Tag Archives: Preservation

Save The Date – Lime Mortar Workshop at Menokin

March 9-10, 2013
This two-day workshop, led by Wayne Mays, preservation mason from the University of Virginia, will be held on the grounds of historic Menokin in Warsaw, VA.

See pics of 2011 workshop on facebook.

Topics and hands-on techniques will include an introduction to building limes, mortar analysis and mortar matching, mortar making, and wall preparation and pointing techniques. A visit to the Menokin house site will involve discussion on stone/rubble wall construction as well as techniques for grouting large voids in stone walls.

Other topics to be explored include plasters, renders, and coatings – from the different types and installation of lath, to the hands-on application of lime plaster, and the proper materials and methods to use when repairing lath and plaster.

Registration information and course schedule will be issued in early 2013. Please share this post with friends, colleagues, students and fans of historic architecture.

No wild weather for this year’s “Go Wild” event

Yesterday was the 2nd annual “Go Wild” event at the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s Hutchinson Tract in Essex County, VA.

After the cold, windy, rainy day that greeted last year’s eventers, the clear blue October sky and 75+ degree temperatures were a welcome change.

The wind still  had a few tricks up her sleeve, however,  and there were examples of human ingenuity all over the place as exhibitors tried to hold down tents, brochures and displays. My husband Ben, the master of all things rigged, “Bengineered” this bungee bracing system to keep the Menokin display board upright and in place.

I was there representing Menokin, and informing visitors about our nature trails and waterfront on Cat Point Creek, and explaining that 300 of our 500 acres are, in fact, part of the refuge.

There were all kinds of exhibitors on hand – from Native Plants Societies, Master Naturalist and Oyster Gardeners, to bluebird house building, reforestation surveyors and wildlife rehabilitation experts.

Our booth was next door to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, where their educator and handler, Rayna, brought out a series of rehabilitated birds to share with the public. You can find out these birds stories on their website.

Grayson, a broad-winged hawk, gave me the stare down.
Edie, an American Kestrel, is very comfortable with humans.

The Raptor Society of Virginia was also on hand with a few of their birds. This little screech owl won me over with her big green eyes and haughty, knowing air.

Fire, an Eastern screech owl

Congressman Rob Whitman spoke briefly, after being introduced by Refuge Administrator Andy Hoffman and RRVNWR Friends President, Anne Graziano.

Rob Whitman addressed the crowd
Andy Hoffman and Anne Graziano both spoke

Field Trip: The Menokin Girls Head to D.C.

Last week the Menokin Staff took a field trip into Washington, DC. The primary reason for our trip was to visit the National Building Museum. Our goal was to research their exhibits and come away with ideas for our Visitor’s Center and collection.

If you’ve never been to the National Building Museum, you might drive right past it. Looking suspiciously like a federal administration building, it was, in fact, constructed between 1882 and 1887,  for the purpose of serving as a fireproof headquarters of the U.S. Pension Bureau’s headquarters. In 1997, the historic building was officially renamed the National Building Museum.

However, it is anything but ordinary.

The interior of the building is dominated by a grand central space, the Great Hall. Measuring 116 x 316 feet, the Great Hall features a central fountain and is divided into three courts by two screens of four colossal Corinthian columns—among the tallest classical columns in the world.

As hard as it was to drag ourselves away from the grandeur of the Great Hall, our first stop, the House & Home Exhibit, was well worth it. This “kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes us on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to be at home in America.” We came away from the exhibit with brains churning with ideas of how to use and display our unique collection of construction artifacts here at Menokin.

After a quick lunch in Chinatown (just a few blocks away), we headed up to President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home three miles north of downtown. Founded in 1851 as a home for retired and disabled veterans of American wars, the Soldiers’ Home stands on 276 acres atop the third highest area in the District of Columbia.

The tour focuses largely on the time that Lincoln spent at the Cottage during his presidency. The story is told by a tour guide in a friendly, conversational manor, with lots of questions directed at the audience.  The house itself is very stark. Little or no furnishings occupy the large rooms. There is not a great sense of the people that lived there, but the use of recorded actors recounting stories, reading letters and holding conversations in each room does lend insight to the kind of life that the Lincolns had there.

