For two decades before the Civil War the Lyceum was the intellectual and cultural center of Alexandria, but the war interrupted its educational activities. Like most of the other large structures in town, the building was seized for use by the Union Army. The Lyceum Hall held 80 beds, and in 1862 served as a ward of the nearby Downtown Baptist Church General Hospital across Washington St.
Considered Alexandria’s finest Greek Revival-style building, the Lyceum has had a long and interesting history. Originally, it contained a library and an exhibition space for natural history and scientific exhibits. Today, it is Alexandria's history museum with both permanent and changing exhibits.