So, I was walking through the Graham-Lees archway this morning (not through the middle columns), and realized this particular W&L legend is one a lot of people haven’t heard. So, without further ado, I present the humble, amazing origins of W&L’s main home for new first-year students, the Graham-Lees Dormitory:
As you may know, shortly after Robert E. Lee became president of what was then Washington College, interest in the school exploded. Applications and the number of enrolled students skyrocketed. Predictably, this left the school with somewhat of a problem: where were all these students going to live?
One evening, while playing poker with an architect, Lee happened to mention this particular problem. As the play continued, and the other players gradually faded away, eventually only Lee and the architect remained at the table, still playing poker. Eventually, Lee found himself with a favorable hand, and seeing a ready way to both beat the architect and solve one of the school’s problems, bet the architect a dormitory. Clearly, the architect lost the hand, and was bound by honor to design and build a dormitory for the school. Obviously, the architect, vexed at this task, designed the dormitory to be as confusing and difficult to navigate as possible.
This dormitory eventually became either Graham or Lees Hall (exactly which is unclear), which was later joined to the other in 1940 to form the confusing, maze-like, labyrinthine Graham-Lees Dormitory, which now houses about 250 W&L first years.
Neat story, huh?