The mansion was built on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, a step grandson of George Washington and the most prominent resident of what was then known as Alexandria County.
G. W. Custis' only child to survive to adulthood was Mary Anna Randolph Custis. Young Robert E. Lee, whose mother was a cousin of Mrs. Custis, frequently visited Arlington. Two years after graduating from West Point, Lieutenant Lee married Mary Custis at Arlington on June 30, 1831.
In 1925, the War Department began to restore the mansion, and control of the mansion was transferred to the National Park Service in 1933. Congress designated the mansion as a memorial to Lee in 1955, and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Today, the mansion is managed by the National Park Service as a memorial to Robert E. Lee while the land surrounding the mansion, known as Arlington National Cemetery, is managed by the Department of the Army.