Tag Archives: Hullihen Williams Moore

Meet Sam McKelvey!

The Menokin Foundation Board President Hullihen Moore is pleased to announce that Samuel McKelvey of Richmond, Virginia, has been chosen to lead Menokin as Executive Director. McKelvey, selected after a comprehensive national search, will begin his appointment on October 24, 2016.

Sam McKelvey

Moore said that McKelvey is particularly well suited to complete Menokin’s innovative Glass House Project and to introduce new programming to the site. “Sam brings to the table an excellent mix of experience, leadership, initiative and enthusiasm,” Moore said; “he has a track record of bringing in diverse and younger audiences and he has shown himself to be a leader in creating new programs and events to engage the public in broad and meaningful ways.”

McKelvey currently serves as Site Manager for Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park, an 1860 living history farm site and museum. During his tenure at Meadow Farm, McKelvey has significantly updated the site’s programs and re-interpreted a number of tours, bringing in new audiences, growing attendance, and making the site relevant to a new generation of students, families, and tourists.

McKelvey also serves as a Recreation Program Coordinator for the 150-acre site, which rests under the purview of Henrico County’s Division of Recreation and Parks. He has managed and developed a wide range of outdoor opportunities and experiences for the park’s thousands of annual visitors, including fishing, hiking and nature trails, picnicking, play areas, seasonal festivals and, most recently, adding more livestock on the farm.

McKelvey is an avid champion of community storytelling and bringing history to life. In 2014, he led the planning and execution of a 3-day re-enactment of the Battle of New Market Heights which brought 5,000 people to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle in which African-American soldiers from the “U.S. Colored Troops” won largely on their own their first significant battle close to the Confederate fortifications of Richmond.

McKelvey received his BA in History and Geography from James Madison University and his MA in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently chairs the Historic Preservation Function Group for Henrico County Recreation and Parks and he has co-chaired or lead numerous other planning committees, including the Henrico Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.

He believes Menokin offers the region and the country an extraordinary opportunity. “The Menokin Foundation has laid the groundwork for a totally new approach to engaging people with ideas and themes in American history,” McKelvey said. “The Glass House Project is like nothing else in historic preservation today – it encourages us to think in new and different ways. I am looking forward to working with the board, staff, volunteers, and local community to accomplish the Foundation’s goals. My wife April and I look forward to actively participating in the Northern Neck community.”

McKelvey succeeds Sarah Dillard Pope, Executive Director from 2005 until December 2015, when she became Dean of College Advancement at Rappahannock Community College. Leslie Rennolds has served ably as Interim Director since January 2016.

The search committee, co-chaired by Penelope Saffer and Ro King, included trustees and stakeholders: Moore, Dudley Percy Olsson, Candy Carden, Nancy Raybin, and past Board President W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.

For the nationwide search, the Menokin Foundation retained Marilyn Hoffman and Connie Rosemont of Museum Search & Reference, an executive search firm in Manchester, NH, and Boston, MA.


The Menokin Foundation is a 500-acre National Historic Landmark site in the Northern Neck of Virginia that includes the collapsed home of Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife Rebecca Tayloe. In 2015, the Menokin Foundation launched a multi-year, $7-million capital campaign to construct a groundbreaking, 21st-century glass structure that will preserve, protect and interpret the original house without reconstructing its 18th-century interior. The grounds and kayak boat launch are open daily 7 am to 7 pm and the Visitors Center is open Wednesday – Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.menokin.org or call 804-333-1776.

“Luckily the collections at Menokin are uniquely suited to answering questions.”

Thus wrote Archeologist  Eric Schweickhart,  who came to Menokin to research our 18th century nails.

Here is the report he sent us to share with you.

On January 14th 1765, a number of men from Prince George’s County, Maryland gathered at Oxon Hill manor to inventory the estate of the recently deceased John Addison. In his cellar they noted finding “5,000 10d Nails” which he was presumably storing for some future construction project.

Figure 1: Illustration of 18th-century nail making process.
Figure 1: Illustration of 18th-century nail making process.