Both places are well worth the visit.

America: First Impressions

Native American Settlement

Before the Menokin plantation was ever developed, this area along Cat Point Creek (also called Rappahannock Creek) was home to the Rappahannock Indian Tribe. In 1608, Capt. John Smith recorded 14 Rappahannock towns on the north side of the River and its tributaries. The general plantation site was referred to as “Menokin” by the Rappahannock, which likely translates to “He gives it to me” in the tribe’s Algonquian-based language. Francis Lightfoot Lee kept the name for his home. For more information on the Rappahannock Tribe, visit http://www.rappahannocktribe.org.

Great Stories

John Smith was one of the foremost leaders of early Jamestown.  He’d had an interesting life before that, one which influenced the direction of this country and (as I seem to be constantly promising) which will be explored later in this blog.  He was a controversial but effective leader in the settlement’s first years, and when health problems and an injury prompted his return to England in 1609, he spent his time working for the colony from there, promoting it and encouraging people to move there.

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Localism and Place Identity

This quote from The Actual Proposal struck a chord with me. It seems to aptly illustrate the lifestyle of the Northern Neck – that of the Lees and Tayloes, and even of the residents today.

Image of Menokin from the Robert A Lancaster Collection Circa 1880

In the daze of overwhelming mobility perhaps architects should wonder: what’s wrong with standing still?  Poet, essayist, and farmer, Wendell E. Berry, shares a similar sentiment in remembering his grandfather:

“My grandfather, on the contrary, and despite his life’s persistent theme of hardship, took a great and present delight in the modest good that was at hand: in his place and his affection for it, in its pastures, animals, and crops, in favourable weather.

He did not participate in the least in what we call “mobility.” He died, after eighty-two years, in the same spot he was born in. He was probably in his sixties when he made the one longish trip of his life. He went with my father southward across Kentucky and into Tennessee. On their return, my father asked him what he thought of their journey. He replied: “Well, sir, I’ve looked with all the eyes I’ve got, and I wouldn’t trade the field behind my barn for every inch I’ve seen.”

In such modest joy in a modest holding is the promise of a stable, democratic society, a promise not to be found in “mobility”: our forlorn modern progress toward something indefinitely, and often unrealizably, better. A principled dissatisfaction with whatever one has promises nothing or worse.”

Tobacco Rolling Roads

There is much evidence at Menokin of human impact on the land. The example below demonstrates that there were tobacco rolling roads on the Menokin plantation. These roads allowed for barrels filled with tobacco to be easily transported to the river. After these barrels were rolled down these roads to Cat Point Creek, they were shipped off to be sold in various markets.

 

These tobacco rolling roads were built to hasten the process of transporting tobacco and further the success of the plantation.  The enslaved men and women at Menokin most likely dug these roads, evidence of which you now see today.

The landscape holds traces of history everywhere. These rolling roads demonstrate that the actions of people centuries ago are still with us today. Even though the forest looks wild, upon closer look you can see the imprint of Frank’s decisions and the labor of slaves.

These tobacco rolling roads helped advance the commercial interests of Menokin. Can you see how people use land today to enhance one’s business? What other ways do people impact and distort the land?

Trees of Menokin

Are you sad the cherry blossoms are no longer in bloom? Do you still need that tree fix?! At Menokin, there are an abundance of tree species to see. In fact, you can download our tree guide and learn about over 30 species of trees while enjoying a nice walk on our nature trail. Bring some friends and your dog and experience these natural wonders!

First, let’s test your tree knowledge! Do you know what tree this is? (Hint: it is the Virginia state tree)

It’s a flowering dogwood tree (Cornus Florida)! Actually, the white or pink “flowers” of the flowing dogwood tree are bracts, or specialized leaves, that surround a cluster of tiny yellowish flowers. The dogwood tree is beautiful all year round.  The white or pink “flowers” that bloom in the spring give way to bright, red leaves in the fall. The flowering dogwood is abundant in the Eastern United States. [1]

Can you name this tree?

