Tag Archives: Mount Airy

Moving the Stones – Preconstruction Work Summer 2015

By Guest Blogger  Catherine Emery

(For Part I of this Series, follow this link.)

PART II  After two weeks sorting through stones, tagging them and recording their findings, Menokin’s summer interns were ready to get outside and in the field.

With life-sized print outs of Menokin’s HABS drawings delivered and spread out in the yard, Bethany, Sarah and Chris spent two days with architect Nakita Reed and a contractor moving stones onto the drawings.

It was an evolving process, which is to say it wasn’t quite as straightforward as it seemed on paper. Of course, nothing worth doing ever is. The team had the help of a small front loader and were tasked with placing stones that weigh hundreds of pounds the right direction and within the lines of the drawings. Halfway through the day with many of the pieces in place, it was still hard to visualize how it would all come together.

“I don’t know what I thought it would look like,” said puzzled intern Sarah Rogers, “but I’m not sure this is it.”

By the end of day one, though, there was a clear sense of accomplishment and the hard work had paid off. Entire pieces of each elevation had been laid out in stone, giving everyone a clear view of how useful the endeavor would be.

The life size HABS drawings will benefit future contractors, who will be tasked with putting some of the pieces of the Menokin ruin back together. Additionally, the drawings give meaning and purpose to Menokin’s rock yard. Now, visitors to the site can see where all those stones go and how they fit into the larger scope of work at Menokin.

For Sarah, Bethany and Chris, the four-week internship went by fast. They provided an invaluable service to Menokin and in return all expressed deep gratitude for their time there.

Of her time on site Bethany Emenhiser said, “I learned that things don’t always work out in the field the way they look on paper. I learned how fun and important it is to do field work because you learn to be flexible. Menokin was a great place to learn that.”

Menokin 2015 Speaker Series Off To A Great Start

Neither rain, nor cold, nor dark of night can keep a history-loving crowd from its appointed rounds.

That was the case last Friday evening when an overflow assembly of 120 people gathered at Rappahannock Community College’s Warsaw campus to here Dr. Richard S. Dunn speak about his recently published book, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia.

Earlier that afternoon, some of Menokin’s Trustees were on hand to greet Dr. Dunn and his family as they arrived from a previous engagement in Charlottesville. Sarah Pope, Executive Director, made a brief presentation about Menokin and it’s revolutionary preservation plan to conserve and interpret this National Historic Landmark.

Guests, staff and trustees mingled with the Dunns, giving them a taste of Northern Neck hospitality, and some personal insights into the Glass House Project.

Then it was off to RCC. People came from far and near to attend the lecture. With space at a premium, many arrived early to get a good spot. The auditorium was full to capacity, with an overflow room taking those who were unable to make reservations.

The lecture wrapped up with a Q&A from the audience and a book signing.

Guests then attended a lovely reception hosted by Catherine and Tayloe Emery at nearby Mount Airy. Because Mount Airy and owner John Tayloe III were a focus of the book, it felt most appropriate for attendees to gather there to engage and be inspired.

The lecture was video-taped and I’ll be sure to post a link to you tube as soon as it’s ready to share.

Find out about upcoming events in the Menokin Speaker Series.


Book Talk: A Tale of Two Plantations

The Menokin Foundation and Mount Airy bring Historian Richard S. Dunn to the Northern Neck

Friday, March 20, 2015

3:30 – 5:00
(Copies will be available for purchase)
Rappahannock Community College
Auditorium, Room W122
52 Campus Drive, Warsaw, VA

5:00 to 7:00
Mount Airy
Mill Pond Road, Warsaw VA

Seating is limited to 100. To ensure a space, please RSVP to menokin@menokin.org no later than March 16, 2015. If you need to cancel your reservation please let us know ASAP so that we may offer your space to another guest.

About The Book

A Tale of Two PlantationsA Tale of Two Plantations, a book the New York Times calls “a substantial achievement,” is the culmination of over 30 years of research and describes the differences between the slave societies in the Caribbean and in North America.  Dunn compares the lives of enslaved peoples on two massive plantations—Mount Airy in Warsaw, Virginia, and Mesopotamia in Jamaica—and tracks the slave populations on the two plantations in minute detail.  At Mount Airy, Dunn focuses primarily on those slaves owned by John Tayloe III, and then his son, William Henry Tayloe, from about 1809 up to the Civil War.  An accompanying web site to the book presents mini-biographies of 351 members of four big Mount Airy slave families, including 141 people listed in the 1870 U.S. census.  Mr. Dunn plans to emphasize that part of his research in the talk to our Northern Neck audience.

About the Author

Richard S. DunnRichard S. Dunn is Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor Emeritus of American History at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his publications are Sugar and Slaves in 1972; The Papers of William Penn, edited with Mary Maples Dunn, in four volumes published in 1981–1987; and The Journal of John Winthrop, edited with Laetitia Yeandle, published in 1996. He also designed the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and was its founding director.

