Tag Archives: Virginia Attractions

Menokin’s Partnership With VMFA Brings New Programs And Learning Opportunities To The Area

The Menokin Foundation is pleased to announce that is has become a statewide community partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The partnership program is open to independent, organized, and permanently established non-profit institutions in Virginia that maintain open membership, have a mission that is educational or aesthetic in purpose, and provide open access to programs and exhibitions provided by VMFA.

The Menokin Foundation is thrilled to be able to bring VMFA programs, speakers, and exhibits to the residents of the Northern Neck,” stated Alice French, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Menokin. “Along with many other new programs being hosted at Menokin this year, the VMFA programs will kick off this summer with a very special speaker, Jeffrey Allison.

Allison, photography historian and Manager of Statewide Programs and Exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, is also the Paul Mellon Collection Educator and Manager for VMFA and a professional photographer.

In his lecture, Chasing the Illusive Image: The Origins, Identification, and Care of Antique Photographs, Allison will discuss the history of photography and how to identify and care for the various types of old photographs in your own collection. He will also share information on how to determine the year a photograph was made and share examples of historic photographic processes.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own photographs to share with Mr. Allison and other attendees. You’ll leave this interactive session with a sound basis on how to identify photographs using information provided in handouts, reference websites and book titles used by Allison in his work with the VMFA.

There is a $10 per person fee to attend and registration is strongly encouraged. You may purchase tickets in advance at www.menokin.org/events or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/menokin or you may pay at the door. This program will take place on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm at the Menokin Visitor’s Center.

Additional programs scheduled in 2014 include:

Digital Story Telling with a Camera, taught by artist and educator, Stacey Evans – July 20, 2014. Participants will illustrate a fictional narrative using photographic imagery. This workshop is part of the teacher recertification series that is offered through Rappahannock Community College. Contact Harriet Dawson at RCC to enroll. 804-758-6755 or HDAWSON@rappahannock.edu.
Digital Story Telling with a Camera, taught by artist and educator, Stacey Evans – July 20, 2014. Participants will illustrate a fictional narrative using photographic imagery. This workshop is part of the teacher recertification series that is offered through Rappahannock Community College. Contact Harriet Dawson at RCC to enroll. 804-758-6755 or HDAWSON@rappahannock.edu.






 Environmental Art Installation with artist and psychotherapist, James Yates – September 20, 2014.  Yates will work with local high school students to create an onsite installation that heightens awareness and appreciation of the environment.  

Environmental Art Installation with artist and psychotherapist, James Yates – September 20, 2014.  Yates will work with local high school students to create an onsite installation that heightens awareness and appreciation of the environment.

Menokin plans to utilize this partnership with the VMFA to develop programs that will bring a level of fine art and exhibits to the communities of the Northern Neck and surrounding counties,” stated Executive Director, Sarah Pope. “The Menokin house will be an exhibit itself, as well as an exhibit space. Historic, modern and interpretive installations will provide arts, education and inspiration to visitors and artists alike.

For more information on these and other programs, please visit us online at www.menokin.org, or in person at 4037 Menokin Road, Warsaw, VA 22572

Virginia’s Favorite Architecture

It is November, after all. So I don’t feel so bad begging for your votes again for Menokin.

Click on the image to vote for Menokin as  your favorite.
Click on the image to vote for Menokin as your favorite.

Architecture is a very public art form, but is also highly personal. We use the built world to describe and anchor some of the most important events in our lives. It shapes our lives and reveals our history.

The structures featured in this survey were nominated by architects throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia on the occasion of the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects’ (VSAIA) 100th anniversary. The 250 works of architecture — buildings, bridges, monuments, and memorials — in this survey represent some of the best of Virginia’s rich architectural heritage. We encourage you to select your favorites based on design, symbols of innovation, spirit of your community and Virginia. More importantly, select structures that hold a special place in your heart and mind.

Once the votes are tallied, the Virginia Center for Architecture will release the top 100 structures — Virginia’s Favorite Architecture. These favorites will then be featured in an exhibition at the Center. In addition, through the compilation and timely release of a year-long series of top ten lists, we’ll use structures to tell the story of the Commonwealth and the citizens that built it and inhabit it today.


The Menokin Glass House: A Revolutionary Project

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.

Women in historic preservation

In late September, three women from the National Trust for Historic Preservation paid a visit to Menokin.

Organized by Menokin’s old friend, Katherine Malone-France, formerly of Oak Grove Restoration and currently the Director of Outreach, Education & Support, Historic Sites Department of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the visit included the following members of the Trust’s technical support team:

  • Ashley Wilson, Graham Gund Architect
    Chief Architect in the Sites Department
  • Rebecca Buntrock, Silman Preservation Engineering Fellow
  • Helena Trueeck, an intern who is developing a teacher institute about deconstruction plantation myths

They were all smart, energized and informed and I was so impressed with the combined knowledge and enthusiasm of the group. It was exciting to see young women crawling around old buildings and knowing as much about construction and engineering as any man! What great role models for that next generation of enthusiasts that we hope to attract.

I wrote to them after their visit and asked them reflect on their visit: why they came, what their expectations were, what their experiences here were, and what they left with.

In true Emily Post fashion, I got the following reply, complete with images, which I now share with you. We hope that you can take this spark of enthusiasm about The Menokin Project and fan it into a flame for yourselves and your friends and colleagues.

In their own words…

Rebecca Buntrock

“Before coming to Menokin, I had looked through the renderings for the proposed glass-house structure around the existing ruin. As a preservation engineer, I was very intrigued by this concept but until I saw the site I didn’t fully grasp its potential, which soon became clear.

