Menokin weathered the storm. This time.

I’m sure you have all heard the news about the devastating tornadoes and thunderstorms that ripped through our area yesterday. We are all still reeling as reports and pictures of the destruction are starting to circulate.
Menokin was spared, and for that we should all be grateful. But it was truly divine intervention, because at nearby Naylor’s Beach eight houses were destroyed. That’s only about four miles from Menokin as the crow flies.
Tornado destruction at Naylor's Beach near Menokin
Tornado destruction at Naylor’s Beach near Menokin
It also passed over the dump on Newland Road which is probably less than a mile away.
Tornado touched down less than a mile from Menokin
Tornado touched down less than a mile from Menokin
As we go about our important work of saving Menokin, we are informing people how dire the situation is, and how one large weather event could demolish the house. Last night’s tornado drives home that point. We must redouble our efforts to get Menokin stabilized and protected. We may not be so lucky next time.
Too close for comfort. This large cedar tree lost half it's volume. For scale reference, I was able to drive my car through the opening.
Too close for comfort. This large cedar tree lost half its volume. For scale reference, I was able to drive my car through the opening.
Tragic beauty
Tragic beauty
Scaffolding and bracing are all that is keeping Menokin standing. Large cracks continue to grow.
Scaffolding and bracing are all that is keeping Menokin standing. Large cracks continue to grow.


Menokin is the Recipient of a $30,000 Grant!

Morgan Trust TY GraphicThank you to the Marietta McNeil Morgan & Samuel Tate Morgan, Jr. Trust, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee for a $30,000 grant to the Menokin Foundation for the Campaign to Save Menokin.

With this grant, we have matched over $147,000 of the $300,000 challenge grant from the Cabell Foundation, bringing us almost halfway to our goal!

Realizing our revolutionary plan for Menokin will require an historic rallying of friends and supporters. Just as an original circle of builders constructed Menokin over a three-year period (1769-1772), a new Circle of Builders will lead the way in restoring dignity to Menokin during the next three years.

For more information on how you can join these modern-day “builders” to save Menokin, and to help us match the Cabell Foundation challenge grant, please contact Christina Markish: or (804) 333-1776.

Thank you to the Marietta McNeil Morgan & Samuel Tate Morgan, Jr. Trust, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee, for your support!

Honoring A Legend in Historic Preservation 

  Jack Zehmer served as a trustee of the Menokin Foundation; one of many important roles he had in the field of historic preservation. 

His son, James D. W. Zehmer, serves on the Advisory Council of the Menokin Foundation, and is a co-chair of the Foundation’s Building and Grounds Committee. He completed his first term as a trustee in January 2016. 

Menokin is proud to have the Zehmer legacy in its history. Our condolences go out to the Zehmer family and especially to Calder Loth, honorary trustee and close friend of the Zehmer family. 

His obituary from the Richmond Times Dispatch follows:

