I am the Assistant Director at The Menokin Foundation. I have been here since 2010.
Working in the middle of a 500-acre farm and national wildlife refuge has its advantages. It's very quiet (if you like that sort of thing). The scenery is beautiful and the wildlife is plentiful.
Also, the work that is being done here is unique and rewarding. Especially to the unschooled in the field. I have fallen in love with Menokin - the Project, the people, the landscape, the challenge.
The structure sustained damage from strong storms that swept through the Northern Neck in 2018. It is now wrapped in FarmTek PolyMax curtain, which is typically found in agricultural structures like barns. It’s durable and does not absorb moisture, making it the perfect option for the Remembrance Structure. Below are some before, during, and after pictures that illustrate the process, which included removing the damaged transparent Tyvek that was originally wrapped around the structure.
We encourage you to check out Roof Systems of Virginia’s website for your commercial and residential roofing needs.
That’s why we’d like you to join us at Menokin for a viewing party. You bring everything you’ll need: chairs, blankets, toddies, snackies, cameras, etc.
We’ll provide the moon. And bathrooms.
I am serious when I tell you that it is REALLY dark at Menokin at night. And we have a huge open space for folks to congregate and enjoy the spectacle. No pressure. But you may be sorry if you don’t take us up on it.
Lunar eclipses are amazing to watch unfold, and are much more leisurely events versus the swift passage of a total solar eclipse. And while you certainly can watch a lunar eclipse with binoculars or a telescope, the best way to watch a total lunar eclipse is with the naked eye.
“Supermoon” isn’t really an astronomical term—it was actually coined by an astrologer, and only gained traction in modern times with a vague qualification—we prefer the term proxigean or perigee Moon, though Supermoon is probably with us… for now.
Blood Moon is not a scientific term, though in recent times it is being widely used to refer to a total lunar eclipse because a fully eclipsed moonoften takes on a reddish color.
This first Full Moon of the year is also known as the Wolf Moon, as reckoned by the Algonquin Indians, a time for the wolves to howl at the Moon on long winter nights.
The Remembrance Structure, an outdoor classroom on the grounds of the Menokin Foundation near Warsaw, has won an AIA Virginia 2018 Award for Excellence in Architecture.
AIA Virginia is a member of the Society of the American Institute of Architects. Its Awards for Excellence in Architecture honor Virginia architects’ works that are no older than seven years, contribute to the built environment, and are clear examples of thoughtful, engaging design.
Architect Reid Freeman based what was originally called the Ghost Structure on archaeology, 18th-century timber framing techniques, and examples of similar slave dwellings in the region that still survive. The framework is covered only by a transparent fabric that diffuses shade. At night, solar-powered lighting creates a paper lantern effect.
A crew of professionals, students and volunteers built the simple structure during a five-day workshop last May. It sits directly over its footprint of the late 18th-century slave dwelling that it re-creates.
Besides serving as a classroom, the Remembrance Structure is intended to be a memorial to the enslaved workers who worked on Menokin plantation for Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Menokin Foundation’s African American Advisory Work Group recently renamed the building the Remembrance Structure in honor of the enslaved people who built the original and lived there.
This year’s Awards for Excellence in Architecture included two Honor Awards, 13 Merit Awards and one Honorable Mention. Award categories include Architecture, Contextual Design, Residential Design, Interior Design and Historic Preservation. Freeman’s design was one of two Contextual Merit Award recipients. The other was Stemann I Pease Architecture’s design for the Historic Farmstead at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown.
The awards for contextual design are chosen based on outstanding architecture that perceptibly reflects the history, culture, and physical environment of the place in which it stands and that, in turn, contributes to the function, beauty and meaning of its larger context.
By Alice French: Education and Outreach Coordinator
The Bostwick House is a beautiful building located in Bladensburg, MD, built in 1746, by a merchant named Christopher Lowndes. Historicorps currently has crews working on it through October to restore the front porch which had been added on to the house in the early 20th century. As a volunteer for a week, my crew worked on removing old paint from the columns and balustrades.
Previously, a tree had fallen in a big storm, and damaged the corner of the front porch. The storm also damaged a structure which was built as a buttress to the chimney. We needed to get the columns and balustrades scraped, sanded and primed. Some masonry work needed to happen supporting the underside of the porch, and the ﬂoorboards and fascia would eventually be tackled as well. Ginny and I began with the scraping work. Sue assisted Mike with some carpentry.
One by one, a column was removed and replaced with a temporary supportive prop. It is hard hand-work scraping paint all day. We had to get suited up in these white Tyvek coveralls to protect us from the paint, along with respirator masks, gloves, boots and a hard hat! Quite the fashion statement. Lunch was served at noon, where we would break for a half hour, remove all of our gear, wash up and eat. It’s really a nice thing that Historicorps serves ALL of our meals- breakfast, lunch and dinner. At 4 o’clock we began clean-up and ended each day by 4:30.
This is my ﬁrst Historicorps project. Apparently, being provided housing in a building (as opposed to a tent), having indoor plumbing and showering facilities, and a full kitchen are pure luxury compared to most projects! I had no complaints. Also being so close to an urban area, there were plenty of opportunities to go out and eat as well.
A lot of research has been done on the families who lived at Bostwick, and some of the people who worked here. They have an excellent website where you can ﬁnd all sorts of documentation and resources to learn more: https://bostwickhouse.weebly.com. Coming from my job as an educator at Menokin (www.menokin.org), I am very interested in process, how things are made and who makes them.
From the website I learned, Lowndes imported slaves and sold them in Bladensburg and at the Severn River in Annapolis. He employed indentured servants, convict servants, and enslaved people on his properties and in his businesses. Lowndes enslaved people to work at his shipyard, his ropewalk, the store, at Bostwick House, and at his farms on the outskirts of town. He also posted numerous advertisements in the Maryland Gazette reporting of runaway slaves, “some having stolen items from his store or other businesses.”
