Joe Smith stopped by Menokin today with his customary warm handshake, eye-crinkling smile…..and a bag of tomatoes.
One definite advantage to working in the Northern Neck is the abundance of fresh produce. Here at Menokin, our local farming friends are quick to remember us when doling out the harvest of their labors.
Joe has farmed the Menokin property for more than 30 years. His connections to Menokin are many and his roots in the Northern Neck are deep. He was happy to explain that the yellow tomatoes are called “straws” which are on the verge of “breaking” into full ripeness. He also let us know that if we were unable to wait, the green tomatoes are delicious fried up in a pan with potatoes, a dish his mother prepared for him as a boy.
Tomatoes are a pretty big deal around here. Farm stands depend on the reliable reputation of a delicious ripe tomato warmed by the sun to lure passers-by to pull in for a purchase.
But many years ago, with the introduction of the steamboat era to this region, tomatoes and tomato canning became a huge industry. According to a 2008 article from the Southside Sentinel “at one time there were 40 tomato canning factories on the Northern Neck, and just about that many on the Middle Peninsula.” The vegetable canning business that grew out of the steamboat era provided jobs at a time when this area was still recovering from the Civil War and, later, the Great Depression.
Each cannery had its own label, the likes of which are considered artwork worth framing and collecting by many in these parts. These two labels were gifts of one such local collector.
Sure, we may do without many modern conveniences out here in the countryside – like reliable internet and shoe stores. But what we do have is really worth having. Yum.
Last week the Menokin Staff took a field trip into Washington, DC. The primary reason for our trip was to visit the National Building Museum. Our goal was to research their exhibits and come away with ideas for our Visitor’s Center and collection.
If you’ve never been to the National Building Museum, you might drive right past it. Looking suspiciously like a federal administration building, it was, in fact, constructed between 1882 and 1887, for the purpose of serving as a fireproof headquarters of the U.S. Pension Bureau’s headquarters. In 1997, the historic building was officially renamed the National Building Museum.
However, it is anything but ordinary.
The interior of the building is dominated by a grand central space, the Great Hall. Measuring 116 x 316 feet, the Great Hall features a central fountain and is divided into three courts by two screens of four colossal Corinthian columns—among the tallest classical columns in the world.
As hard as it was to drag ourselves away from the grandeur of the Great Hall, our first stop, the House & Home Exhibit, was well worth it. This “kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes us on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to be at home in America.” We came away from the exhibit with brains churning with ideas of how to use and display our unique collection of construction artifacts here at Menokin.
After a quick lunch in Chinatown (just a few blocks away), we headed up to President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home three miles north of downtown. Founded in 1851 as a home for retired and disabled veterans of American wars, the Soldiers’ Home stands on 276 acres atop the third highest area in the District of Columbia.
The tour focuses largely on the time that Lincoln spent at the Cottage during his presidency. The story is told by a tour guide in a friendly, conversational manor, with lots of questions directed at the audience. The house itself is very stark. Little or no furnishings occupy the large rooms. There is not a great sense of the people that lived there, but the use of recorded actors recounting stories, reading letters and holding conversations in each room does lend insight to the kind of life that the Lincolns had there.
Both places are well worth the visit.
Over half of the Menokin Foundation’s 500 acre property is part of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The extremely active and dedicated Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends would like to invite you to participate in their annual Go Wild! event on Sunday, October 14th, 1-5 p.m.
This year’s event celebrates the 16th Anniversary of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge with the Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge FRIENDS.
The event takes place at the Hutchinson Tract, 1.5 mi. north of Tappahannock off Highway 17N, and includes numerous activities including a silent auction, kayak trips, a guided eagle tour, beach jewelry, pistol lessons from Romi Klear, signed prints, rain barrels, books, and more! Please note: the silent auction closes at 4 p.m.
Events: Kids “Birds and Binoculars” scavenger hunt, adults and young adults scavenger hunt, nature walks, arts and crafts, storytelling, wildlife painting, build a birdhouse, free raffles. Music by Ben Eberline.
FREE LUNCH! Hot dogs, baked beans, cookies, cider and lemonade.
For more information, call 804-366-6851.
Sunday, October 14th, 10 a.m. – 12 noon – Guided kayak/canoe tour led by Gordon Page at the Mt. Landing Creek kayak/canoe launch on the Hutchinson tract of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 1.5 mi. north of Tappahannock off Highway 17N. Bring your own kayak or canoe. Must wear life vest. For more information, call 804-366-6851.
I wonder why Menokin isn’t on this list? Even so, the entries are worth a look….and a vote!
Maybe you’ve already taken a big vacation for the summer, perhaps to an exotic place or maybe to the ever popular Outer Banks. But this summer you can’t miss out on voting for and visiting one or two places named on the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) nomination list for the Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.
VAM has created a program called Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts in order to raise public awareness about the care of collections throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C., and beyond. Virginia’s Top 10 is not a grant-giving program. It is designed to offer museums, libraries, and archives an opportunity to raise media and public awareness about the ongoing and expensive care of collections. Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts’ nominees have the opportunity to promote their nomination during the public voting portion of this project. Public voting began on August 1st and will continue until August…
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Window panes from a door of an abandoned blacksmith shop near Menokin.
Photos by Leslie Rennolds
Assistant Director, Menokin
Commentator Thea Marshall recently learned about a famous architect who’ll be putting back together again a famous pile of rubble.
Of course, the famous architect is Jorge Silvetti – of Machado and Silvetti Associates – and the famous pile of rubble is Menokin, a National Historic Landmark and the Commonwealth’s largest and most historic jigsaw puzzle.
This essay, as comfortable to listen to as a favorite tune, is chock full of information about Menokin – the place, the people who lived here, and what the future holds for this historic treasure.
Thea Marshall is the author of “Neck Tales: Stories from Virginia’s Northern Neck,” published in June, 2009. Along with her professional writing assignments, she is a broadcaster, actor, and producer, with life long experience in all forms of communication – from print to theater to radio and television. She writes and broadcasts original commentaries on and about the people, places, history, culture and current issues relating to the Northern Neck for WCVE Public Radio (heard on both WCVE in Richmond and WCNV for the Northern Neck).