Tag Archives: education

Think Outside The Sink

By Alice French | Education and Outreach Coordinator

Spring has finally come and Westmoreland and Essex County 6th graders spent the day at Menokin learning about the Rappahannock River Valley Watershed.

The students from Mrs. Beale’s science classes at Montross Middle School (pictured here) spent their chilly weathered day with several activities including learning how to paddle a canoe, water testing, a special Hard Hat Tour, learning about the daffodils which grow at Menokin, painting with soil and learning about mapping. The students kept warm by keeping active.

The following week, Mrs. Layne’s classes from Essex Intermediate visited on a day with wild changes in the weather! One sure way to get to know your environment is to spend a field day outdoors in the Spring! The unexpected rain changed our morning activities and the students stayed indoors and learned about the making of buildings and the teamwork involved while they got to create some of their own architectural structures. They also got to develop their very own 100 acres of land and learn how what we build effects our watershed. Then with a break in the clouds, we went outdoors for canoe and house tour activities, until the strong gusting spring winds brought everyone back off the water to conclude the day.

This program is part of a partnership with multiple environmental educators. Menokin joined Friends of the Rappahannock and 4H to give these students a fun and educational field day. “A River Runs Through Us” is part of a year long program that allows students to achieve the Virginia mandate of each child having a meaningful watershed experience and teach kids how to continue to be stewards of their waterways.

Smashing Glass Tour!


On June 13th, Mrs. Smith’s 11th Grade Advanced Placement History  class from Richmond County High School visited Menokin as guinea pigs to test out a new tour style being developed here: a Smashing Glass Tour!

The students participated in a dynamic tour which integrated the use of smart phone technology, social media, and physical activity.  They learned about Francis Lightfoot Lee and the history of Menokin, architecture and building trades.

For an activity, we practiced some of the things we discussed about architecture by first working in teams to build structures with blocks.  And then…oh yes, body building- making architectural forms out of humans.

Of course, after all the fun, we still had time to take a selfie with Frank.

17_selfie with Lee

The Menokin Visitor’s Center has new Hours of Operation, which now include scheduled times for guided tours.


Wed | Thurs | Fri:  10 am – 4 pm
Sat: May – September: 12 pm – 4 pm

Sun | Mon | Tues

Wed: 11 am and 2 pm
Thurs: 2 pm and 6 pm
Fri: 11 am and 2 pm

(Paid tours available by appointment; some restrictions apply.)


Email Alice to schedule a special Smashing Glass Tour.

Menokin Offers Education Building Blocks (Literally!)


Earlier in June, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders from Aylett Country

ACDS students hiked to Cat Point Creek on their recent visit to Menokin
ACDS students hiked to Cat Point Creek on their recent visit to Menokin.

Day School came to Menokin with their teachers, Mrs. Katona and Ms. Brooks.  While here they hiked down to Cat Point Creek and learned about the wildlife which lives in the Rappahannock River Valley Watershed.

After the trail hike we went and visited the house and talked about how buildings are made and what Menokin looked like before it fell down.

Then we ran across the fields back to the Visitor Center, (because, well, that’s how these kids travel) and took a lunch break.

After lunch, the group went into the barn to learn a little about how buildings get made.  We talked about the different professions involved in building and what architects do.  Building with blocks is a great way for students of all ages to use critical thinking skills, cooperatively make design choices, learn to take turns,  and build a structure through teamwork.

Great day of learning with a great group of kids!

Menokin Speaker Series: 2016 Lineup


Historic Reconstructions
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Calder Loth
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

This premiere lecture centers on reconstructions, i.e. lost works of architecture that have been completely rebuilt such as the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg. The structures are not limited to the United States but include examples in Germany, Russia, Italy, England, China, etc.  Menokin’s Glass Project  will be featured as a special case.


Calder Loth - Retired Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation.
Calder Loth – Retired Architectural Historian with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation.

In a career spanning four decades, Calder Loth, as senior architectural historian at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, shaped the direction of historic preservation programs from survey and National Register listings to rehabilitation tax credits, review and compliance, and preservation easements. Calder is a long-standing member of the Virginia Art and Architecture Review Board. His expertise has shaped the preservation and renovation of many buildings including the Virginia State Capital and the historic executive mansion. He continues to give back to the preservation community as a staunch advocate and widely published author for “architectural literacy” giving lectures to museums, universities, and professional societies worldwide.  In 2008, Calder received the first annual “Secretary of the Interior Historic Preservation Award” given by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.  He has been an Honorary Trustee of the Menokin Foundation since its inception in 1994.

Purchase tickets online.



