Meet The Man Behind The Build Your Own Menokin Kit

As featured on Architects and Artisans blog.

Richard McClintock’s Historic Models

A love of electric trains inspired Richard McClintock to take up making scale models of Virginia’s historic buildings.

There’s the Appomattox Courthouse and the McLean House, where a defeated (if impeccably dressed) R. E. Lee surrendered to a mud-splattered (but generous) U.S. Grant.

There’s the Bell Tower at Hampden-Sydney College, designed by Courtenay S. Welton and built of bricks from the homes of its founders.

Not to mention Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and its eight-sided privies.

“It’s because I had electric trains as a child,” he says. “I was building houses out of cracker boxes.”

Not anymore. The 30 models he’s designed as kits are designed mostly from architects’ drawings, then reduced to HO train scale. He then writes instructions for their assembly, which can take someone about three evenings of time in front of the television.

It’s no cake walk, by any means – often because of the buildings’ original  architects. “Poplar Forest was the most complicated building to replicate,” he says. ” It was also the one I learned most from – finding the places Jefferson had to cheat to get things to come out even, such as raising the parapet higher along the house walls than on the pediments, a detail you can’t see from the ground.”

The venture is a non-profit one, designed to support the historic sites where the models are sold. Museum shops reimburse him for out-of-pocket costs of printing and packaging the kits, and then keep all the profit (usually from $4 to $8 per kit).

“For the poorer ones, I just contribute the kits, and for all of them I offer to let them wait to pay me back until after they have sold some,” he says. “And if I sell any from the website or otherwise, I send the extra on to the sites. I do it because I enjoy it.”

As do the end-users, many of them electric train enthusiasts whose layouts can now claim a certain air of historic authenticity.

Click the image to buy your own kit on our Shop page.
Click the image to buy your own kit on our Shop page.

Harbingers of Summer

Some mornings it’s impossible to drive straight down the lane to the Menokin Visitors Center. Today was one of those. So many little signs of the transition from spring to summer were waving me down to take their picture. It took me about half an hour to travel that mile, but I think it was worth it.



Whippoorwill or Whippoorwon’t?

Over 20 years ago, my husband I moved to his family home in rural Essex County, VA.  The old house was sorely lacking most modern conveniences, one of those being air conditioning. With windows wide open on a moonlit night, the romantic call of a Whippoorwill began from the front yard.

How lovely. Dulcet country sounds rather than the clash and clamor of Richmond’s street noise. By the second night, we were out in the yard slamming pan lids together trying to shut the darn thing up.

Over the years, we got that AC and the nighttime crooning of the Whippoorwill was no longer a problem. To be honest, I assumed all these years that he was out there singing to the full moon. It wasn’t until on a beautiful spring night last week that I found out differently. We were sitting out in the yard enjoying the full moon at about 10 o’clock when I heard a loud, clear bird song. Similar to a Whippoorwill, but different. And I had never heard it before. So I pulled out the iPhone and recorded him singing and sent it to a friend to help with identification.


She responded with the news that it is a Chuck-Will’s-Widow, a member of the Nightjar bird group, which includes Whippoorwills, Woodcocks and Nighthawks, just to name a few. She also sent me a link to the The Center for Conservation Biology Nightjar Survey Network. The Center is a research group within The College of William and Mary and the Virginia Commonwealth University that conducts primary research with applications to the management of land and bird species of conservation concern.

Turns out that there is a general feeling that folks aren’t hearing these night singers like they used to. So they started this survey for volunteers to gather data, or the lack thereof. I’ve joined and my survey area is going to be my Essex County farm and the vast Menokin landscape, where I will be camped on the next full moon to hopefully hear more singing.

Join me here for my vigil, or sign up and create your own survey area.