ZEHMER, John G. “Jack” Jr., 73, died February 7, 2016, after a long illness. He was the son of the late John Granderson Zehmer and Emily Butterworth Zehmer, and grew up in McKenney, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia, and served in the Peace Corps in Malaysia. He began his career in historic preservation in 1970 for the state of North Carolina, where he served as director of Historic Sites and Museums. He returned to Virginia in 1974 to become the City of Richmond’s first senior planner for historic preservation. He became director of the Valentine Museum in 1981, where he undertook research that led to the restoration of the Wickham-Valentine house interior. He was the Executive Director of Historic Richmond Foundation from 1984 to 1998 and was instrumental in expanding the foundation’s real estate projects and advocacy programs, and founding its publications program. He also chaired the Citizens Advisory Council for the Virginia Executive Mansion which oversaw the restoration of the mansion’s exterior. He joined the staff of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 1999, serving as director of the Capital Region Office, which provided services to 30 counties in south central Virginia. He retired in 2004 and continued to publish books on architectural preservation. Organizations for which he served as a board member include the Virginia Art and Architectural Review Board, the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, APVA, the Menokin Foundation, the Battersea Foundation and the Edenton Historical Commission. He was also a member of the advisory boards of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Mount Vernon, an honorary member of the Garden Club of Virginia, and a past president of the Antiquarian Society of Richmond. He was involved in many preservation projects including Monumental Church, the National Theatre, the restoration of Linden Row and the Bolling Haxall House, and the establishment of the Monument Avenue Historic District and the Broad Street Historic District. He also served as Senior Warden of the Church of the Good Shepherd in McKenney, where he was a lifelong member. Jack Zehmer is particularly remembered by his friends for his knowledge and love of gardening. He was predeceased by his first wife, David Kathryn Wilborn Zehmer; his parents; and his sister, Emily W. Zehmer. He is survived by his wife, Frances N. Zehmer; his sons, John G. Zehmer III and wife, Andrea, of Ashland, Va., and James D. W. Zehmer and wife, Anne, of Gordonsville, Va.; his brother, Dr. Reynoldson B. Zehmer and wife, Nancy, of McKenney; his stepdaughter, Elizabeth J. Whitman and her husband, Bradley, of New York; and his stepson, Chester W. N. Johns and wife, Emily, of Chatham, Va. A grandson, John Franklin Zehmer; and three stepgrandchildren, Alexander Whitman, Catherine Whitman and Madeline Johns, also survive him. In addition, he is survived by his devoted friends, Estelle H. Lanier and Calder C. Loth. The family would like to thank the staff and caregivers at The Hermitage in Richmond for their compassionate care during his illness. (Continued…) ZEHMER (Continued) The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, February 12, at the Petersburg Chapel of J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home at 103 South Adams Street, Petersburg. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 13, 2016, at 11 a.m., at The Church of the Good Shepherd, 7800 Lew Jones Road, McKenney, Va. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond, 4600 Cox Rd., Glen Allen, Va. 23059; the Historic Richmond Foundation, 4 E. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23219; The Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St., Richmond, Va. 23219; or to Church of the Good Shepherd, c/o Allen Denmark, treasurer, 7728 Lew Jones Road, McKenney, Va. 23872.

Uncovering History – Tracing the Gordon Family Roots

by Alice French, Menokin Education Coordinator

It’s funny when you work at an historical site how people always assume that because it’s old, all of its past is known and there is nothing new to discover.  Of course, we are famous at Menokin for disproving that year after year and this past year we again learned something new about the people who lived here.

01_014 MAR RED12_001 copy

A few years back, I visited a local senior living facility in Richmond County to give a presentation on Menokin and spoke about how we tell stories. I was interested in developing an oral history program related to our county’s past, and I was looking for a place to begin.  After chatting with the group for a bit, one of the women told us she thought her grandfather, Daniel Gordon, was born a slave at Menokin and then freed under the Emancipation Act.  She is his granddaughter, Evelyn Gordon Parker, still a Richmond County resident, who also writes for the Northern Neck News.  Wow, I thought.  How amazing is that?   She told me she had visited Menokin once before, and a few weeks later, returned with some photographs of her family, including one of her grandfather and grandmother.

Back row: Gordon girls: Elsie, ?, Cornelia, and cousin Margaret Saunders; Front row: Daniel Gordon and wife Maria Wright Gordon

This past winter, I visited with Evelyn and her sister, Juanita Gordon Wells to record and document some of their memories.  Her grandfather has an amazing story, which I shall wait to share in a later post.  But for now, I think the other really cool thing is how we learn about our past.  This man raised his family with very strong values of faith, family and education.  Over the years, the pride and strength of these values were instilled in one generation after another.  And sometimes there are parts of history that are known better within families through oral traditions than are found in courthouse records.  In 2011, The Gordons published a cookbook, recounting their early roots as well as family recipes.

Interviewing Gordon family sisters.
Interviewing Gordon family sisters.

Evelyn’s brother, Thomas Daniel Gordon, was interested in recording the family history and established the first family reunion in 1979.  These reunions continue to grow.  They have traced their relatives all over North America with family members all the way up to Halifax, Nova Scotia!  Each time the family meets, they travel to a different location and this summer of 2016, the Gordon Family will be coming back to Virginia!  We have invited them to visit Menokin for a special family tour.

Evelyn Parker and Juanita Wells telling their story.
Evelyn Parker and Juanita Wells telling their story.

