If woodwork could talk, the Menokin collection could write a novel.
Menokin Trustee, Calder Loth and former Development Director of the APVA (now Preservation Virginia) Richard Rennolds (my brother-in-law) were instrumental in gaining stewardship of the woodwork upon locating it in the possession of Edgar Omohundro, the final surviving owner of Menokin, who had removed it for safekeeping.
The peanut barn at Bacon’s Castle sheltered Menokin’s paneling from the weather for several decades, until it returned home in the early 21st century. The location was chosen because the aforementioned Richard Rennolds had lived at Bacon’s Castle for a number of years as an APVA employee and was able to make the arrangements.
So, a visit to Bacon’s Castle has long been on my bucket list, as well as the “Must See” list of the intrepid ladies of Menokin. Fortunately for me (not so much for the other ladies) I was finally able to make the trip, as it coincided with a Mother’s Day trip to Williamsburg.
The ferry ride across the James from Jamestown to Surry County hasn’t changed all that much in the 30+ years since my last ride as a college student. The boats are bigger and there a few more of them, but the lines are still long and the view is still spectacular.
Everyone has their version of a ghost story, as Bacon’s Castle is known to be haunted. Even my husband chimed in with a few from the nights he had spent there with his brother’s family. Luckily no hairs were raised on this visit. But the winding stairwell from the first floor to the garret rooms on the top floor ended in bloodstained floorboards that always reappeared despite vigorous scrubbing. The boards have been replaced, much to my husband’s disappointment.
None of the furnishings are original but there are some period pieces that were curated from England to help tell the story of the house and its inhabitants.
The brick work and carved paneling are original and ornate. The removal of paint layers revealed children’s drawings on the wall of the what is now affectionately referred to as the “graffiti room.”
This compass rose motif (pictured below) was in the center of exposed beams that frame the ceiling in more than one of the main level rooms of the house.
Several original outbuildings still stand in varying degrees of decay, including some storage barns, a slave cabin and a smoke house. The organic, weathered fabric matches the feel of property and the area, which has weathered many centuries of hard use and neglect. Like Menokin, the exposed structural elements lend authenticity and character to the visitor experience.
I am so glad that I was finally able to tour this remarkable place and I encourage you to add it to your own bucket list of historic sites to visit. I can’t say that it’s on your way from anywhere to anywhere, but it’s certainly worth the detour.