In the 1700s, blacksmiths made nails by hand, cutting long iron rods into sections which were each given a head on one side and tapered into a point on the other. The length of each of these sections, and therefore the length of the finished nails, varied according to the needs of the buyer. Thin wooden lathing, which was plastered over to create interior walls and ceilings, could be secured with nails about an inch long but thicker clapboards, rafters, and roofing shingles required longer nails.  Therefore, a system had been developed in England to sell nails in sets of 1000 according to their weight. Since a thousand three-inch-long nails would weigh more than the same number of two-inch-long nails, buyers could know the average length of the nails they were purchasing. When sold, nails were given a classification (4d, 5d, 6d, etc.) to indicate their weight and if this system was anything like the 19th-century American ‘penny nail’ system, as many believe, then each of these categories represented a quarter-inch difference in length. Thus, Addison’s 10d nails would have probably been about three inches long, on average, but if they were 8d nails they would have been about 2 ½ inches long.

Knowing the size designation of nails found at a site would be a useful analytical tool for archaeologists. When a nail is dug up during an excavation it is usually completely removed from any context that could be used to identify what wooden elements it once held together. Nails found in the ground were generally either pulled and discarded or the wood that once surrounded them has long since rotted away. However, since particular sizes of nails were used for particular purposes, the presence of those nails could be used to better understand the nature of the site. For instance, a large number of nails about an inch long found at an excavation could be evidence that a house with lathing inside once stood on the site.

Additionally, if the same size nails are found at multiple sites in the same area, they may suggest that local people were buying nails from the same source or even that nails from one structure were salvaged to build the other. In order to assign excavated nails to particular size categories, some archaeologists measure their length and round them to the nearest quarter inch.

While this technique seems to work well on 19th-century sites in America, when most nails were made with machines, earlier nails made by hand could potentially have much more variation in size. Since nail sets were determined by weight, a nail considerably smaller than the ideal size could be included in the set if it also contained another nail considerably longer than average. Thus, the problem is: how can we be sure that a hand-wrought nail that rounds down to two-and-a-quarter inches long was not sold as part of a set of 8d (2 ½ inch long) nails?

Luckily the collections at Menokin are uniquely suited to answering this question. The incredible work done by the staff at Menokin to curate and identify the architectural elements which are no longer attached to the structure has created very useful dataset.

Lathing Nails from Northwest Ceiling
Figure 2: Lathing Nails from Menokin, red indicates nails which rounded to 1 1/4 inches, the ideal length for the set, red indicates nails that rounded to other sizes.

When Francis Lightfoot Lee had the manor house at Menokin constructed in 1769, his architect and carpenters acquired thousands of hand-made nails specifically for the structure.  Since these nails are still embedded in the wooden lathing and roofing elements that have been carefully recovered and analyzed to determine their placement in the original house, they provide an opportunity to study nails which are known to be purchased as part of the same set. This process was more difficult with sections of the roof than with sections of lathing because the roof was repaired several times using different types of nails, but a number of the original 18th-century roofing beams, with their original nails, still exist. By carefully measuring the lengths of nails in several different architectural elements at Menokin, the general degree of size variation within sets of nails made by blacksmiths can be determined.

The results of this analysis were astounding.  Despite the fact that there was about half-an-inch difference in length between the longest and the shortest nails from each architectural element, when all the nail lengths from any one wooden element were averaged together they fell within .05 inches of their ideal length.

Figure 3: Hand-made nails found archaeologically at James Madison's Virginian plantation, Montpelier.
Figure 3: Hand-made nails found archaeologically at James Madison’s Virginian plantation, Montpelier.

For example, of the 50 nails measured from a section of lathing that was once part of the northwest ceiling of the mansion (2006-357), the shortest nail was 1.02 in. long and the longest was 1.52 in. long but the average nail length was 1.246 in., suggesting that they were all bought as part of a set of 3d nails made to be one-and-a-quarter inches long.  If this section of lathing had been left to rot away and only the nails were recovered and measured to the nearest quarter inch, 5 of them (10%) would be classified as 2d nails, 39 of them (78%) would be classified as 3d nails, and 6 of them (12%) would be classified as 4d nails.