As a result of our chance meeting, Menokin has since begun to further document the history of the Gordons.  I hope to tell their story in ways that can help others discover and understand their past through video and classroom experiences, and continue to explore the lives of other Northern Neck residents. We are also seeking research assistance from a graduate student to help complete the missing links in their phenomenal story and see this as a great opportunity to develop an ongoing digital history for the future.

Thank you, Evelyn and Juanita, for helping us begin this exciting work.

Menokin Speaker Series: 2016 Lineup


Historic Reconstructions
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Calder Loth
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

This premiere lecture centers on reconstructions, i.e. lost works of architecture that have been completely rebuilt such as the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg. The structures are not limited to the United States but include examples in Germany, Russia, Italy, England, China, etc.  Menokin’s Glass Project  will be featured as a special case.


Calder Loth - Retired Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation.
Calder Loth – Retired Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation.

In a career spanning four decades, Calder Loth, as senior architectural historian at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, shaped the direction of historic preservation programs from survey and National Register listings to rehabilitation tax credits, review and compliance, and preservation easements. Calder is a long-standing member of the Virginia Art and Architecture Review Board. His expertise has shaped the preservation and renovation of many buildings including the Virginia State Capital and the historic executive mansion. He continues to give back to the preservation community as a staunch advocate and widely published author for “architectural literacy” giving lectures to museums, universities, and professional societies worldwide.  In 2008, Calder received the first annual “Secretary of the Interior Historic Preservation Award” given by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.  He has been an Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation since its inception in 1994.

Purchase tickets online.



JULY 28, 2016

Menokin Geology: The Anomoly of Iron-infused Sandstone
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Dr. Christopher “Chuck” Bailey
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

Geological map of Virginia
Geological map of Virginia
Students in Dr. Bailey's geology class posing in front of Menokin
Students in Dr. Bailey’s geology class posing in front of Menokin

In eastern Virginia stone houses are rare. Important colonial buildings in the Tidewater region are primarily constructed of brick. This makes sense, as the Atlantic Coastal Plain is rich with sand and clay, the main ingredients in bricks, and rocks are rare on the Coastal Plain. Professor and Chair of the Geology Department at the College of William and Mary, Chuck Bailey, will discuss the unique geological phenomena that allowed for sandstone to be present on the property, an uncommon material in Tidewater Virginia. This natural occurrence allowed for the Menokin House to be built from iron infused sandstone.


Dr. Christopher “Chuck” Bailey
  • Ph.D. & M.A., Johns Hopkins University
  • B.S., College of William & Mary
Research Interests

Structural Geology, Tectonics, & Landscape History

I’m a structural geologist whose research focuses on the geometry and tectonic history of deformed rocks as well as the physical and chemical processes that control rock deformation.  I am particularly interested in ductile fault zones (high-strain zones) and work to understand both the deformation path experienced by mylonitic rocks as well as elucidate the tectonic history recorded by these important crustal structures.

With William & Mary undergraduates I’ve studied deformed rocks in the Appalachian Mountains, the low deserts of southern Arizona, the high plateaus of Utah, the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, and most recently in Oman examining its vast and well-exposed ophiolite.  Although the Appalachians Mountains have been studied for over two centuries, many key aspects of their history remain unanswered. Our studies in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces are wide-ranging and integrate structural analysis with petrology, sedimentology, geochronology, and geologic mapping.  In Utah our research focuses on understanding the interplay between volcanism, tectonics, and surface processes in the transition region between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin & Range.

Over the past 18 years I’ve advised more than 100 undergraduate thesis projects at William & Mary.


JUNE 23, 2016

(Rescheduled from February, 2016)

Henry Box Brown: Famous Fugitive, Trans-Atlantic Performer
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Jeffrey Ruggles
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

Henry "Box" Brown The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia. Who escaped from Richmond Va in a Box 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft deep and 2 ft wide entered according to act of Congress the year 1850 by Henry Box Brown in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts
Henry “Box” Brown The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia. Who escaped from Richmond Va in a Box 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft deep and 2 ft wide entered according to act of Congress the year 1850 by Henry Box Brown in the clerk’s office of the District Court of Massachusetts

