The history of Madeira is “a bit” murky and “a lot” thought provoking. Our personal fondness and affiliation with the drink stems from the ample supply of Madeira found in the inventory of Frank Lee after his death.
(SIDE THOUGHT: Wouldn’t it be FUN to have a Madeira tasting party in the wine cellar at Menokin? Email us if you’re interested. )
We have touched on the topic once before, with this interview with Julia Pearson and Bartholomew Broadbent about the history of Madeira and how it went from dreadful to delicious through a happy shipping misadventure.
But up until now, we haven’t given the Malmsey the credit it deserves in the formation of a more perfect union. In a recent post on Atlas Obscura, writer Daniel Crown explores the Colonial obsession with Madeira in an article titled How a Thirst for Portuguese Wine Fueled the American Revolution. It’s a good read chock full of quirky facts and figures. Here are a few of my favorites:
On August 8, 1775, two months after taking charge of his army, George Washington procured a large cask of the wine, as well as empty bottles, corks, and other paraphernalia. Over the next six months, he purchased hundreds of additional bottles and, eventually, an entire “pipe” (a term derived from the Portuguese word for barrel, “pipa”). A pipe of madeira held enough wine to fill 700 bottles, and a cask roughly the same. Washington, then, in preparation for war, ordered at least 1,900 bottles worth of the wine to be shared among his closest aides and confidants. (Party on, George!)
In 1766, John Hancock celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act by setting two pipes of madeira out in front of his house for public consumption. (Party on, large signature guy!)
In 1774, John Adams reported to his wife, Abigail, that after tedious days of contentious debate, delegates to the First Continental Congress would sit for hours “drinking Madeira, Claret, and Burgundy.” (Party on, Founding Fathers!)
(ANOTHER SIDE THOUGHT: We would love to have a signature Menokin Madeira created for us. If you are, or know, an adventurous winemaker, let’s chat. You know our email address.)
Architecture’s future depends on its next generation of leaders—and the educators who impact their lives. The Topaz Medallion honors those who educate others to ensure architecture’s enduring excellence.
Born in Argentina, Jorge Silvetti has taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 1975, serving as a gifted professor and mentor, and with Rodolfo Machado has worked as a design leader in Boston since 1974. While his influence at GSD was most strongly felt from 1995–2002, when he served as chair of the architecture program, he has propagated a distinct school of thought among the design professionals who have graduated in the past 42 years.
“This is not a stylization of architecture that is visually and immediately identifiable, but a way of thinking about history, precedent, and the contextual complexities of architectural production that has inspired generations of architects and educators such as myself,” wrote Christian Dagg, AIA, head of the Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, in a letter nominating Silvetti for the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion.
Currently the Nelson Robinson, Jr. Professor of Architecture at Harvard, Silvetti leads design studios and delivers regular lectures on history, contemporary theory, and criticism. His groundbreaking 1977 essay “The Beauty of Shadows” provided a compelling argument for how a profession caught between postmodernism and deconstruction should proceed. Later works co-authored with Machado that expanded upon his arguments have greatly influenced his students as well as other schools of design nationwide. The list of deans and department chairs who were former students, colleagues, or employees of Silvetti is long and impressive.
“As chair of the architecture program at Harvard, his emphasis on design as a form of research, coupled with his expansion of the field of architecture to include other design practices, had a profound effect on the discipline at large—an influence that can still be felt today,” Mónica Ponce de León, dean and professor at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, wrote in a letter supporting Silvetti’s nomination. “Through conferences, symposia, and exhibitions, Silvetti brought allied disciplines in conversation with architecture—long before interdisciplinary became a catchphrase in academia.”
Since 1986 Silvetti has overseen a number of research programs, including an examination of Sicily’s urbanism and architecture that won a Progressive Architecture award. Other projects have explored the future of public space in the shifting metropolis of Buenos Aires and the future development of previously industrial Bilbao, Spain. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize, and since 1996 has served as a Pritzker Architecture Prize juror. In 2000, he was a juror for the former Mies van der Rohe Prize for Latin American Architecture.
