Earlier in the year, while attending a VAM (Virginia Association of Museums) conference in Alexandria, I happened to attend a session led by two folks from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Encyclopedia Virginia (EV) Project.
Matthew Gibson, Director of Digital Initiatives and Editor of EV, and Peter Hedlund, Programmer for EV, were helping non-profits identify free, reasonably priced and accessible digital resources to use in their communications platform. Toward the end of the session, they presented their recent affiliation with Google Street View. It seems that they had received training and licensing from Google to compile virtual tours of historic venues and they were asking for interesting places to visit and shoot.
After bull-dozing my way through the crowd that gathered around them after their session, I managed to wave a business card within eye shot and said “You might be interested in Menokin for a Google Street View venue.” Bazinga. It was as if the fates had planned the whole thing.
“Menokin!” Peter shouted to Matthew. (Or maybe Matthew shouted to Peter.) “She’s from Menokin!”
I felt fairly confident that they were interested.
They were, and in late spring they journeyed to our little corner of the Northern Neck to capture the footage. I got to learn the Google Dance, which involves constantly moving in a circle to keep out of the view of the camera. We canvassed the entire property including the ruin, the trails, the Visitors Center and the Conservation Barn.
The result is a comprehensive 360 degree look at each floor of the house, as well as a view of the landing at Cat Point Creek, a tour of the Historic Woodwork Collection at the Visitors Center, and a trip inside the Conservation Barn to view the structural timbers and building stones that were excavated from the site.
Anyone who Googles “Menokin” will see a link to the virtual tour. So if you’re an armchair tourist and would like to see Menokin from the comfort of your home, here’s your chance. Or if you’re planning a visit (and we hope you are), take a look around before you get here.
Menokin played host to a full house of local teachers on July 31st who were participating in the Rappahannock Community College (RCC) Teacher History Tour recertification program.
Menokin’s newly formed partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) allowed us to develop a program for this Teacher Tour called Story Telling With A Camera.
Photographer, and adjunct VMFA professor, Stacy Evans led the discussion and instruction. The program included a step-by-step series of discussions and presentations about the process of Story Telling With A Camera, including a brief history of Menokin; a photography presentation; how to plan a sequence for
a story; and ideas for a final presentation.
During this shared experience, participants learned about processing and presentation tools like laptops, printer output, and bookmaking materials.
The goal of the exercise was to help participants learn to listen – to themselves and others – and help draw out personal narratives that are interesting and meaningful. Skills that most certainly translate to the classroom.
Here is a (very) brief video of my presentation from the day.
“INTERN”PRETATIONS ARE BLOG POSTS AUTHORED BY OUR INTERNS. THIS GLIMPSE OF MENOKIN AND ITS PLACE IN THE LIVES OF THESE COLLEGE STUDENTS IS OUR ATTEMPT TO REPRESENT AN ALTERNATIVE POINT OF VIEW OF A MENOKIN EXPERIENCE. THEIR ONLY INSTRUCTIONS ARE TO “WRITE ABOUT YOUR TIME HERE.”
– Emily Lyth
“Before I even started interning at Menokin, I knew it was going to be an experience that I would enjoy because my sister, Allie, had already spent over a year here as an intern before she left for CNU. She was always coming home with stories about how much she loved the projects she was working on and the people she was working with. I was excited about getting involved at Menokin but never planned on taking so much away from this experience.
I have enjoyed every moment of this internship. Whether it’s doing research, helping Alice prepare for a program, or just brainstorming, each assignment we have worked on has taught me something new.
In addition to everything I have learned, meeting Bri and having the opportunity to work with her, Sarah, Alice, Leslie, and Mavora, are some of the main reasons this summer has been so unforgettable.
While I appreciate all of the experience and knowledge I have gained from my internship at Menokin as well as all of the amazing new people in my life because of it, I am especially grateful to have had the chance to spend the entire summer working with Allie. We have our moments of bickering and we like to tease that we don’t get along, but the truth is that she’s my best friend, and this summer spent with her at Menokin has been one of the best.
I know she’s nearby when she’s at CNU and we live together when she’s home, but we still don’t get to spend as much time together as we used to. Now that we’re older and going to different schools, we each do our own thing most of the time. That’s why it has been such a great experience spending time with her at Menokin this summer.