Each of the architectural elements analyzed at Menokin had similar bell curves, with the nails equally distributed above and below the ideal length and a small number of longer and shorter nails rounding to the next size up or down. The Menokin dataset suggests that in the 18th century, between 20% and 50% of the nails sold as part of a set were closer in length to other size categories than to their given category.  However, in every case examined, the number of nails that fell into the smaller category was almost exactly the same as the number that fell into the larger category.

Therefore, thanks to the commitment of the Menokin staff to the conservation and analysis of the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, archaeologists are one step closer to being able to understand the decisions made by the people who once lived at the sites they excavate. This analysis suggests that if the lengths of hand-wrought nails found at a site fit into a bell curve around a particular ideal length with between 10% and 25% falling into the next smallest size category and roughly the same amount falling into the larger size category then they were probably acquired together as part of one set. If the nails at a site do not fit into this pattern, they may have been sold as part of separate sets or were made by local, enslaved blacksmiths who might not have packaged their work in the same way that British nail-makers did.  With this information, archaeologists can begin to make interpretations about the architectural elements people incorporated into their homes and workplaces, the access particular individuals had to the various networks though which nails (and other goods) were exchanged, and the extent to which common knowledge about what size nail was most appropriate for a task was shared between neighbors and families.


I would like to thank Sarah Pope, Alice French, and the rest of the Menokin staff for their help and patience. I appreciate their willingness to take time out of their day to help an archaeologist with his odd requests. I would also like to thank Barbara Heath and Matt Reeves for their guidance.

A Special Treat

Menokin Trustee and professional photographer Hullihen (Hullie) Williams Moore also has a fascination with Menokin’s nails. Here is a photo gallery of some of his work on the subject.

Country House, City House: Menokin Exhibit Opens at The Octagon House November 4, 2014

Exhibit runs November 6, 2014 until April, 2015
Exhibit runs November 6, 2014 until April, 2015

Menokin and The Octagon House are linked across
the centuries through historic events, a family and a love of architecture. Step inside their history and be immersed in an exhibit of revolutionary plans for their future in the Country House, City House exhibition.

The AIA Foundation (which operates The Octagon House) and The Menokin Foundation share a common mission: to encourage and educate the public and the architecture profession about the preservation of great design of the past, and the creation of great design for the future. That mission is made tangible through this collaborative exhibit.

The exhibit is comprised of three parts:

Menokin: Re-imagining A Ruin A visual overview of the history, rehabilitation and future of Menokin.
Menokin: Re-imagining A Ruin
A visual overview of the history, rehabilitation and future of Menokin.
Through Their Eyes: A Photographic Journey Take an artistic journey through the camera lenses of two photographers — Frances Benjamin Johnston and Hullihen Williams Moore. This collection spans over eight decades of Menokin’s history, as well as the changes in technique and the advancements in photo-technology from 1930 to 2014.
Through Their Eyes: A Photographic Journey
Take an artistic journey through the camera lenses of two photographers — Frances Benjamin Johnston and Hullihen Williams Moore. This collection spans over eight decades of Menokin’s history, as well as the changes in technique and the advancements in photo-technology from 1930 to 2014.
Menokin Revealed This exhibition is a curated collection of the imaginations and  visions of the students of architect, Jorge Silvetti, from his 2013 studio course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Menokin Revealed
This exhibition is a curated collection of the imaginations and
visions of the students of architect, Jorge Silvetti, from his 2013 studio course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Exhibit Hours:

Self-guided tours:
Thursday – Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: FREE

Private guided tours are available during other times by appointment. Tours last approximately one hour, and are $10/adults and $5/students.

Own a piece of Menokin. Buy a chance to win this lovely artwork.

At this year’s Menokin Music Festival you will have the chance to win this beautifully framed and signed print of an architectural detail of the house. Photographed by Hullihen Williams Moore, author and photographer of Shenandoah, Views Of Our National Park, this print captures, in minute detail, the organic texture of the materials and craftsmanship that are part of Menokin’s mystique.

framed-print IMG_0039_edited-2













One chance at a win will cost you $10. But feel free to improve your odds! Raffle tickets are available for purchase at the Menokin visitor’s center, and are part of your ticket stub for the Music Festival.


Menokin’s Tenant House

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.

