Menokin and The Octagon House are linked across
the centuries through historic events, a family and a love of architecture. Step inside their history and be immersed in an exhibit of revolutionary plans for their future in the Country House, City House exhibition.
The AIA Foundation (which operates The Octagon House) and The Menokin Foundation share a common mission: to encourage and educate the public and the architecture profession about the preservation of great design of the past, and the creation of great design for the future. That mission is made tangible through this collaborative exhibit.
Contributed by Alice French, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Menokin Foundation.
What better place to hang out in October than in a cemetery. The Menokin Foundation recently hosted a two day Cemetery Conservation workshop at Menokin Baptist Church in Warsaw, VA. Experts in the field of conservation from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources came out and shared their knowledge of best practices for maintaining, cleaning and documenting stones. It was quite an elucidating experience.
We spent most of our first day in the “classroom” learning about cemetery research and recordation, state laws, archaeology and iconography.
Day two was was our “field day” in the cemetery adjacent to Menokin Baptist Church. In addition to studying the iconography on the stones there and learning how to best document and
preserve what remains, there was also clearly noted instruction on the many things NOT to do to a tombstone. Surprise. Most of us were offenders in one way or another.
The main thing I learned is that there is generally very little you can do to forever protect all of the stones in a cemetery. But it is best to try to keep them clear of roots and tree limbs and free of other natural debris. And the ONLY thing you should attempt to clean your stone with is a little bit of ionized water, which luckily for us rural dwellers, is readily available in your local farm supply store. Putting shaving cream and other chemicals may temporarily clean up your stone, but in the long run will hasten its deterioration.
The real key to preserving your site is documentation. Take good photos of what is there. Try to photograph stones to be able to read the text. Then record the information in as many places as you can. DHR has a standard form you can use to gather the most significant information. Also, share your information with other genealogy sites and the church (if your cemetery is associated with one).
This tombstone marks the grave of Richard Harwood and his wife Mary, who died 3 days after him. Inscribed on the stone is this epitaph “They were lovely in their lives and in death were not divided”. The Harwoods owned Menokin during the mid-19th century. Mr. Harwood became a Baptist and deeded land to the Menokin Baptist Church in 1837 for the construction of the church.
The obelisk form is known as a monument. The stone displays many forms of iconography and a lot of the delicate carvings are wearing away, including some morning glories which represent the Resurrection. The urn at the top symbolizes the soul.
For more information about resources about cemetery conservation, please contact the Menokin Foundation at email@example.com. We’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction.
I was visiting Colonial Williamsburg for Family Weekend at the College of William and Mary, and on our meander down Duke of Gloucester Street we went into Bruton Parish Church.
My daughter and I found this wonderful tribute to the members of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and were delighted to find our very own Francis Lightfoot Lee and his brother, Richard Henry Lee, on a pew door in the Burgesses section of the church.
Sometime in the late 1960s, Menokin’s owner Edgar Omohundro removed all of the interior paneling from the house in an effort to save it from destruction, theft and vandalism. Since that time, this exquisite woodwork, hand-carved from long-leaf pine, has made a remarkable journey and has a fascinating story to tell.
After being stored for a time in a shed belonging to Mr. Omohundro, the woodwork eventually came under the stewardship of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) and was moved to a barn at Bacon’s Castle in Surry County for safekeeping.
In 1996, Menokin’s dining room woodwork was treated, cleaned and installed on long-term loan at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) as part of The Story of Virginia exhibit. Detailed drawings of each piece were created, along with measurements and notes about condition.
The relationship between VHS and Menokin has remained strong over the decades. Menokin has had the privilege of hosting several lectures and events in their Richmond facility and its exposure to a large number of visitors through the Story of Virginia exhibit has been invaluable in bringing the Foundation’s story to a larger audience.
In 2012, the VHS began making plans to redesign its exhibit. Menokin was notified that if we desired a return of the loaned paneling, now was the time to begin that process. The decision was made to bring the Dining Room home to the Martin Kirwan King Visitors Center.
VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT KIRWAN KING is no stranger to hard work. And for that, The Menokin Foundation staff is eternally grateful. Kirwan has volunteered countless hours planning, building, and moving the new shelving units that now hold Menokin’s woodwork.
The intrepid Menokin “Staff of Ladies”, bolstered by a group of tireless volunteers, shifted furniture, ordered, installed and built shelving, and rearranged the current collection, making room for the returning paneling.
And on a stormy day in February of 2014, the Dining Room woodwork came home to Menokin.
The entire woodwork collection is now together once again at the Visitors Center. Some pieces are earmarked for an eventual return to the house. These remarkable artifacts are available for everyone to learn from and enjoy.