All posts by Leslie Rennolds - Assistant Director

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.

George Mason and Gunston Hall

The Northern Neck region is teeming with important founding fathers.  George Mason, whose Declaration of Rights laid the groundwork for the current Bill of Rights to the Constitution, is another patriot who well represented Virginia and furthered freedoms for Americans.  In fact, George Mason put Frank on the road to the Continental Congress and subsequent signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Frank was not originally chosen to represent Virginia in the First Continental Congress.  During the dramatic summer of 1775, Frank did serve on the Virginia Convention.  However, during this summer Virginia delegate Richard Bland became ill and sought a replacement.  The first choice was George Mason.

Mason, however, routinely avoided public office.  Politically clever Mason, though, saw his refusal as an opportunity to nominate a high quality candidate and a fellow Northern Neck man to boot.  Frank was Mason’s top choice. He wrote, “I took the occasion at the same time to recommend Colo. Francis Lee.”  The other Virignia delegates agreed with Mason’s nomination and elected Lee to the Convention with an easy majority. Frank Lee, upon hearing of his election, made quick preparations and him and Rebecca packed up and moved to Philadelphia, not to return to Menokin until 1778. [1]

George Mason authored the first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. His Declaration was the first document in America to call for freedom of the press, religious tolerance, restricting unreasonable searches, and the right to a fair trial.  He was a member of the Constitutional Convention, but ultimately refused to sign the new Constitution due to his disagreement over the power of the federal government and the continuation of the slave trade. [2]

So next time you’re in the Northern Neck region, stop by Gunston Hall and pay your respects to George Mason and thank him for nominating Frank to the Convention and for believing in his political acumen and patriotic fervor.

Gunston Hall is open every day (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s) from 9:30 am – 5:00 pm.  For more information, visit their website.

[1]  Camille Wells, “Frank Lee’s Achievements,” (working paper, The Menokin Foundation, 1997), 23.
[2] “George Mason,” Gunston Hall: Home of George Mason

Architecture Firm Chosen To Lead The Menokin Project Team

We have chosen the architecture firm of Machado and Silvetti Associates, LLC to lead an interdisciplinary team in the planning and design of the Menokin Project. We are certain that Machado and Silvetti will implement our vision to present Menokin through its many parts and pieces rather than through a traditional reconstruction. Further, this renowned firm will help our Foundation realize its goal to become an internationally recognized learning center for heritage and natural resource conservation through innovative practices and technology.

Our glass house project is an innovative and groundbreaking approach to historical preservation.  We will not restore the house to how it looked in the late 1700s, but instead recreate the missing parts of the house by using glass.

After the loose pieces of the house were removed and categorized,  we  were faced with the challenge of stabilizing and preserving the house, while at the same time furthering the public’s understanding of how the house was built and the historic make-up of the house. We wanted the ruins to be a safe place where people could learn and discover. The glass concept allows visitors to see the inner workings of the architectural structure  of the house, while also allowing visitors to envision what the house looked like at its prime.  Menokin, through this project, fulfills its aim to interpret Francis Lightfoot Lee’s life as well as further current knowledge of architecture, archaeology, and preservation.

Machado and Silvetti, headquartered in Boston, is best known for its contemporary designs that are attached to historic settings. The firm is one of the few practices in the United States that specializes in merging innovative and contemporary agendas with historic structures and contexts. A recent project includes designing a research and exhibition center within a historic landmark fort in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

We are confident Machado and Silvetti will further our aims to be an innovative and internationally renowned education center. Construction on the glass house is projected to begin in 2015. We will continue to post updates on the glass house project at Menokin. We welcome any comments or questions!