I don’t know whether he ever reclaimed his runaway property. Christopher Lowndes was clearly a very wealthy merchant, but with all of his runaways, I imagine he wasn’t the nicest guy to work for. Also, most of the runaways he reported had speciﬁc skills such as stonemason, bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer, sailor, shoemaker, rope maker and miller. I am sure they also built this house. One of the special things about doing restoration work is to see and touch the details carved out by the human eﬀorts of these individuals. Evidence of these craftsmen’s skills can be found in details throughout the house and outbuildings.
A later addition to the house was a buttress built to support the 3 story chimney on one end of the house. Stories are rumored that the chamber built inside the buttress was used to house enslaved individuals as punishment.
Documentation doesn’t list where enslaved people lived. They likely lived wherever they worked. “In another advertisement in the Maryland Gazette dated 1760, Christopher Lowndes oﬀers for sale a 480-acre tract of land known as “Good Luck” located ﬁve miles from Bladensburg. The land has excellent soil, timber, “a dwelling house, buildings proper for Negroes and two large tobacco barns” (Van Horn 1996:112).” Apparently a dwelling house is not the same as a proper Negro house. Lowndes’ wife Elizabeth, manumitted two of her slaves, Philip Sullivan and Arabella Payne, after her death.
Participating in restoration work and understanding the making of a building is why historic preservation projects are so important. The surrounding community was happy to see work being made on this landmark building. The loss of this place, is a loss of understanding of all of the people who left their marks here. The education and support from preservation organizations involved in this project such as Maryland Heritage Area Authority, Town of Bladensburg Maryland, University of Maryland, George A. & Carmel D. Aman Memorial Trust and Architecture Planning & Preservation are vital to preserving the history of all Americans who built this country. I thoroughly recommend going to the Historicorps website historicorps.com to volunteer for a project or make a contribution.
By Alice French – Education and Outreach Coordinator
American Craft Week and Saturday Oct 6 we had a full house of makers at Menokin
to learn the craft of Pine Needle Basketry with historic educator, Wisteria
Perry. She gave us an overview of the history of Longleaf Pines and then taught
us how to make baskets with the needles which fall to the ground.
A few facts
to note about the Longleaf:
is one of nine native species in the Commonwealth of VA. Historically they were
found from Florida to Virginia and as far west as Texas. 500 years ago the
Longleaf pine tree was one of the most prevalent species in southeastern
Virginia. When John Smith and Christopher Newport arrived in Jamestown in 1607,
there were more Longleaf than Loblolly pines. Longleaf became known as the “tree
that built Tidewater”.
1907, 5.5 million acres of Longleaf were logged per year. In 1932, the Civilian
Conservation Corps set up camps under the administration of President Franklin
Roosevelt. This group was responsible for planting trees and building parks,
but they replaced the slow growing Longleaf with Loblolly in heavily logged
areas. By 2005, just 200 Longleaf pine trees were left.
the economic and environmental benefit, landowners are now planting these pines
instead of Loblollies. They are resistant to a variety of insects, saltier
water, and ice, and benefit many endangered species by providing a long term
habitat. These trees grow to 100 feet and don’t begin to mature (make their
first pine cones) for 30 years.
Nature Conservancy, The Mariners Museum, and Newport News Shipbuilding are
partnering to build a 550 acre forest, and naming each tree planted after a
ship or submarine, in honor of the ship building heritage!
was held inside the Visitor Center with a back drop of a Menokin fireplace
mantel, believed to have been originally carved from Longleaf pine, almost 250
Before everyone arrived, we soaked the needles in some warm water for about an hour, to soften the first bunch for the tightest part of the coil.
For the baskets, we were a little slow getting started, but once you get a hang of it, it’s smooth sailing! All you need are some long leaf pine needles, or really any pine, some waxed thread or raffia, an upholstery sewing needle with a very large eye, (#22)…and a little patience. Wisteria encouraged us along.
all left feeling confident with their newly learned skills and a bunch of pine
needles to continue their project.
The Northern Neck Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists are unsung heros. Just because we have been long remiss about giving them credit, that does not mean that we appreciate their dedication and service any less.
Our butterfly garden at Menokin has blossomed (pun intended) into a smorgasbord of color and pollen. Every year there are new varieties on the menu for our hungry customers, including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, ants, birds, and other crawly critters.
The sign was installed in the garden today and the crowd barely noticed me as they gorged on nectar. Next time you come for a visit, be sure to stop by the garden and say “Thanks!” to these tireless volunteers who make our landscape more beautiful.
I often stop along the lane into Menokin to take pictures when a flash of color catches my eye. Such was the case earlier this week when a cluster of red berries I’d been noticing were finally too beautiful to pass by.
Now, here are the confessional and teaching moments of the story wrapped neatly in a bow.
Confession: I wasn’t sure what they were. I suspected sumac but fell into the immediate trap of thinking sumac=poison. But what kind of poison exactly. Rash? “Eat me and die” poison? Or was it sumac at all? Was it the insidious invasive, tree of heaven?
Teaching Moment: Obviously it was not safe for me to be out of doors with my sketchy knowledge of what was or wasn’t sumac. And I did touch one berry so it was crucial to figure this out straight away before symptoms started appearing. So I fired up Google and went to work.
What I learned was this:
It was sumac. Staghorn Sumac to be precise.
I wasn’t going to die.
I wasn’t even going to itch.
As a matter of fact, people all over the world use this very same berry as a spice, a medicine and to make lemonade.
The Farmers Almanac did the best job explaining the whole wonderful story so follow this link if you’d like to learn more.
Now, if I could just figure out what kind of bug this is that I saw crawling along the stem…