BY GUEST BLOGGER: ANGIE WHITE
Several weeks ago, my family and I made a visit to Menokin to view the historic property, have a picnic lunch, and listen to a talk on Nancy Lancaster by Dr. Susan Rawls. My group was made up of three generations: my grandparents, lifetime learners of late 18th and early 19th century Virginia architecture and antiques; my mom and her two sisters, all avid proponents of preserving Virginia’s local, natural, and historic places; and me, a self-proclaimed photographic historian. In common, we have a love for Virginia and her stories. Menokin had something for each of us, and proved to be a visit that we won’t forget.
We started our day at the visitor’s center, which not only provides a meeting place for lectures, but also stores the historic paneling from the house. On exhibit was a beautiful mantel that my grandfather just could not believe. The mantel had a breastplate carved to resemble fish scales, exemplifying the culture in which it was sculpted: the Northern Neck fishing towns. While my grandfather has been around the historic proverbial block a few times in his long life, he commented that he had never seen detail quite like that. Also on exhibit was the keystone from above Menokin’s front door and several other pieces of Menokin’s interior and antiques.
From the exhibit and lecture space, we walked through a door into a storage area where the majority of Menokin’s interior is thoroughly cataloged and safely tucked away. We saw beautifully painted mantels, doors, wainscoting, and more. At the center of the storage room was the structure that would surround the front door, with the window fan standing tall. Each of us took a turn standing under it and looking up. We were all impressed with the carpentry work and the great preservation of Menokin’s interior. I was particularly impressed with the little silver tag labeling system that Menokin used on the exterior materials, and it reminded me of my grandfather’s canning lid system that he always used to organize the pieces of historic cabins he was rebuilding. There are just some good, simple ideas that even technology can’t replace.
After viewing both the interior and exterior material storage facilities, we took a walk down Menokin Trail to visit the home itself. Every bit of our tour was led by Leslie Rennolds, Interim Executive Director for Menokin and a fellow Fauquier County native, and we were so happy to have her telling us the story of Menokin. Climbing through the several floors of the house, we all admired the architectural detail seen through the rubble, including the fireplaces, the bricks and stones, and the work that has already been done so far in saving the structure for future learning and exploration. The picnic table behind Menokin made for a beautiful picnic spot, and we got to eat our lunch just below the big, old house, right as the spring flowers and trees were getting started.
Our afternoon was filled with a very interesting and informative lecture by Dr. Susan Rawls from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and, afterwards, a walk down to Cat Point Creek. One of the great things about the Menokin Foundation is that not only are they concerned about the preservation of an important Virginia house, but they also want to protect the natural resources that make up the large Menokin property, including access to Cat Point Creek. I’m looking forward to making use of the public access point they have provided for kayaks and canoes to get onto the creek!
My family had a memorable visit to Menokin, and we are very thankful to the Menokin Foundation for working so hard to make such an invaluable piece of Virginia’s history and landscape open and accessible to the public. We all hope to continue making visits to Menokin, and learning more about it’s past and future each time. It is an incredible Virginia resource, and we are so glad that it’s being preserved.
You can view more photographs of our family trip to Menokin through my Flickr album.
EDITORIAL NOTE: The Thorpe family honored Menokin in an even greater way by being the first to purchase a Menokin Stone. These building opportunities are designed to support our efforts to stabilize and enclose Menokin.