(c) 2013 Hullihen Williams Moore
(c) 2013 Hullihen Williams Moore
Chimney and daffodils
(c) 2013 Hullihen Williams Moore


Killdeer Cam – The Final Episode

Update – July 11, 2013

Having consulted with Mama Killdeer, Alice and I settled on a quiet theme of Gravel with Scattered Leaves for the nursery. With all preparations done, we settled in to wait for the big arrival with Mama and Papa killdeer.

What a busy week we had!

On Monday, there were only three eggs in the nest. I assumed that my worst fear had come true, and a predator had stolen an egg. Both parents were highly agitated and we left them alone with their grief.

On Tuesday, Sarah and I were in Richmond at a meeting. Alice was holding down the fort with a visiting group of about 40 Master Naturalists here for a lecture about bats. Needless to say, the parking lot was buzzing and there were too many cars too close to the nest. But! With three eggs still in the nest, the MN reported that they had spotted a baby following the adults around. Whew. No snake.

On Wednesday, we had two more hatch. And while we never saw all three at one time, I did sit for awhile to watch the toddlers and saw at least two together.

That last egg still lay in the nest, and we wondered if and when it might join the brood. I had parked my car in such a way as to discourage foot and auto traffic from the area.

The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger

By this time, Mama and Papa had gotten pretty used to Alice and me. So when I packed up to leave yesterday evening, Mama was on the nest and didn’t budge when I started loading up my car. Just a few feet from the nest, and with my back to her, I quietly got my camera out of the bag, turned it on and got it all ready to go.

Mama gave me the stink eye, thought about it briefly, and decided she didn’t like it. Off she hopped, with two babies scuttling behind her. In the nest, snuggled together, were #3 AND #4, though at first it was hard to tell them apart. But when #3 ran off to join the family, #4 – obviously freshly hatched – remained in the nest.

Mama scolded from the grass a few yards away, but I did get a few great shots before leaving them alone.


So glad I did, because when I got to work this morning, I was alone. These birds had flown. (Sorry, sometimes I can’t help myself). The nest was empty and there was not a killdeer in sight. What fun we had having them here. Hopefully they’ll nest here again in 2014.

Update – June 26, 2013

Boy, are we ever lucky to have Hullie Moore on the Menokin Board of Trustees. Renowned landscape photographer of the Shenadoah National Park, Hullihen Williams Moore has turned his lens (along with myriad other talents) to Menokin.

Hullie was here for an Education Committee meeting yesterday and I introduced him to Mama and Papa Killdeer. While I stalked the nest, he took these gorgeous shots of their defense and distraction methods.

June 19, 2013

Late last week, I noticed a killdeer sitting in the gravel drive that circles in front of the Menokin Visitor’s Center. She wasn’t doing anything odd, but her stillness and lack of activity caught my attention.

The next morning, Alice and I drove in (same morning as the “turtle sighting“) and she was back. Different spot, but just sitting. I remembered back several years ago when one laid eggs right in the parking lot at Nunnally’s in Warsaw, and commented to Alice that I bet that bird was going to lay some eggs in our driveway.

I approached where she was sitting and she hopped up, scolding and dragging her wing in an effort to lead me away from her spot. Not fooled, I scanned the area closely to see if I could find a nest.


I was out of the office the next morning, but called Alice to check on the situation.  The killdeer was back again, same spot. Much to the bird’s annoyance, Alice approached to see if there was any activity. Eureka! Two eggs. Mama and Papa Killdeer scolded, limped and yelled, but brave Alice took a picture anyway.

Excited as two expecting moms, Alice and I went into supreme protective mode. Alice dragged two old pallets to block the nest from any vehicles and we started picking out names. (Iris and Rosalie.)

Day three, Alice and I were busy discussing nursery colors and preschools. I went outside to look in on our budding family. Hot tempered Mama (or Papa, as I soon learned) – still displeased with the interruptions – revealed a surprise. Another egg! Three! (New name – Susan.)

Iris, Rosalie and Susan
Iris, Rosalie and Susan
A Killdeer nest is a shallow depression scratched into the bare ground, typically 3-3.5 inches across. After egg-laying begins, Killdeer often add rocks, bits of shell, sticks, and trash to the nest. Curiously, these items tend to be light colored, and this tendency was confirmed in one experiment that gave Killdeer the choice between light and dark sticks.

