Carlyle co-founder gives $12 mln to restore Robert E. Lee home

WASHINGTON, July 18 Fri Jul 18, 2014 11:48am EDT

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Reuters) - David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm Carlyle Group LP and a Washington philanthropist, has donated $12.3 million to restore the home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Rubenstein donated the funds to restore Lee's columned Arlington House to its historical appearance in 1860, before the start of the U.S. Civil War, the National Park Service said in a statement on Thursday.

Rubenstein's lead gift complements President Barack Obama's Centennial Initiative to invest in National Park Service sites as a way to mark the agency's 100th anniversary in 2016, it said.

The project will include restoration of slave quarters and increased accessibility to the house and grounds. Arlington House, which overlooks Washington across the Potomac River, is the most visited historic house museum in the U.S. park system.

The Greek Revival home was built by George Washington Park Custis, a stepgrandson of President George Washington, and his slaves between 1802 and 1818.

It was a plantation estate with 63 slaves and served as a Union headquarters during the Civil War. War dead were buried on the site, the origin of Arlington National Cemetery.

Rubenstein is a leading Washington philanthropist. His contributions include paying half of the costs to repair earthquake damage to the Washington Monument and lending a copy of the Magna Carta to the National Archives. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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