JULY 28, 2016

Menokin Geology: The Anomoly of Iron-infused Sandstone
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Dr. Christopher “Chuck” Bailey
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

Geological map of Virginia
Geological map of Virginia
Students in Dr. Bailey's geology class posing in front of Menokin
Students in Dr. Bailey’s geology class posing in front of Menokin

In eastern Virginia stone houses are rare. Important colonial buildings in the Tidewater region are primarily constructed of brick. This makes sense, as the Atlantic Coastal Plain is rich with sand and clay, the main ingredients in bricks, and rocks are rare on the Coastal Plain. Professor and Chair of the Geology Department at the College of William and Mary, Chuck Bailey, will discuss the unique geological phenomena that allowed for sandstone to be present on the property, an uncommon material in Tidewater Virginia. This natural occurrence allowed for the Menokin House to be built from iron infused sandstone.


Dr. Christopher “Chuck” Bailey
  • Ph.D. & M.A., Johns Hopkins University
  • B.S., College of William & Mary
Research Interests

Structural Geology, Tectonics, & Landscape History

I’m a structural geologist whose research focuses on the geometry and tectonic history of deformed rocks as well as the physical and chemical processes that control rock deformation.  I am particularly interested in ductile fault zones (high-strain zones) and work to understand both the deformation path experienced by mylonitic rocks as well as elucidate the tectonic history recorded by these important crustal structures.

With William & Mary undergraduates I’ve studied deformed rocks in the Appalachian Mountains, the low deserts of southern Arizona, the high plateaus of Utah, the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, and most recently in Oman examining its vast and well-exposed ophiolite.  Although the Appalachians Mountains have been studied for over two centuries, many key aspects of their history remain unanswered. Our studies in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces are wide-ranging and integrate structural analysis with petrology, sedimentology, geochronology, and geologic mapping.  In Utah our research focuses on understanding the interplay between volcanism, tectonics, and surface processes in the transition region between the Colorado Plateau and the Basin & Range.

Over the past 18 years I’ve advised more than 100 undergraduate thesis projects at William & Mary.


JUNE 23, 2016

(Rescheduled from February, 2016)

Henry Box Brown: Famous Fugitive, Trans-Atlantic Performer
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Jeffrey Ruggles
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

Henry "Box" Brown The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia. Who escaped from Richmond Va in a Box 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft deep and 2 ft wide entered according to act of Congress the year 1850 by Henry Box Brown in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts
Henry “Box” Brown The resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia. Who escaped from Richmond Va in a Box 3 feet long 2 1/2 ft deep and 2 ft wide entered according to act of Congress the year 1850 by Henry Box Brown in the clerk’s office of the District Court of Massachusetts

Henry Brown escaped from slavery by shipping himself in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia. This bold feat was only the first act of a remarkable career. “Resurrected” from the box as Henry Box Brown, he appeared at antislavery meetings as a singer and speaker. In 1850, Brown produced a moving panorama, a kind of giant painted scroll presented in a theater, called Mirror of Slavery and toured it around New England and then across the Atlantic. Trace this remarkable journey with Jeffrey Ruggles, former Curator of Prints and Photographs, Virginia Historical Society, and author of The Unboxing of Henry Brown, Library of Virginia, 2003.


jeffrey-ruggles-bio, Art historianJeffrey Ruggles is an historian and photographer with interests in the history of American culture, Virginia, and visual art. His book The Unboxing of Henry Brown (Library of Va., 2003) is a biography of the fugitive slave and performer Henry Box Brown. From 2002–10 Mr. Ruggles worked at Virginia Historical Society where he served as Curator of Prints and Photographs. His Photography in Virginia (2008) is a companion book to a 2008–09 exhibition at VHS. Other VHS exhibitions were Early Images of Virginia Indians (2003) and Organized Labor in Virginia (2010), and a long-term installation at Battle Abbey, The Virginia Manufactory of Arms (2005-15). Mr. Ruggles has degrees from the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, and is an administrator at the Virginia Center on Aging at VCU in Richmond.

MAY 26, 2016

Great Road Style:  The Decorative Arts Legacy Of Southwest Virginia
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Betsy White
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

51ZP651M0FLFor the past 15 years, Betsy White and her team of scholars have been delving into the decorative arts traditions of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee, parts of two states linked geographically, culturally, and historically. Settled during the last years of the 18th and first years of the 19th centuries, it became America’s first frontier, connecting the eastern seaboard with Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond. Its settlers came down the Valley of Virginia on the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road or simply the Great Road, as it was known locally. Artisans followed settlers, bringing with them the material culture of their homelands. What sprang up was a lively blend of cultural traditions that formed a distinctive style of furniture, ceramics, textiles, metalwork, and music. Join Betsy White as she leads us through the friendly country forms of pie safes and quilts, overshot coverlets woven from wool and flax grown on the homeplace, elegant high-style furniture made by Philadelphia-trained cabinetmakers, and pottery decorated with splotches, daubs, and streaks. White’s field work has resulted in more than 2,000 records. Taken together, they create a Great Road style, one that is beginning to take its place in American decorative arts.


betsy-white-bioBetsy White, an art historian and a member of the Virginia Cultural Heritage Commission, graduated from Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC.



