Category Archives: The Landscape

Ghost Structure Workshop Synopsis: Julia Judd

Highlight of Day One

On the first day over a cool cast of clouds the project for the Ghost Structure of Menokin began to create the first replica of a slave dwelling that once was built on this land. The group was split up between two groups to start cutting the wood. Both groups would contribute in building the base of the structure. In order for the base of the structure to connect the joists must be cut into the wood. The joists are made up of horizontal timber and in our case, oak is being used as the base because this type of wood particularly is harder and will hold up the best support. In creating the joists each end of the timber must measure 4” x 4.5” in the shape of an ‘L’. A japan saw is used to cut off the unwanted piece in 4 sections. Next, a chisel and mallet are used to break off the sections to create the final joist.  Pictures below show the process of creating the joist.


Highlight of Day Two

Once a 15’ x 25’ base is placed we began preparing the next steps in creating the floor of the Ghost Structure. The floorboards would be made of yellow pine and in order to align each row of the floorboards a hammer and chisel would be used to avoid any gaps in the floor. However, in the 18th century they would also use an auger that would create a small hole into the wood and another tool would be placed into the hole to wedge the pieces of wood together. An auger is a tool with a large helical bit for creating holes into wood. We know there is evidence in using an auger to wedge the floorboards together because of the circle marks left over by this tool. In our case, only a hammer and chisel were used to connect each floorboard together. Nails were hammered into the yellow pine to connect the floorboards to the base of the structure. Once a floor was established the frame of the Ghost Structure will become the next goal. Picture below shows finished floor.


Highlight of Day Three

On the first day the other group was creating joints in the base for base to properly support the frame. The joints are known as mortise and tenon and are adjoining pieces that connect at a 90-degree angle. On day 1, the mortise was first cut into the base to eventually fit the tenon to connect the frame to the base. Creating the main, vertical frame is what was being accomplished on day 3. This becomes the most structural support of the Ghost Structure. How would the mortises be created back in the 18th century? An auger would have also been used to create a hole for the tenon to be connected to. However, the auger would not penetrate entirely through the timber but a little over halfway through so when the tenon is created is has a stopping point. Picture below shows the joists creating the base and the main frame connecting to the base of the structure. Third picture shows how the tenon is being cut by using a japan saw that will fit into the mortise.


Highlight of Day Four

Hand-carved pegs were needed to be made to act as the studs of the structure for better stabilization and support. By taking a long piece of yellow pine that measures roughly 1” x 1” and carving out the shape of the peg by using a tool known as a draw blade. The tool does exactly what it is named for. When using a draw blade, you hold onto the handles on each side of the blade and pull the tool towards yourself to smoothly shave off pieces of wood. In our case, sat on a sawhorse that allowed us to clamp the piece of wood tightly so that the draw blade could easily be used. About 90 pegs were carved over the course of the week to be hammered into the Ghost Structure.


Highlight of Day 5

After the pegs were finished, they needed to be hammered all around the base of the structure. An auger would have been used to initially created the hole for the peg to fit into. For the purpose of finishing the structure within the 5-day mark, a power drill was used. The pegs had to fit in tightly and once hammered in the piece sticking out of the base had to be sawed off using a japan saw to fit smoothly along the oak base. Once the pegs were placed the cripples had to be attached to the vertical frame. Cripples are a type of wall bracing that rests on top of the foundation of a structure. They support the overall weight of a building and must be braced so the frame does not collapse. Both ends of the timber cripple are cut at a 45-degree angle and hammered into the frame.  Pictures below show the drilling of the hole for the peg and then using a mallet to hammer in the peg to the base. The last photo shows how the  cripples were hammered in with nails to the frame of the structure.


SEE MORE POSTS ABOUT THE GHOST STRUCTURE WORKSHOP:

Learning and Lounging on Cat Point Creek

Dr. Duane Sanders, River Program Coordinator, Biology Instructor

Students from St. Margaret’s School Outdoor Adventure program spent three afternoons in May kayaking on Cat Point Creek at the Menokin Plantation. Students learned about wildlife supported by this ecosystem and how the system can change over time. They also relaxed and had some fun!

Menokin Ghost Structure: Playing Catch Up

IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM: DAY 1 AND DAY 2

 

How sad is it that the crew can build an entire structure faster than I can blog about it and post pictures? Very sad.

DAY 3 – Wednesday

The day was made more interesting by the arrival of two groups of horticulture and carpentry students from the Northern Neck Technical Center. Most of the students had never been to Menokin before. I was so pleased to hear many of them say that they “sure didn’t expect it to be like this!”

In case you didn’t know, May is Preservation Month. The “This Place Matters” campaign was started by the National Trust for Historic Preservation many years ago to bring attention to the importance of historic buildings to local communities as well as visitors and enthusiasts.

