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.
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.
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…
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.
May is Preservation Month!
Mathilde and Leslie are happy to be at the workshop!
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.
Fall is finally (kinda, sorta) in the air in the Northern Neck. A drizzly morning, that has since transformed into a sunny day, offered an extravaganza of autumny images for my itchy shutter finger. Enjoy my walk through the Menokin landscape.
The Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society posted a photograph of the remnants of a chimney from a tenant house on the Menokin property that sparked a discussion about the structure. This led to the eventual question about who had lived there. The NVHS called me to inquire…
Sarah dug up a 1985 National Register Assessment of Menokin and shared with me a transcript of an oral history interview done with Mr. Omohundro who was the last private owner of the property. His recollections are interesting, and I have posted a PDF of this on our website if you’d like to read it.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a few photos of the chimney. As are most vistas at Menokin, this structure is romantic and mysterious and makes a wonderful photographic subject.
We’d love for you to share any photos you have, or stories that you may know about people who may have lived in the tenant house.
Once the home of Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee, now the evocative crumbling ruins of an 18th century mansion in Virginia’s Northern Neck, Menokin aspires to a future like no other among American Revolutionary sites and conservation efforts.
Menokin is a multi-faceted place, rich in heritage and stories. The site spans 500 acres of land in close proximity to Washington, DC and other major cities and historic sites. At its center is the revolutionary rehabilitation of the Menokin house.
Remaining historical elements and some extracted structural materials from the house will be reinstalled, along with the beautiful woodwork that was removed before the house collapsed in the 1960s. The missing exterior walls, roof, and floors will be recreated in glass and steel to protect the remaining historic fabric, to restore volume and space, and to provide exhibit areas.
Architect Jorge Silvetti and his internationally known firm of Machado and Silvetti Associates leads an interdisciplinary team that has developed our plan. The Glass Project serves as the ultimate case-study in architectural innovation and moves beyond just breaking the mold of the traditional historic house museum. The real potential of Menokin lies in the opportunity to approach its preservation and interpretation in a truly innovative and revolutionary way, embodying the spirit of the place and Francis Lightfoot Lee himself.
The Menokin Visitor’s Center and Site played host for three days recently, when approximately 90 kids, ages 9 to 13, participating in the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School Summer Program, came here to learn about the house, the land and the people who have lived here.
Organized by Menokin Education Coordinator, Alice French, each student was given a field book for their notes and observations. Among other things, they learned:
How to draw an elevation of the house
What materials make up the house, how they are layered and why and what the size, shape, landscaping and design of the house tells us about the people who lived in it.
Students studied examples of documents recording each families’ history here.
By looking at Menokin records – census, inventories, letters – they were able to make comparisons of changing relationships to the house.
Becky Marks and Sharon Parr from the Richmond County Museum brought in an extensive collection of Indian artifacts from the tribes that inhabited Menokin and nearby areas in pre-Colonial times. The students were able to handle projectile points, pottery shards and animal skins, and learned how they were made and what purposes they served in the day to day lives of these indigenous people.
Exploring Virginia’s indigenous people.
History went underground in the afternoon when the students were able to work with a team of archaeologists from DATA Investigations on actual digs happening on the property. Two test units located in close proximity of the house were established to conduct professionally supervised excavations that incorporated student involvement while pursuing established research goals of the Menokin Foundation.
Existing artifacts were also available for students to learn methods of cleaning washing those that are actually excavated from the ground.