Henry Brown escaped from slavery by shipping himself in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia. This bold feat was only the first act of a remarkable career. “Resurrected” from the box as Henry Box Brown, he appeared at antislavery meetings as a singer and speaker. In 1850, Brown produced a moving panorama, a kind of giant painted scroll presented in a theater, called Mirror of Slavery and toured it around New England and then across the Atlantic. Trace this remarkable journey with Jeffrey Ruggles, former Curator of Prints and Photographs, Virginia Historical Society, and author of The Unboxing of Henry Brown, Library of Virginia, 2003.


jeffrey-ruggles-bio, Art historianJeffrey Ruggles is an historian and photographer with interests in the history of American culture, Virginia, and visual art. His book The Unboxing of Henry Brown (Library of Va., 2003) is a biography of the fugitive slave and performer Henry Box Brown. From 2002–10 Mr. Ruggles worked at Virginia Historical Society where he served as Curator of Prints and Photographs. His Photography in Virginia (2008) is a companion book to a 2008–09 exhibition at VHS. Other VHS exhibitions were Early Images of Virginia Indians (2003) and Organized Labor in Virginia (2010), and a long-term installation at Battle Abbey, The Virginia Manufactory of Arms (2005-15). Mr. Ruggles has degrees from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, and is an administrator at the Virginia Center on Aging at VCU in Richmond.

MAY 26, 2016

Great Road Style:  The Decorative Arts Legacy Of Southwest Virginia
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Betsy White
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

51ZP651M0FLFor the past 15 years, Betsy White and her team of scholars have been delving into the decorative arts traditions of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee, parts of two states linked geographically, culturally, and historically. Settled during the last years of the 18th and first years of the 19th centuries, it became America’s first frontier, connecting the eastern seaboard with Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond. Its settlers came down the Valley of Virginia on the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road or simply the Great Road, as it was known locally. Artisans followed settlers, bringing with them the material culture of their homelands. What sprang up was a lively blend of cultural traditions that formed a distinctive style of furniture, ceramics, textiles, metalwork, and music. Join Betsy White as she leads us through the friendly country forms of pie safes and quilts, overshot coverlets woven from wool and flax grown on the homeplace, elegant high-style furniture made by Philadelphia-trained cabinetmakers, and pottery decorated with splotches, daubs, and streaks. White’s field work has resulted in more than 2,000 records. Taken together, they create a Great Road style, one that is beginning to take its place in American decorative arts.


betsy-white-bioBetsy White, an art historian and a member of the Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission, graduated from Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC.



APRIL 28, 2016

America’s First Daughter
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Laura Kamoie
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

AFD final 2In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father’s reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.


Laura Kamoie HeadshotLaura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. Her debut historical novel, America’s First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

MARCH 24, 2016

From Mirador To Mayfair: Nancy Lancaster And The Country House Style
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Susan J. Rawles, PhD
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

41q1aVMDLNLVirginia-born tastemaker Nancy Lancaster (1897 – 1994) is a widely recognized source of the international design movement known as the British Country House Style. The style’s blending of key forms and materials, which resulted in domestic environments with historicist inflections, recalls Lancaster’s experience of her six-generation family home, Mirador, near Charlottesville. From post-Civil War Virginia to post-World War II England, Mirador to Mayfair examines the inspiration, implementation, and patronage of the Country House Style toward a better understanding of the role of interior decoration in the fashioning of individual and cultural identity.


susan-rawles-bioDr. Susan J. Rawles has been the Assistant Curator of American Decorative Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2008, serving previously as Research Associate for the American department from 1995. She received a PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary, an MA in the history of art from Rice University, and a BA in economics and government from Smith College. A specialist in American material culture of the colonial and revolutionary periods, she is particularly interested in the socio-historical context of art and has written and lectured on topics ranging from colonial portraiture to period interiors. Part of the 2010 reinstallation team for VMFA’s American art galleries, she co-authored the accompanying publication, American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2010).




#ColorOurCollections week Feb 1-5

#ColorOurCollections with the Menokin Foundation this February 1st through 5th!

Select your favorite image below, get your creative juices flowing, and color in a piece of the Menokin collection. Share your artwork through your social media accounts using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections, and email them to us so we can share too:

#ColorOurCollections is a week-long special collections coloring fest organized on social media by the New York Academy of Medicine:

Happy coloring!