barracks are statues of two men most prominently associated with VMI. Coming from Jackson Hall, the first one you come to is a statue of Stonewall Jackson surveying the battlefield at Chancellorsville as he might have been doing the night he was killed in 1863.
The next statue is of the single most distinguished graduate of VMI, General of the Army (That's five stars.), Secretary of State, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and architect of The Marshall Plan (which paved the way for European economic recovery after World War II) George Catlett Marshall. He graduated from VMI in 1901 and this statue was erected by VMI alumni in 1978.
As you pass the end of the Barracks, you will come upon a beautiful six-sided granite monument honoring Cincinnatus, the Roman patriot who is regarded today as the role model of the citizen-soldier.
The next building carries a name familiar to anyone familiar with US Marine Corps history. Lejeune Hall is named for a Marine lieutenant general who was the fifth Superintendent of VMI and for whom one of the US Marine Corps' largest bases is named. In many ways, Lejeune Hall is the nerve center of student activity at VMI. It houses the cadet activities center, an information center, visitor facilities, the Keydet Kanteen, and the VMI Bookstore. If you want souvenirs of your visit to VMI, this is one of the best places to buy them.
Just beyond Lejeune Hall is the home of the Commandant of Cadets.
The next residence is the Superintendent's Quarters. This house has been home for every Superintendent of VMI and is the only building on campus which was not burned when Union soldiers burned VMI in 1864.
As you pass the residences of other senior leaders of VMI and turn back toward where you entered the campus, you will come upon the George C. Marshall Research Library. It was built as, and is still dedicated to, scholarly research on 20th century military and diplomatic history. Although officially designated as a library (and it is a fine one) it also contains public exhibits appropriate to the man and the theme.
After your visit to the Marshall Library, the last statue you will pass on the way back to our starting point is the statue of the Institute's first superintendent, General Francis H. Smith. He was obviously a remarkable man and much has been written about him but perhaps his most remarkable achievement is that he was superintendent from 1839 until 1889. (How many people do you know who have been in the same job for 50 years?) The statue depicts him in an activity which the ACLU would certainly sue over today. Along with their diploma, he gave each graduate a Bible. The building behind his statue is Smith Hall, also named for him. It is the administration building for the Institute.
I hope that you have enjoyed the walk. Perhaps I will be able to add pictures someday.
There is a lot more to see around the campus. I hope that you enjoy is as much as I did.