It’s a Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron Tulipfera)! The tulip poplar is one of the largest of the native trees to the Eastern seaboard. Native Americans and colonists used these trees to make canoes.  It could be that the Rappahannocks, who lived on Cat Point Creek, could have used some of Menokin’s tulip poplars to build some canoes! [2]

Another tree you can see at Menokin is a Devil’s Walkingstick. Can you tell us how this tree got such a spooky name?!

——
Notes:
[1] “State Trees and State Flowers,” The United States National Arboretum
[2] “Tulip-tree, Tuliptree Magnolia, Tulip Poplar, Yellow Poplar,” The Floral Genome Project

The Locket

In 2009, archaeologists found a beautiful locket in the Menokin house ruin.  This cameo locket portrays the image of a woman.  Who did this locket belong to? Who is this woman?  A 1794 letter from Frank’s brother, William, may just be the key to unlocking this mystery!

In 1785, two years after the death of his wife, Hannah, William Lee sent his two daughters, Portia and Cornelia, to live at Menokin with Uncle Frank and Aunt Becky.  Hannah Lee thought it important that her daughters grow up in Virginia. William wrote to family friends in London, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Thorp, to further explain the desire for his daughters to grow up in Virginia. He writes, “[H]owever superior English education may be to what can be obtained here[,] yet the manners & customs of the ladies in England are so extremely different from the ladies here [in Virginia] that I never knew an instance of a young lady educated in England who could live happily here.”

He also wrote to the Thorpes requesting a momento by which Portia and Cornelia could remember them.  He writes, “Our dear girls at Menokin are so importunate to have a miniature picture for each of them of your self & good Mrs. Thorp…have them set in gold to wear as bracelets…or a locket…the form should be rather a long than a round oval not too sharp at the ends…”

Could this be Mrs. Thorp on the locket?  Did it once adorn the neck or wrist of young Portia or Cornelia Lee?

We hope to answer these questions with further research. In the meantime, tell us what you think and check back at Menokin Monitor for updates on this locket and other objects at Menokin.

We’d like to thank the Virginia Chapter of the Colonial Dames whose generous grant helped stabilize the locket.  The locket is on display in Menokin’s Visitor’s Center.

Architecture Firm Chosen To Lead The Menokin Project Team

We have chosen the architecture firm of Machado and Silvetti Associates, LLC to lead an interdisciplinary team in the planning and design of the Menokin Project. We are certain that Machado and Silvetti will implement our vision to present Menokin through its many parts and pieces rather than through a traditional reconstruction. Further, this renowned firm will help our Foundation realize its goal to become an internationally recognized learning center for heritage and natural resource conservation through innovative practices and technology.

Our glass house project is an innovative and groundbreaking approach to historical preservation.  We will not restore the house to how it looked in the late 1700s, but instead recreate the missing parts of the house by using glass.

After the loose pieces of the house were removed and categorized,  we  were faced with the challenge of stabilizing and preserving the house, while at the same time furthering the public’s understanding of how the house was built and the historic make-up of the house. We wanted the ruins to be a safe place where people could learn and discover. The glass concept allows visitors to see the inner workings of the architectural structure  of the house, while also allowing visitors to envision what the house looked like at its prime.  Menokin, through this project, fulfills its aim to interpret Francis Lightfoot Lee’s life as well as further current knowledge of architecture, archaeology, and preservation.

Machado and Silvetti, headquartered in Boston, is best known for its contemporary designs that are attached to historic settings. The firm is one of the few practices in the United States that specializes in merging innovative and contemporary agendas with historic structures and contexts. A recent project includes designing a research and exhibition center within a historic landmark fort in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

We are confident Machado and Silvetti will further our aims to be an innovative and internationally renowned education center. Construction on the glass house is projected to begin in 2015. We will continue to post updates on the glass house project at Menokin. We welcome any comments or questions!