Collaborating on projects and working events like the music festival together has been more
fun than I ever anticipated. Saying goodbye to Bri when she left to go back to Pennsylvania was tough because she became such a great friend this summer, so I know it will be tough when Allie leaves to go back to CNU next month, too. The memories we made over the summer will be ones that I continue to look back on and cherish long after this summer is over though. I intend to enjoy the last few weeks of summer with Allie at Menokin and have no doubt we will make the most of them.
And as much as I hate to say goodbye to this summer, I’m excited to see what the next chapter at Menokin will bring. I know the future projects won’t disappoint, and I’m looking forward to the time I get to spend with Sarah, Alice, Leslie, and Mavora.”
Wonderful peek through the reversed lens of time to photographs taken in and around the Northern Neck by (gasp) a woman! Menokin makes a cameo appearance in this post, but there is a link to all of Frances Benjamin Johnston’s photographs on the Library of Congress website. Search for “Menokin” there to see some beautiful interior images.
When she was little, George Eastman gave her one of his newfangled little cameras that anybody could snap and millions did.
Her long career took her to Paris, the White House, New York City, most of the U.S. and much of the world. At first, she photographed the famous and the rich with her big view camera and its eight-by-ten-inch negatives.
But in 1928, she chanced upon the old houses of Fredericksburg and mounted an exhibit in New York of more than 200 photographs. From then on, she devoted her career to capturing architecture throughout the country and, especially, in the South.
ALLIE LYTH HAS BEEN AN INTERN AT MENOKIN FOR TWO YEARS. DURING HER TENURE SHE HAS ASSISTED THE STAFF IN NUMEROUS PROJECTS AND EVENTS. SHE LIVES IN RICHMOND COUNTY, AND IS A JUNIOR AT CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY, PURSUING A DEGREE IN COMMUNICATIONS WITH A MINOR IN HISTORY.
“I began my journey with Menokin in October 2012, when I took a class at Menokin through the Rappahannock Institute of Lifelong Learning at the Community College and then I became an intern in January 2013. When I took that class I had some idea of what I wanted to earn my degree in, but I wasn’t sure. Taking the class here at Menokin helped me realize that without a doubt, I wanted to get into preservation in some way. I have always had a love for historic houses, although growing up in Virginia Beach they are few and far between. Since a young age I would point at every historic house I drove by with my family and say “I want that one” or “I love that one”. When the ladies at Menokin offered me an internship this summer I was beyond excited, and the fact that I would have two other girls here with me, one of which is my sister, made me even more excited to be here again!
I have lived in the Northern Neck for 4 years and I am familiar with it, but Bri has never been to Menokin or the Northern Neck. I think Menokin is a great place in the Northern Neck for her to have her first experience here. Menokin is an excellent representation of the finest things in the Northern Neck; the river (we are located on Cat Point Creek, one of the prettiest tributaries off of the Rappahannock), history (we all know the Northern Neck is rich in history ranging from Stratford Hall to George Washington’s Birthplace), and Wildlife!
Bri’s time at Menokin is quickly coming to a close with only a week and a half left. During her time here we have gotten a lot
accomplished, and a lot of it was fun activities! We’ve walked the trails at Menokin, and gave Bri a little bit of history of the property and she got to see firsthand how many ticks there are here compared to Pennsylvania! Over Memorial Day Weekend, Alice was kind enough to invite us to her annual campout/cookout on the Rappahannock River, which we spent most of Sunday at! Bri also go to go on a kayaking trip down Cat Point Creek with a few people from the National Park Service, which she had a lot of fun doing. A few weekends ago, I took her to Short Pump and went shopping, which was successful! I also took her to a necessary place while visiting the Northern Neck, Los Portales in Tappahannock! A couple of weeks ago, Sarah sent us on an “educational fieldtrip” to Stratford Hall, which we thought was a lot of fun!
Not all of our time here at Menokin has been field trips and beach days though. We have been working on several projects in our time here including developing internships with graduate programs at preservation schools, organizing the remaining woodwork from the house, and helping to develop programs with the local schools in Richmond County that will allow classes to come to Menokin for a field trip and learn important aspects of the history of Menokin as well as programs involving science, math and art.