 

DAY 4 – Thursday

Raise the Roof takes on a whole new meaning when you see it happening. All the chiseling, measuring, staging and peg making were put to the test with the assembly of the structural timbers and the crown of roof rafters. The beautiful bones of the building are a perfect addition to this vast, cultural landscape.

The Menokin Ghost Structure: Memoria and Kairos

MAKE SOMETHING WITH YOUR HANDS

This structure will be 15ft x 25ft. The enclosed wall surfaces will be transparent and developed in the future for educational interpretation. Participants are spending the week learning wood working and joinery techniques that were used in the 18th century.

Based on information derived from archaeological excavations, we will be recreating the framework of a dwelling that would have been lived in by Menokin’s field slaves.

DAY ONE: The Work Begins

MAKE SOMETHING WITH YOUR MIND

THE MENOKIN GHOST STRUCTURE serves as a physical metaphor to foster discourse and assist people in forming and participating in conversations about slavery as it relates to the Menokin site, the history of America and current events.

MEMORIA is a Latin term, and can be translated as “memory.” Memoria was the discipline of recalling the arguments of a discourse in classical rhetoric. Creating outline structures of the major arguments of a discourse would also aid memory.

KAIROS dictates that what is said must be said at the right time. In addition to timeliness, kairos considers appropriateness. The term also implies being knowledgeable of and involved in the environment where the situation is taking place in order to benefit fully from seizing the opportune moment.

The size of the building is known from the archaeological evidence. However, because there are no photographs of it, we are recreating only the timber framing of the structure, which will be clad in a transparent sheath. We are calling this building the Ghost Structure: Memoria and Kairos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The design, drawings and renderings of
the Ghost Structure were created by architect Reid Freeman, who also serves on the Menokin Board of Trustees.

 

 

 

True to our unique vision, we are not creating a reproduction of a slave dwelling, but instead a constructed form that will generate dialog about our past, with the flexibility to garner new knowledge, awareness and understanding. Once completed, this structure will be used as an educational classroom, and will serve as the centerpiece in telling the African American story – both past and present – in Richmond County, Virginia and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Season of Thanks

Thank you to everyone who has touched, or been touched by, Menokin in some way in 2017. We have had a remarkable year of growth and planning. Our programs are reaching more people than ever and we experienced a record number of visitors.

Now, during this season of celebration, it’s important to pause for quiet and mindfulness. Take a different path. Appreciate the timeless workings of nature transitioning to another season.

We offer you the gift of Menokin. It’s all here waiting for you. The road less traveled by.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us.

Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds?

Alice French, Education Coordinator at Menokin
This month, students from Essex Intermediate visited Menokin to learn why cultural institutions like ours are part of the Rappahannock River Valley Watershed. This is more than a STEM program, and a state initiative to give every 6th grader a MWEE, “meaningful watershed educational experience” it’s STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, (or Architecture as we like to say) and Math. And at Menokin, we demonstrate these important ways of learning every day.
STEArchitectureM – Human Stairs
STEArchitectureM – Human Arch
Students get to visit the site and have a real water experience in a canoe on Cat Point Creek; walk the trails and learn about this special habitat; take a Hard Hat Tour and learn about the cultural history of this property, and it’s relationship to where they live. 
Heading out on Cat Point Creek.
Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds? Because our site has a history that goes back thousands of years. Did you know that, while our continents were forming, and waterways and mountains being created, that Menokin was always on high ground?  People have lived here for a long time because of its rich natural resources, that have always made it a desirable place to live.
ScienceTArtM: Grinding soil pigments.
ScienceTArtM: Painting with soils.
Our house is a couple of hundred years old, yet the high-ground of our landscape is thousands of years old and inhabited my many for thousands of years before English settlers ever arrived. Our house may be the largest artifact we have of recent cultures, but our ground is deeply embedded with the cultures of many before Captain John Smith ever arrived. Yet, he carried on the identity and heritage of the Rappahannock Tribe, by using their word for this special place, Menokin, which we still call it today, in the 21st century .

 

Menokin, a 500 acre classroom connecting the past to the present. Come visit for yourself, connect with your world, and be inspired.

Reflection on Menokin Sleepover Conference by descendant of Northern Neck Enslaved

GUEST BLOGGER: TOM DUCKENFIELD, MENOKIN TRUSTEE
Menokin Trustees Tom Duckenfield and Ro King at the Menokin Sleepover Conference.

Last weekend, 23-24 September 2017, I had the fortune to partake in the Menokin Sleepover Conference from the unique perspective of a Menokin Trustee, as well as from the various perspectives of a descendant of Virginia Northern Neck African American slaves, free African Americans, and White slaveholders.

Featuring facilitators Frank Vagnone (One Night Stand) and
Joseph McGill (The Slave Dwelling Project) in their first joint project, the Conference fostered an incredible amount of dialogue and reflection about Menokin, the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe Lee of Mount Airy Plantation.

