Thank you to everyone who has touched, or been touched by, Menokin in some way in 2017. We have had a remarkable year of growth and planning. Our programs are reaching more people than ever and we experienced a record number of visitors.
Now, during this season of celebration, it’s important to pause for quiet and mindfulness. Take a different path. Appreciate the timeless workings of nature transitioning to another season.
We offer you the gift of Menokin. It’s all here waiting for you. The road less traveled by.
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.”
We’re bringing the Menokin story to the Hampton Roads area with our traveling exhibit of Menokin landscape photographs by our own Hullie Moore and Frances Benjamin Johnston. The exhibit is up now at the Botetourt Gallery of William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library and runs through October 2. Please be sure to check it out!
The exhibit and our portrait of Francis Lightfoot Lee hang in Swem Library’s Botetourt Gallery near the 18th century statute of Lord Botetourt himself. I think Frank Lee would be pleased to hold court with Botetourt.
This is what he wrote to William Lee in July of 1770:
“Lord Botetourt, in the opinion of every body is a polite, agreeable man, & it is probable from his universal character that we shou’d be very happy in a Governor, if it was not for our unhappy dispute with G. Britain in which he must no doubt think & act with the ministry, indeed he honestly says so, & from what little he speaks about it, it appears the ministry are determin’d to enforce.”
Lord Botetourt died only three months later and was replaced by Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s last royal governor (the Lee brothers were no fans of Dunmore to say the least).
Sometime in the late 1960s, Menokin’s owner Edgar Omohundro removed all of the interior paneling from the house in an effort to save it from destruction, theft and vandalism. Since that time, this exquisite woodwork, hand-carved from long-leaf pine, has made a remarkable journey and has a fascinating story to tell.
After being stored for a time in a shed belonging to Mr. Omohundro, the woodwork eventually came under the stewardship of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) and was moved to a barn at Bacon’s Castle in Surry County for safekeeping.
In 1996, Menokin’s dining room woodwork was treated, cleaned and installed on long-term loan at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) as part of The Story of Virginia exhibit. Detailed drawings of each piece were created, along with measurements and notes about condition.
The relationship between VHS and Menokin has remained strong over the decades. Menokin has had the privilege of hosting several lectures and events in their Richmond facility and its exposure to a large number of visitors through the Story of Virginia exhibit has been invaluable in bringing the Foundation’s story to a larger audience.
In 2012, the VHS began making plans to redesign its exhibit. Menokin was notified that if we desired a return of the loaned paneling, now was the time to begin that process. The decision was made to bring the Dining Room home to the Martin Kirwan King Visitors Center.
VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT KIRWAN KING is no stranger to hard work. And for that, The Menokin Foundation staff is eternally grateful. Kirwan has volunteered countless hours planning, building, and moving the new shelving units that now hold Menokin’s woodwork.
The intrepid Menokin “Staff of Ladies”, bolstered by a group of tireless volunteers, shifted furniture, ordered, installed and built shelving, and rearranged the current collection, making room for the returning paneling.
And on a stormy day in February of 2014, the Dining Room woodwork came home to Menokin.
The entire woodwork collection is now together once again at the Visitors Center. Some pieces are earmarked for an eventual return to the house. These remarkable artifacts are available for everyone to learn from and enjoy.
An Exhibition of the Harvard Graduate School of Design Projects at the Virginia Center for Architecture
In the spring of 2013, architecture professor Jorge Silvetti led twelve Harvard Graduate School of Design students through an exploration of the complex design and interpretive questions surrounding the c. 1769 Menokin site.
Discover the students’ innovative solutions for the evocative crumbling ruins and surrounding landscape at this 500-acre site in Virginia’s Northern Neck.
This exhibit will feature images of the final concept presentations of the students of the spring studio course. Curated by Jorge Silvetti, the show will feature graphics designed by Carmine D’Alessandro and custom exhibit panels designed and produced by Forrest French.
Visitors will be introduced to the exhibition with an overview of The Menokin Project, putting the work of the students into context of the revolutionary thinking that Menokin inspires. It’s easy to understand that inspiration when reading the observations of the students during their time here…
Bios of the students and descriptions of the Design Program at Harvard in which they participate will also be highlighted.
I received a text from Sarah on my way to work this morning that said – and I quote – “There is something here that’s going to make your day. Hurry up and get here.”
What could it be? I immediately started making a wish list in my head:
A new puppy (for Sarah, not me)
A million dollar donation
A national award for best blogger
Since I was almost already at work, I didn’t have much time to keep adding to the list, but you get the gist. However, what was here was better than all of those things (except maybe #3) and will warm the hearts of baby boomers everywhere.
Amazing, right? By now, you’re probably wondering how in the world Timmy (aka Jon Provost) had ever even heard of Sarah and me, not to mention the Menokin Glass House Project he references in his autographs to us.
Believe it or not, Jon’s nephew, Alexander Jacobson, was one of the Harvard Graduate Students who interned for Machado and Silvetti Associates this summer, and was one of the co-producers of the architectural model of The Menokin Project. During his visit here in July with Carmine D’Alessandro to deliver the model to us, we learned that Alex was from California, near Hollywood. During our interrogation into whether or not he knows anyone famous, Alex revealed to us that his uncle, Jon Provost, played Timmy in the television series Lassie.
Who would have ever thought that this innocent conversation would lead to the thrill of receiving these beautiful autographed photos?
Lassie has come home to Menokin, and she and Timmy are now honorary members of The Menokin Canine Corps. A happy ending indeed.
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.
Well, officially we’re not IN the glass house yet. But it is certainly in us, as well as within a dedicated group of supporters and friends who came to the official Menokin Project Model unveiling party on Friday, October 4th.
Menokin Trustees and staff, Union First Market Bank Officers and Board Members, and guests, gathered on the lawn at the house site to celebrate the arrival of the model in style.
Designed and fabricated by Machado and Silvetti Associates, LLC, the model will play a significant role in teaching about, and raising money for, the strategic rehabilitation of this National Historic Landmark.