The Play’s The Thing

They’re baaaaaack……….


(Click photos to enlarge.)

The 4th and 5th grades classes from Aylett Country Day School took a field trip to Menokin this week for a day full of history, hiking, learning and playing. Specifically plays. With puppets. And scripts adapted from the storylines in the much loved The Lees of Menokin by Virginia author Suzanne Semsch.

Menokin’s Outreach and Education Coordinator, Alice French, got the show rolling by introducing the cast of characters:


Volunteers were chosen from the audience to participate in the show. Even though there was no coercion involved (we promised), these kids look a little worried about what’s to come.


Character assignments are made from left to right and Mrs. French explains how to make the puppets come alive and when.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

After the first show was over, the classes broke up into groups of four or five students each, and scripts were distributed for read-through and character development. Each group used a cast of paper puppets to help tell the story.These kids took this assignment very seriously and gave Oscar-winning interpretations of their characters.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

We really enjoyed having these great kids spend the day with us at Menokin. If you’d like to plan a field trip for your school group, please email us at for information.

Dogs are our link to paradise

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera

If your dog is not a member of the Menokin Canine Corp, it should be. Come enjoy Eden with your dog at Menokin. And get a cookie. (For the dog, not you!)

Menokin and Harvard Join Forces

When the core of your mission is education and you are presented with
the opportunity to host a group of graduate students from the Harvard
Graduate School of Design you vote “Aye!” right?

Of course, right. Jorge Silvetti, lead architect on the Menokin Project, is pencil
also a Nelson Robinson Jr. Professor of Architecture at Harvard. He approached
Menokin Executive Director, Sarah Pope last fall about offering The Menokin Project
as the subject of his studio course for the 2013
spring semester.

Ten students will participate in the studio, and will travel to the site this weekend for an introduction to Menokin and the history of the Northern Neck.

Their initiation will begin on Friday evening with a dinner hosted by Menokin Trustees and staff. Honorary Menokin Trustee Calder Loth will present an indepth look at the current conservation practices at nearby historic sites.

They plan to spend a large part of their time here exploring the Menokin site and facilities.  They will also pay visits to other historic landmarks in the area including George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument, Stratford Hall (c. 1735 and boyhood home of Francis Lightfoot Lee), Grove Mount (c. 1780 home built for Judith Carter) and Mount Airy (c. 1752 and home of John Tayloe II, father of Rebecca Tayloe Lee).

The students will focus on all aspects of The Menokin Project, including the cultural landscape and master site plans, and design solutions for the house.

The course will conclude in the spring when students present their projects before a juried panel. We look forward to sharing these with you as they evolve.

Fun way to look at trees. I wonder how many tree characters we could find in the woods at Menokin?


While on a walk the other day, I encountered many unique tree characters.  It seems that at each new turn or bend, I met another strange but beautiful tree creature.  I made sure to document my findings and have provided them for you below.  What tree creatures live in your neck of the woods?

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Menokin’s Mysterious Jar

The Menokin Foundation is very fortunate to have a large collection of masonry, stone, construction timbers and interior paneling. But because the house passed hands many times after the deaths of Frank and Becky Lee, and eventually out of the Lee and Tayloe families all together, there are no interior furnishings or decorative items left from the time of their ownership.

Indeed, the only furnishings from Menokin that we have were donated in 2009 by Mrs. Douglas Forrest Barnes. These gifts included a 19th-century walnut table and chairs, and a stoneware jar, which belonged to the Belfield family who owned and occupied Menokin from 1879 to 1935. (Read more about the history of this gift below.)


Our current student intern, Allie Lyth, was tasked with researching the stoneware jar, about which little has ever been known. Her efforts uncovered a genre of primitive ceramics called “American Salt Glazed Ovoid Stoneware,” where our jar seems to fit nicely.

Salt Glazed blue decorated 19th-century Ovoid Jars have some defining characteristics. Samples found online explain the similarities and difference between jars from different states, which often varied in style, design, color and handles.

Samples of Ovoid Stoneware jars from Z&K Antiques.
Samples of Ovoid Stoneware jars from Z&K Antiques.

The design on the image of the jar below, from the Cowan’s Auction website, is very similar to the design on Menokin’s jar. Note the difference between the two in the shape of the lip and the overall shape of the jar.

Second quarter 19th century, semi-ovoid jar having applied lunate handles and brushed tulip and leaf designs surrounding the exterior; attributed to Virginia. Image courtesy of Cowan's Antiques.
Second quarter 19th century, semi-ovoid jar having applied lunate handles and brushed tulip and leaf designs surrounding the exterior; attributed to Virginia. Image courtesy of Cowan’s Antiques.

Menokin’s unsigned Ovoid jar has a “catty-wampus” shape with its lopsided opening and irregular body. Does this hurt or increase the value? Perhaps a trip to Antiques Roadshow is in order?