Menokin’s Original Presentation Drawing

The Foundation recently purchased a high resolution copy of the original presentation drawing for Menokin from the Virginia Historical Society.

This beautiful image is so well scanned that you can see the creases in the paper, and clearly make out the handsome handwriting outlining the intended use for each room. Though the drawing is not signed, handwriting analysis suggests that John Tayloe II was its creator.

Pen and Ink Plan for Menokin c. 1769. Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.
Pen and Ink Plan for Menokin c. 1769. Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

The story of how this drawing came to be the property of the VHS is an interesting one. An collection of oral history events surrounding Menokin, that was created in the Foundation’s early years, tells the story like this:

On that same day in 1964 that the last of three maiden Tayloe aunts moved out of Mt. Airy, Polly Montague Tayloe moved in. Because her husband, Colonel H. Gwynne Tayloe, Jr., was stationed at Fort Monroe, she was alone in the great stone house, the home of Rebecca Tayloe Lee before her marriage, nearly 200 years earlier.

Without immediate neighbors, and not yet knowing the people of Warsaw, Mrs. Tayloe spent her days in the relative warmth of the dining room sorting Tayloe papers into three wicker clothesbaskets. The first basket held piles of papers from cabinets beneath window seats. The second and third were for things to keep and things to discard.

“They had every letter in the world,” said Mrs. Tayloe. “I thought most of it was important enough to keep. I found the bill for the church communion service. It was 100 years old.”

What she found as well was the original 1769 presentation  drawing of Menokin, prepared not as a blueprint, but as an appealing pen-and-ink illustration of the proposed finished residence. Although Mrs. Tayloe had never seen Menokin, she was aware of its existence and recognized the drawing immediately by its similarity to the wings at Mount Airy.

Subsequently, after finding a trunk filled with more family papers, she phone John Jennings, then Executive Director of the Virginia Historical Society, to see if he’d like to visit some day to peruse the collection. He arrived one hour later.

“I showed him the Menokin drawing,” said Mrs. Tayloe, “and he nearly fell over.” He took that and other family papers back to the Historical Society. “There were 52,000 pieces in all,” said Mrs. Tayloe, “and some were dated in the 1600s.”

“The odds of locating that drawing were a million to one,” said Taliaferro (Harry “Tuck” Taliaferro III, founding Menokin Trustee and current Honorary Trustee). “Mount Airy was gutted by fire in the 19th century. When Mrs. Tayloe found the drawing, people flipped.”

It is one of the only original presentation drawing from colonial Virginia to survive.

History on the Go: Making history come alive in our schools

Virginia is steeped in history, much of it originating in the Northern Neck. Yet the reality of our locals schools means bare-bones budgets, and few or no field trips for students to learn about and explore the myriad historic venues right here in their back yards.

web_S4pictures-3413Enter History on the Go. This local program provides regional elementary and middle school students an overview of some of the great educational resources available to them within the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Collaborating cultural institutions develop presentations and coordinate with the schools for an immersion event.  Five or six stations are set up in the school gymnasium or auditorium. Each class rotates around the room to visit every station, spending 15 minutes learning about, and participating in, a different activity related to that particular site.

On December 4th participating organizations brought their messages to Richmond County Elementary 4th and 5th graders. A whopping 176 students shared in these programs:

Belle Isle State ParkAnimal Adaptations. This station exhibited various animal skins and casts of various footprints. Students learned about living and hunting habits of native species in this region.

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library – 18th century school, reading and writing. Students discussed a one room classroom environment, using a replica of a classroom.  The students practiced writing on slates and used a quill pen on paper. Discipline and games were also discussed.

Middlesex Museum and Historical SocietyHistorical documents and court web_S4pictures-3411cases. Students reviewed copies of original court records re slaves, property and possessions, and insurance documents and discussed the importantance of record keeping.

Reedville Fisherman Museum – Life cycle and history of oysters and watermen. Showed live oysters and discussed the body makeup (heart, how they breathe, etc.) Students use tongs to transfer oysters and discussed the work of the local watermen.

Richmond County Museum – Indian exhibit and pictograghs. Pointed out the living habits and clothing, medicine, diet, use of tools of Virginia’s indigenous peoples.

Menokin Foundation – Maps and Watershed. Menokin’s Education Coordinator Alice French, and intern Allie Lyth, introduced the word and concept of conservation. Students got a brief history of Francis Lightfoot Lee and how Menokin is using historic conservation in preserving his house.

web_S4pictures-3386They also learned about Menokin’s environmental conservation practices and got to compare a variety of maps,* learning about the types of information these different kinds of maps give us. They then looked at our site and surrounding sites showing the entire Northern Neck in its Rappahannock River Watershed.

Captain John Smithʼs early maps of Virginia
Topographic contour maps
Aerial maps
Road maps
Waterway mapsMenokin’s Activity involved studying a map of waterways and locating the headwaters, the tributaries, and the mainstream, and connecting the ends of the river to identify the watershed. The students then became a human

watershed and passed water down through it, learning how water moves within a watershed, that everything surrounding a river affects our water, and that we all use the same water over and over, and that is why conservation is so important.

By participating in programs like History on the Go, Menokin continues to focus and act on its mission to provide educational and cultural opportunities to our regional communities and beyond.

Menokin Welcomes The Wheelin’ Sportsmen

Menokin played host recently to the Virginia State Chapter of the Wheelin’ Sportsmen (VAWS). Our 500-acre property and handicap-accessible Visitor’s Center were a perfect fit for this intrepid and good-humored gang of hunters.

Robin_Clark_IMG_4583The Volunteer State Coordinator of VAWS, Robin Clark, along with local sportsman and volunteer, Ford Becker, coordinated the event which brought this group to Menokin to take advantage of the last day of turkey season and the opening day of deer season in early November.

VAWS is the largest and most active Wheelin’ Sportsmen program in the country, with roughly 400 members and over 35 annual events statewide. These events are open to anyone with a disability and there is no charge to participate. VAWS is part of the National Turkey and Wildlife Federation’s (NTWF) Hunting Heritage Programs.

Wheelin’ Sportsmen was designed to provide all people with disabilities the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Participants gain a sense of independence by learning to stay active in the outdoors. Event participants can enjoy activities like hunting, fishing and shooting. In addition to local chapter events, Wheelin’ Sportsmen hosts an assortment of other national events.

The Menokin Foundation was pleased to make our property available for these hunters.

If you have a disability, or have a friend or family member with a disability, and would like to participate in a VAWS event, please contact Robin Clark at 434-249-6154 or at

You can also find Wheelin’ Sportsmen events going on in other states here.