Co-sponsored By:
A.T. Johnson High School Alumni Association
Essex Public Library Friends
Essex County Museum and Historical Society
Middle Peninsula African-American Genealogical and Historical Society
Northern Neck/Middle Peninsula Preservation Society
Northern Neck of Virginia Historical  Society
Northumberland County Historical  Society
Rappahannock Community College
Richmond County Library
Richmond County Museum

Menokin’s Original Presentation Drawing

The Foundation recently purchased a high resolution copy of the original presentation drawing for Menokin from the Virginia Historical Society.

This beautiful image is so well scanned that you can see the creases in the paper, and clearly make out the handsome handwriting outlining the intended use for each room. Though the drawing is not signed, handwriting analysis suggests that John Tayloe II was its creator.

Pen and Ink Plan for Menokin c. 1769. Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.
Pen and Ink Plan for Menokin c. 1769. Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

The story of how this drawing came to be the property of the VHS is an interesting one. An collection of oral history events surrounding Menokin, that was created in the Foundation’s early years, tells the story like this:

On that same day in 1964 that the last of three maiden Tayloe aunts moved out of Mt. Airy, Polly Montague Tayloe moved in. Because her husband, Colonel H. Gwynne Tayloe, Jr., was stationed at Fort Monroe, she was alone in the great stone house, the home of Rebecca Tayloe Lee before her marriage, nearly 200 years earlier.

Without immediate neighbors, and not yet knowing the people of Warsaw, Mrs. Tayloe spent her days in the relative warmth of the dining room sorting Tayloe papers into three wicker clothesbaskets. The first basket held piles of papers from cabinets beneath window seats. The second and third were for things to keep and things to discard.

“They had every letter in the world,” said Mrs. Tayloe. “I thought most of it was important enough to keep. I found the bill for the church communion service. It was 100 years old.”

What she found as well was the original 1769 presentation  drawing of Menokin, prepared not as a blueprint, but as an appealing pen-and-ink illustration of the proposed finished residence. Although Mrs. Tayloe had never seen Menokin, she was aware of its existence and recognized the drawing immediately by its similarity to the wings at Mount Airy.

Subsequently, after finding a trunk filled with more family papers, she phone John Jennings, then Executive Director of the Virginia Historical Society, to see if he’d like to visit some day to peruse the collection. He arrived one hour later.

“I showed him the Menokin drawing,” said Mrs. Tayloe, “and he nearly fell over.” He took that and other family papers back to the Historical Society. “There were 52,000 pieces in all,” said Mrs. Tayloe, “and some were dated in the 1600s.”

“The odds of locating that drawing were a million to one,” said Taliaferro (Harry “Tuck” Taliaferro III, founding Menokin Trustee and current Honorary Trustee). “Mount Airy was gutted by fire in the 19th century. When Mrs. Tayloe found the drawing, people flipped.”

It is one of the only original presentation drawing from colonial Virginia to survive.

Snow day at Menokin

There’s nothing better than waking up really early to find school closings rolling across the tv screen and a ghostly white landscape glowing in the predawn darkness.

After rolling over and falling into a snow day sleep-in coma, I woke up with a desire to see Menokin in the snow. Never one to shy away from an adventure, my husband was easily convinced to chauffeur me across the river to collect my laptop and shoot some pictures.

I never tire of the beauty of the Northern Neck landscape. I hope you agree.


Mill Pond Road
Mill Pond Road
Mount Airy mill pond.
Mount Airy mill pond.
Mount Airy mill pond.
Mount Airy mill pond.
Snowy lane into Menokin.
Snowy lane into Menokin.


Blow winds, blow.
Blow winds, blow.
My daughter is happy to be out of school for the day.
My daughter is happy to be out of school for the day.

web_DSCN3612 web_DSCN3613 web_DSCN3615

Another Northern Neck farm.
Another Northern Neck farm.


Meet The Family

The current issue of Virginia Living has an article about the magnificent colonial plantation home, Mount Airy. This 18th-century architectural masterpiece was the girlhood home of Rebecca Tayloe Lee, wife of Francis Lightfoot Lee of Menokin.

In fact, the Menokin property was once part of the estate of John Tayloe II, who carved out 1,000 acres and financed the building of Menokin as a wedding gift for Frank and Becky.

These exquisite photographs by Roger Foley give you a peak into the genteel lifestyle of the Mount Airy residents. The article offers poignant insight into the nature of living in – and caring for – an iconic family home.

Here is a link to the article in Virginia Living.

These 10th generation great nephews of Rebecca Tayloe Lee are playing, living and growing in the same house where she grew up.
You can almost feel the breeze wafting through the great hall of Mount Airy.
Moose has gone to heaven, but lived a heavenly life at Mount Airy alongside his statuary brethren.