During our time here at Menokin we’ve learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Come the beginning of July when Bri has left and it is just Emily and me here, it will be pretty quiet, but I look forward to the rest of my summer here at Menokin and having these wonderful ladies here give me projects to reassure my love for history and preservation!”
INTERNPRETATIONS ARE BLOG POSTS AUTHORED BY OUR INTERNS. THIS GLIMPSE OF MENOKIN AND ITS PLACE IN THE LIVES OF THESE COLLEGE STUDENTS IS OUR ATTEMPT TO REPRESENT AN ALTERNATIVE POINT OF VIEW OF A MENOKIN EXPERIENCE. THE ONLY INSTRUCTIONS ARE “WRITE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE HERE.” WE HOPE TO FEATURE AN INTERNPRETATION EACH WEEK.
This man’s life-work was so inconspicuous, that his name would now be wholly forgotten, but for one thing- he signed the Declaration of Independence. Yet his life was a most useful and worthy one. It was a good and profitable voyage, though it left no phosphorescent splendors in its wake.– Mark Twain on Francis Lightfoot Lee, 1877
Excerpted from introduction to Francis Lightfoot Lee: Forgotten Revolutionary by Sarah L. Jones, Yale University (Class of 2006), 2004.
Francis Lightfoot Lee is what one might call a “forgotten revolutionary.” Described by his niece as the “sweetest of all the Lee race” and as possessing a temper
“as soft as the dove’s,” Lee was far from being the inconspicuous man that Twain claimed he was. Lee, his memory now nearly hidden beneath the rubble of his Virginia mansion, had a life that was “most useful and worthy,” the life of a patriot of the American Revolution.
Over one hundred years after Twain wrote his sketch of Francis Lightfoot Lee, Lee has nearly become “wholly forgotten,” and, as Twain was correct to note, Lee is solely remembered for his signature on the Declaration of Independence. Yet Lee has not been granted his proper place in history, for his involvement with the founding of the country lays not only in his signature on a document, but with thirty years of an active political life, a life in which he opposed British measures, sought independence, and served the nation through a number of committees as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Second Continental Congress, and the Virginia State Senate.
Lee was certainly not an “inconspicuous” man, nor was he merely “soft as a dove.” Rather, Lee was a true patriot, not only according to standards held by his contemporaries, but also to his own.
Francis Lightfoot Lee was born in 1734 to Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee in Westmoreland County on the Northern Neck of Virginia. Lee was reared at Stratford Hall Plantation, and like most male children of the Virginia planter class, he was educated by a private tutor at Stratford Hall and was well read in Classical literature, history and law.
In 1758, he took his seat as representative of Loudoun County to the Virginia House of Burgesses, having moved there to maintain his lands inherited from his father. During his time as a Burgess, Lee remained attentive to the political scene of not only Virginia, but also of the colonies. He became an opponent to taxation without representation and other British offenses, which he protested not only through personal letters, but also in signing his support to important documents, including the Westmoreland Resolves of 1766.
As a member of a committee appointed to protest British policies toward the colonies in 1768, Lee maintained an active role in opposition to the British. In 1769, Lee was married to Rebecca Tayloe, daughter of planter John Tayloe II, and moved to Richmond County to the Menokin Plantation. Having settled at Menokin, Lee was elected representative of Richmond County to the House of Burgesses. Lee continued to serve as a Burgess from Richmond County until elected as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress in August 1775.
Lee fully supported American Independence throughout most of his political career, signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Lee remained a member of Congress until 1779, serving on a variety of committees including the Board of War, Committee of Secret Correspondence, and other ad-hoc committees.
In 1779, Francis Lightfoot Lee retired from the Second Continental Congress due to the three-year limit that had since been imposed by the Revolutionary Government. In 1780, Lee again entered Virginia politics, having been elected to serve as a member of the Virginia Senate, until 1782 when he retired from politics. He did, however, remain interested in the political scene, and is purported to have supported the ratification of the Constitution.
In a letter to James Madison, George Washington wrote:
Francis L. Lee on whose judgement the family place much reliance, is decidely[sic] in favor of the new form [the Constitution] under a conviction that it is the best that can be obtained, and because it promises energy, stability, and tht [sic] security which is, or ought to be, the wish of every good citizen of the Union.