APRIL 28, 2016

America’s First Daughter
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Laura Kamoie
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

AFD final 2In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father’s reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.


Laura Kamoie HeadshotLaura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. Her debut historical novel, America’s First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.

MARCH 24, 2016

From Mirador To Mayfair: Nancy Lancaster And The Country House Style
2:00 – 4:00 | $10 | Speaker: Susan J. Rawles, PhD
Menokin Visitors Center | 4037 Menokin Road | Warsaw, VA

41q1aVMDLNLVirginia-born tastemaker Nancy Lancaster (1897 – 1994) is a widely recognized source of the international design movement known as the British Country House Style. The style’s blending of key forms and materials, which resulted in domestic environments with historicist inflections, recalls Lancaster’s experience of her six-generation family home, Mirador, near Charlottesville. From post-Civil War Virginia to post-World War II England, Mirador to Mayfair examines the inspiration, implementation, and patronage of the Country House Style toward a better understanding of the role of interior decoration in the fashioning of individual and cultural identity.


susan-rawles-bioDr. Susan J. Rawles has been the Assistant Curator of American Decorative Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2008, serving previously as Research Associate for the American department from 1995. She received a PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary, an MA in the history of art from Rice University, and a BA in economics and government from Smith College. A specialist in American material culture of the colonial and revolutionary periods, she is particularly interested in the socio-historical context of art and has written and lectured on topics ranging from colonial portraiture to period interiors. Part of the 2010 reinstallation team for VMFA’s American art galleries, she co-authored the accompanying publication, American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (2010).




ACDS Visits Menokin for Fun and Fibonacci

Today Ms. Dillard’s 8th grade class from Aylett County Day School visited Menokin.
   The group learned about the relationship of the Fibonacci Sequence and the golden ratio as it related to the enlightened thinkers of 18th century Architecture and Design.
Afterwards they toured the Menokin Visitor Center and House, and hiked down to Cat Point Creek to get a view of the new kayak landing.  
This bright group of students was able to see how conservation at our site teaches about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through architecture, history and science.
It was a great day! Enjoy your holiday break!  

Jr. Duck Stamp Camp 2015 A Huge Success!

Jr. Duck Stamp returned this summer, bigger and better than ever. Twelve campers had kayaking experiences in three Northern Neck water venues – the pond at Wilna Wildlife Refuge, Cat Point Creek at Menokin and the Potomac River at Westmoreland State Park.

In spite of the brutal heat of the week, the experiences were rich, the knowledge gained was deep and the artwork was beautiful! And there was cake at the end of the week. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Keep in touch for news about Jr. Duck Stamp Camp 2016.


“Intern”pretations – Episode 4: Emily


 – Emily Lyth

Allie, Frank and Emily
Allie, Frank and Emily

“Before I even started interning at Menokin, I knew it was going to be an experience that I would enjoy because my sister, Allie, had already spent over a year here as an intern before she left for CNU. She was always coming home with stories about how much she loved the projects she was working on and the people she was working with. I was excited about getting involved at Menokin but never planned on taking so much away from this experience.

I have enjoyed every moment of this internship. Whether it’s doing research, helping Alice prepare for a program, or just brainstorming, each assignment we have worked on has taught me something new.

In addition to everything I have learned, meeting Bri and having the opportunity to work with her, Sarah, Alice, Leslie, and Mavora, are some of the main reasons this summer has been so unforgettable.

While I appreciate all of the experience and knowledge I have gained from my internship at Menokin as well as all of the amazing new people in my life because of it, I am especially grateful to have had the chance to spend the entire summer working with Allie. We have our moments of bickering and we like to tease that we don’t get along, but the truth is that she’s my best friend, and this summer spent with her at Menokin has been one of the best.

I know she’s nearby when she’s at CNU and we live together when she’s home, but we still don’t get to spend as much time together as we used to. Now that we’re older and going to different schools, we each do our own thing most of the time. That’s why it has been such a great experience spending time with her at Menokin this summer.

Collaborating on projects and working events like the music festival together has been more

Menokin Volunteers and Staff at the Music Festival
Menokin Volunteers and Staff at the Music Festival

fun than I ever anticipated. Saying goodbye to Bri when she left to go back to Pennsylvania was tough because she became such a great friend this summer, so I know it will be tough when Allie leaves to go back to CNU next month, too. The memories we made over the summer will be ones that I continue to look back on and cherish long after this summer is over though. I intend to enjoy the last few weeks of summer with Allie at Menokin and have no doubt we will make the most of them.