By now, we have hooked Sarah in on the excitement. What in the world will we ever do with triplets? Too anxious to let a day go by without any news, I stopped yesterday to check on my girls. Mama KD rolled her eyes and obligingly hopped off the nest, too used to me by now to make much of a fuss. Or maybe she was tired from her night’s labors. Because where there once were three, are now four.

We are out of names. What will we do?

Thinking that surely we will have hatchlings by week’s end at the speed we are going, we Googled the gestation period of Killdeer eggs. Much to our disappointment, this part of the process is not speedy.

Baby birds that hatch with their running shoes on are called precocial. Precocial means “ripened beforehand.” (The word comes from the same Latin source as “precocious.”) Killdeer babies are precocial. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they start scurrying about, following their parents and searching the ground for something to eat.

And then there were four.
The parent killdeer start sitting on the eggs to incubate them as soon as all the eggs have been laid. The killdeer embryos inside the first-laid three eggs do not start developing while the eggs are sitting out in the cold. But when they feel the warmth of the parent killdeer, all four killdeer embryos start developing at the same time. So even though the first-laid egg spends a longer time in the shell than the last-laid, all the killdeer chicks have the same development period. It takes 24 to 28 days of incubating for the chicks to hatch.

So, while we wait for the babies to come, here are some stunning shots of Mama (or Papa) at work, making sure that we stay far enough away from the eggs.

Plan. Point. Click. Shoot. – Photography Workshop at Menokin

On Saturday afternoon, members of the Rappahannock Art League’s Photography Group gathered at Menokin for an enriching afternoon of philosophy and photography.

Hullie Moore – photographer, thinker, teacher, Menokin Trustee and all-around-great guy – shared his time and expertise with the group. I was unfortunately unable to attend, but I would like to share the email I received from Micki Clay, the Photography Group’s Coordinator and a fabulous photographer in her own rite.

Here is a picture I took of Hullie last year when he and his camera were just beginning their love affair with Menokin.
Here is a picture I took of Hullie last year when he and his camera were just beginning their love affair with Menokin.

We had a marvelous afternoon with Hullie at Menokin yesterday. He packed more truly useful information into his 25-minute talk than any photography presentation I’ve ever seen, and he did it in a witty, warm, and engaging manner. He put us at ease instantly.

He worked with each one of us…encouraging us to use our tripods and sharing his with those who hadn’t brought theirs, pointing out interesting subjects and perspectives, viewing our shots and suggesting composition and setting tweaks to get it just so, gently prodding us to stick with it, so the day would yield one or two really good images instead of a bunch of throwaway snapshots.

I am just starting to put a lot more thought and planning into my photography. It’s a little daunting after years of snapping away, hoping that so much quantity would yield a few quality keepers. But, as Hullie said yesterday, you actually make your own luck, by scouting your subject and figuring out when and how to shoot it before you even pick up your camera. Doing just that with Hullie at Menokin yesterday was a transformative experience.

Thank you again for giving us this exceptional experience,


If you’re photography group is interested in organizing a workshop at Menokin, contact me at lrennolds@menokin.org.

You’re Invited

Menokin Is Hosting A Reception and Show of Entries from the
Menokin Photography Contest

Please join the Menokin staff, contestants, trustees and contest judge Hullihen Williams Moore on the evening of November 30, 2012 from 6 pm until 8 pm for a light wine and cheese reception and the results of the Menokin Photography Contest.

On display will be selected works by Mr. Moore from his collection of Menokin photographs.

There is no fee to attend, but a reservation is required. Please respond to menokin@menokin.org or by calling 804.333.1776 no later than November 26, 2012.

The reception will be held in the Martin Kirwan King Visitor’s Center at Menokin, located at 4037 Menokin Road, Warsaw, VA.

Menokin photography contest deadline extended to November 15

What were we thinking? Having an October 15th submission deadline completely rules out the beautiful fall foliage for the photo contest.

So we have our heads screwed on straight now, and have extended the deadline for submissions to November 15th. The reception will take place on November 30th. All other rules still apply.

Come on by. The property is open, even when the Visitor’s Center is not.