After an authentic mid-19th century open-fire meal, Vagnone and McGill facilitated a lantern-lit discussion among the Conference participants about Menokin’s historic inhabitants; its current stewards; its mission, its intrepid melding of colonial architecture and modern glass structural building techniques; and its potential role as a catalyst of racial understanding, reconciliation, and unification.

Following the riveting discussion, several participants and I emulated Vagnone and McGill by pitching tents amidst the Menokin House ruins or in the nearby sward where the former Menokin slave dwellings once stood.  At first, my immediate impression was that I was just experiencing a familiar camping-out experience under a clear star-spangled sky, not unlike those of past scouting trips, school outdoor adventures, Army bivouacs, or family mountain getaways.

Tents pitched on the site where Menokin slave dwellings once stood.

As I gazed at the twinkling constellations and reacquainted myself with camping accoutrements, it suddenly dawned on me that this was not an ordinary camping experience at all.  Rather, the purpose was to contemplate what it would have been like to be an inhabitant or visitor in a Menokin slave dwelling or in the Menokin House.

Accordingly, via a time and memory conduit constructed by interlacing the “rings” of my family tree with www.ancestry.com DNA dendochronology, I traveled back in time to 1792 — the penultimate year of the second term of Northern Neck son President George Washington – and I began to imagine what several of my Northern Neck ancestors might have been doing then at Menokin.

Portion of Richmond County, Virginia 1818 “List of Free Negroes and Mulattoes” enumerating John Newman, emancipated in 1791 by Robert Carter III.

First, I conjured up the image of my 4th great-grandfather John Newman, who was born a slave in 1770 at Nomini Hall in neighboring Westmoreland County and freed in 1791 by Robert Carter III (1727-1804) as part of the latter’s manumission of more than 500 of his slaves.  There are references in peripatetic tutor Philip Vickers Fithian’s Diary about Robert Carter III and his visits to Menokin.

Still savoring his newly acquired freedom, my ancestor John Newman may very well have spent many nights visiting friends and relatives in the Menokin slave dwellings, an example of how many ante-bellum African American families — similar to today’s mixed status immigrant families — had members of mixed free and slave status.

Second, I thought of my fifth great-uncle Moses Liverpool, who was born in 1773 as a slave of Lt. Col. William Fauntleroy (1716 – 1793) on his “Old Plantation” in Naylors Creek, a short paddle ride up the Rappahannock River from Menokin, which is located along the shoreline of Cat Point Creek, a tributary of the Rappahannock River.

Because Moses was described by the Fauntleroy family as “… a very smart, smiling fellow, who is a good cooper, a house carpenter, and  ‘a little acquainted’ with the ships’ carpenter business,” I imagined Moses might have spent a few night in the Menokin slave dwellings, perhaps having been hired out to Francis Lightfoot Lee to create or repair Menokin House’s interior woodwork or, alternatively, to build or repair the ships, casks, barrels, and hogsheads used to transport commodities produced at Menokin.

Third, I contemplated how my White slave-holding ancestor Henry Lee III (1756-1818) — my 2nd cousin, 8x removed and known as

Maj. Gen. Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee.

“Lighthorse Harry” because of his daring in the Revolutionary War — might have spent an evening with his cousin Francis Lightfoot Lee.  Henry III’s great-grandfather, Henry Lee I, was a brother of Governor Thomas Lee (1690-1750), the builder of Stratford Hall in neighboring Westmoreland County, Virginia, and Governor Thomas Lee was the father of Francis Lightfoot Lee of Menokin.  Henry Lee III married his distant cousin Matilda, granddaughter of Governor Thomas Lee, niece to Francis Lightfoot Lee, and heiress to Stratford Hall.

On the canvas of my mind, I painted a picture of Henry Lee III dining at Menokin in 1792 with his cousin Francis Lightfoot Lee and Francis’ brother Arthur Lee (1740-1792), a physician and opponent of slavery in Virginia, who served as an American diplomat during the American Revolutionary War.  I considered that, among other topics, these cousins may have debated slavery and the tension and cognitive dissonance between the institution of slavery and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, which expresses:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Taken together, the fervent and introspective discussions of the Menokin Sleepover Conference participants, my own musings concerning how some of my racially diverse ancestors may have inter-related with Menokin, and the social, political, and economic issues revolving around it, Menokin occupies a singularly unique position.

Menokin can not only be the focal point and catalyst for preserving and rebuilding a national historic landmark, but also be the focal point, catalyst, and host of future conferences – a la the Aspen Institute — to foster discussions that can promote understanding and reconciliation to dissipate the long shadow of slavery by actualizing the shining ideals of the Declaration of Independence signed by Francis Lightfoot Lee and 55 other American patriots.