And as much as I hate to say goodbye to this summer, I’m excited to see what the next chapter at Menokin will bring. I know the future projects won’t disappoint, and I’m looking forward to the time I get to spend with Sarah, Alice, Leslie, and Mavora.”

What Do Urban Ballparks and Menokin Have In Common?

Truth be told, the thought to compare the two had never occurred to me.

But it did occur to Ed Slipek, Senior Contributing Editor of Style Weekly Magazine when he recently visited the Menokin Revealed exhibit at the Virginia Center for Architecture.

In his article Material World in the current issue, Slipek focuses on the importance of making the open call for plans and ideas when undertaking a large project such as the Shockoe Bottom proposed baseball stadium.

The lesson of ‘Ruins, Memory and the Imagination: Menokin Revealed‘ is: How do we know a good solutions unless they’re set up against alternatives? Wouldn’t it be great to have 11 more design proposals for Shockoe Bottom? The process might make us crazy, but then again, it could produce something quite worthwhile.

While Menokin Revealed was an academic exercise for the Harvard Graduate School of Design students of The Menokin Project’s lead architect, Jorge Silvetti, their ideas and images are thought provoking and inspiring.

"Ruins, Memory and the Imagination: Menokin Revealed" runs till April 27 at the Virginia Center for Architecture, 2501 Monument Ave. For information call 644-3041 or visit virginiaarchitecture.org. Photograph and Exhibit Display Design by Forrest French
“Ruins, Memory and the Imagination: Menokin Revealed” runs till April 27 at the Virginia Center for Architecture, 2501 Monument Ave. For information call 644-3041 or visit architectureva.org.
Photograph and Exhibit Display Design by Forrest French.

History on the Go: Making history come alive in our schools

Virginia is steeped in history, much of it originating in the Northern Neck. Yet the reality of our locals schools means bare-bones budgets, and few or no field trips for students to learn about and explore the myriad historic venues right here in their back yards.

web_S4pictures-3413Enter History on the Go. This local program provides regional elementary and middle school students an overview of some of the great educational resources available to them within the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Collaborating cultural institutions develop presentations and coordinate with the schools for an immersion event.  Five or six stations are set up in the school gymnasium or auditorium. Each class rotates around the room to visit every station, spending 15 minutes learning about, and participating in, a different activity related to that particular site.

On December 4th participating organizations brought their messages to Richmond County Elementary 4th and 5th graders. A whopping 176 students shared in these programs:

Belle Isle State ParkAnimal Adaptations. This station exhibited various animal skins and casts of various footprints. Students learned about living and hunting habits of native species in this region.

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library – 18th century school, reading and writing. Students discussed a one room classroom environment, using a replica of a classroom.  The students practiced writing on slates and used a quill pen on paper. Discipline and games were also discussed.

Middlesex Museum and Historical SocietyHistorical documents and court web_S4pictures-3411cases. Students reviewed copies of original court records re slaves, property and possessions, and insurance documents and discussed the importantance of record keeping.

Reedville Fisherman Museum – Life cycle and history of oysters and watermen. Showed live oysters and discussed the body makeup (heart, how they breathe, etc.) Students use tongs to transfer oysters and discussed the work of the local watermen.

Richmond County Museum – Indian exhibit and pictograghs. Pointed out the living habits and clothing, medicine, diet, use of tools of Virginia’s indigenous peoples.

Menokin Foundation – Maps and Watershed. Menokin’s Education Coordinator Alice French, and intern Allie Lyth, introduced the word and concept of conservation. Students got a brief history of Francis Lightfoot Lee and how Menokin is using historic conservation in preserving his house.

web_S4pictures-3386They also learned about Menokin’s environmental conservation practices and got to compare a variety of maps,* learning about the types of information these different kinds of maps give us. They then looked at our site and surrounding sites showing the entire Northern Neck in its Rappahannock River Watershed.

Captain John Smithʼs early maps of Virginia
Topographic contour maps
Aerial maps
Road maps
Waterway mapsMenokin’s Activity involved studying a map of waterways and locating the headwaters, the tributaries, and the mainstream, and connecting the ends of the river to identify the watershed. The students then became a human

watershed and passed water down through it, learning how water moves within a watershed, that everything surrounding a river affects our water, and that we all use the same water over and over, and that is why conservation is so important.

By participating in programs like History on the Go, Menokin continues to focus and act on its mission to provide educational and cultural opportunities to our regional communities and beyond.

The Menokin Glass House: A Revolutionary Project

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.