Beyond academia, Silvetti’s work in association with Rodolfo Machado since 1974 and under different professional firms that they founded and led (presently MACHADO SILVETTI), has been widely celebrated. Run like a studio where all employees contribute ideas and everyone shares in the learning experience, the firm’s notable projects include work at many major Universities and Colleges in the U.S., (among them Dartmouth and Bowdoin Colleges, Princeton, Harvard, Rice, and Arizona State universities), abroad at the American University in Beirut and the Vietnamese and German University in Vietnam, as well as notable cultural and educational institutions such as the Getty Trust in the U.S. The firm received the First Award in Architecture from the American University of Arts and Letters in 1991 and numerous design awards and citations from AIA.
“After teaching for many years and participating in many conversations, he stands among a select group of peers,” wrote Machado in a letter supporting his partner’s nomination. “In fact there are only a few still fully engaged in teaching, who have witnessed and indeed participated in the wild swings of academic pedagogy—from the post-modern to the parametric to the current heterotopic panorama. Throughout all of it, Jorge has been committed to teaching the core canons of architecture while simultaneously supporting those innovating people and emerging projects that benefit the core and expand the reach of architecture.”
Chere R. LeClair, AIA, Chair, LeClair Architects, Bozeman, Montana
Don Keshika De Saram, Assoc. AIA, AIAS President, Washington DC
Donna Kacmar, FAIA, University of Houston, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, Houston
Toshiko Mori, FAIA, Toshiko Mori Architect, PLLC, New York City
Nader Tehrani, Dean, The Cooper Union, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, New York City
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.
Have you ever succumbed to the insatiable desire to touch artifacts in a museum exhibit? At Menokin, we understand this need and not only allow, but encourage visitors to gently touch or handle artifacts.
Holding an object in your hand connects you with the person that made it hundreds of years ago. What was moments ago just a nail, is now a time machine zooming you back to 1769 when blacksmiths pounded out nails for use in the construction of Menokin. The questions pop into your head…who made this nail?….was he free or enslaved?…how many nails did he make on the day that this nail was forged?…what other parts of the house did he create?
The nail is no longer an object. It is a catalyst for a story. It provides a point of reference for us to find relevance and connectedness to that story. And allows us to reflect on our experiences today in contrast to the day-to-day life of the maker of this nail.
We are compelled to ask, am I touching the nail, or is the nail touching me?
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.
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.
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
“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.
Not since the Lees of Menokin was published in 2009 has there been such a romantic story here as occurred last week.
It all began with the arrival of these two, Patty and David Cassidy, from Maryland. They were visiting on a whim and decided to take a hard hat tour, but asked if they could delay it a bit, because David was waiting for an important business call.
Patty and I chatted about really important things like shoes (we’re both obsessed), vintage toys (we’re the same age. remember goop?!?) and husbands who work even when they’re supposed to be taking a day off.
While the minutes ticked by and David faithfully checked his phone for “the call”, we moseyed around the Visitor’s Center and began discussing Menokin’s programs and vision.
About 30 minutes later another car arrived in the parking lot and a couple came into the Visitor’s Center. After squeals of surprise from Patty and hugs all around, we learned that the “business call” was actually the notification of their surprise arrival of Patty’s best friend, Eileen Usher and her hustband, Brian, secretly arranged by David to celebrate Patty’s birthday. ❤
The four of them went off with Juliana for their Hard Hat Tour, though David took me aside and warned that others might show up. While they were gone, another couple arrived and were sent to join the tour.
This stealth reunion and beautiful gesture really touched all of us. And we were especially happy that they chose Menokin for their celebration venue.
Head’s up gents. Make some points on your wife’s next birthday! We’ve obviously have what it takes to make the party memorable!