The original building, now called Lenfest Hall, was dedicated on May 25, 1991 after almost four years of construction and planning. The $10.5 million, 50,000 square foot facility is the home of the theater department. The building is named in honor of Marguerite and H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, who gave $3 million towards construction and endowment. "Marguerite and I are delighted with this opportunity to contribute to the new center for the performing arts at Washington and Lee," said Mr. Lenfest, a 1953 graduate of the university. "It promises to enrich the learning experience at the university and provide the surrounding region with a contemporary, state-of-the-art facility for music, drama and dance." The Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Hall was designed by the architectural firm of Ford, Powell & Carson of San Antonio, Texas. Its red brick facade and multi-story portico entrance reflects the Georgian style architecture of the Washington and Lee campus. Inside the building includes a 415 seat main theater (the Keller Theatre) and an experimental "black box theater", (the Johnson Theatre). Consultants to the project included Marcellus Wright, Cox & Smith, Associated Architects, Carter & Burgess, Inc., theater consultants and GWSM, Inc., landscape architect. Bass Construction of Richmond, Virginia served as general contractor.
The John and Anne Wilson Hall, named for former Washington and Lee president John D. Wilson and his wife Anne, and dedicated in October 2006, is the most recent gem in the University’s crown of the arts. Housing the departments of Music and Art, Wilson Hall also contains a 300 – seat state of the art Concert Hall which plays host not only to the University’s many student, faculty, and ensemble groups, but also world renowned concert artists. The Staniar Art Gallery is also an excellent venue for the works of student, faculty and professional artists. Wilson Hall itself is a 65,000 square foot building project designed by the firm of Zimmer Gunsul and Frasca, and constructed by Brice Building Company of Birmingham, Alabama. Brice Building is headed by Felix Drennen, III, W&L Class of ’73.
Since opening in 1991, the Lenfest Center has helped the University provide the fine arts component of an exceptional liberal arts education. Housing over 125 performances each year and hosting over 30,000 patrons, the center has become the region's performing arts center. Countless rehearsals and an ongoing schedule of classes make the Lenfest Center a lively and dynamic educational facility.
The history of the university's long relationship to the arts dates back to its most illustrious early donor and first namesake, George Washington. In making an important gift to the struggling school in 1796, the First President noted, "To promote literature in this rising empire, and to encourage the arts, have ever been amongst the warmest wishes of my heart. And if the donation is likely to prove a means to accomplish these ends, it will contribute to the gratification of my desires."