To me, the structure is much more about architecture, exploration, and the experience of seeing a building deconstructed, than it is about the history of Francis Lightfoot Lee. I loved the “tree-house” feel of the wood stairs snaking through what’s left of the building, and the chance to physically see and touch the structure. It’s also a great story regarding how documentation of the building saved part of its history.

If the Machado-Silvetti design is realized, it will serve as the ultimate case-study in architectural innovation, beyond just breaking the mold of the traditional historic house museum. It literally has every component of design challenge, from stabilization of the ruins, to working within an existing building and the construction of a new glass shell. This should be presented at conferences and written about in technical journals, to gain publicity within the industry. It will likely become a “pilgrimage site” for design professionals with the big names on the design team, in particular Eckersley O’Callaghan as the glass consultants.

But the site is also appealing to a much larger audience – people are always very interested in seeing the building components, even if they aren’t architects or engineers. This often seems to be most popular part of many historic sites. There are presently brick and stucco construction mock-ups and classes held in one of the warehouses. It would be great to include the building trades, perhaps in the form of a field school, as part of the site’s development. Katherine and I also discussed possibly starting small, with a mock-up of the proposed curtain wall and steel armature, so people could see the proposed system, and the design team could begin to analyze how it’s going to work. Perhaps a curtain wall manufacturer with a proprietary system would be willing to donate money or materials for this effort.

I left the site thinking about my architecturally-inclined friends that would enjoy seeing the site, and considering when I’d come back. I look forward to seeing where the future leads for this site. I did a blog post on it: http://preservationframeofmind.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/menokin/

Helena Treeck

“Before my visit to Menokin I had familiarized myself with the project through the website and the presentation that includes ideas and renderings of what Menokin will look like after its transformation. However, when I arrived at the site I was expecting to see 2 houses: the one I had seen in the renderings and pictures and one that is used in the logo. I learned soon that there was only one house: The charming ruins from the spectacular renderings. Another reason I came to Menokin was that I had been told that it daringly challenges the traditional house museum form that we are so used to when visiting plantation house museums. This prospect was quite intriguing to me as I am currently working on a project for which I have looked at different plantation museums across the American South.

Menokin is indeed a breath of fresh air. The staff, Sarah and Leslie, are passionate about their idea of preserving the ruin and juxtaposing it with extremely modern architecture. A concept that presents itself to a multitude of ways to interpret this site: The open steel and glass structure that will preserve the ruin will allow the visitor to see preservation in action, take a look right at the guts of the house and be inside and outside at the same time. The experience of being inside this former “big house” can be recreated while conserving the innate charm of its ruin.

As a visitor it is exciting to see the structure of the place and be wandering through it on a little adventure. The building concept is nothing short of brilliant. Little sections that are covered in Plexiglas on one side of the building already give a great idea of what the finished product might look like. The finished location could be used for lectures on history, architecture, engineering, or it could hosts weddings, wine tastings, and classical concert. But, the vision of this dynamic staff duo does not stop at the big house.

An education nature path leading down to Rappahannock Creek is already equipped with signs explaining the different plants growing on the property. Their idea is to reanimate the Creek which, once upon a time, was the local highway. Sarah and Leslie envision a pier to walk into the lake, a canoe rental by the lake, and have a general concept to integrate the local community. Maybe one day guests will arrive at Menokin the old way, from the Creek site on a little boat.

One might at first think that Menokin is just another ruin, but Sarah’s and Leslie’s energy and enthusiasm can activate anybody’s imagination to see the vast potential of Menokin and its whole grounds.

Find out how Menokin is rattling the chains of traditional house museum preservation and conservation.


Preservation and Place

The National Trust for Historic Preservation released this announcement of their receiving a grant to support an initiative to increase visitor engagement at historic house museums. You can read the press release here: National Trust Initiative to Innovate House Museum Model.

Some of my first museum memories are from historic house museums, they are what some call sticky memories. I don’t remember the whole day, but I remember the red exterior of Gilbert Stuart Birthplace, the amazing elevator in Gillette Castle, the opulence of Rosecliff Mansion (okay, so at least the last two aren’t so house-y, but they followed the model at least back then, and they were houses to some people). I was between 6 and 9 when I went to these places, and that I at least remember some facet of them 20 years later means that those running the museums and leading the tours are…

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Birds Come Out to Model at George Washington’s Birthplace


On Monday, June 4th, a group of fourteen bird enthusiasts gathered at George Washington Birthplace National Monument for a bird walk led by author and wildlife expert, Joe LaFleur.  LaFleur holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology and a master’s degree in communication from Colorado State University.  For the past twenty years he has been collecting bird footage of the calls of various bird breeds.  The past month, he has been touring the east coast, leading bird walks at various parks along the way to help generate an interest in bird watching.

He started the tour with an audio-visual presentation of bird breeds that are prevalent in the Tidewater area and thus might possibly be spotted on the walk through the park grounds.  As the footage played, Lafleur discussed the birds’ markings, calls, and habitats so that the group could better identify and differentiate the breeds.  Some of…

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Vault Field Vineyards Hosts Museum Event


On June 3rd, Vault Field Vineyards hosted an event put on by Westmoreland County Museum in tribute to its members.  The event was organized by Museum Educational Program Director, Alice French, and was complete with live piano performance by Beth Parker.  Around 30 members attended and enjoyed tastings of Vault Field’s wines, as well as a tour of the vineyard and winery.

The property was purchased in 2004 by Keith and Joanne Meenan who now operate the vineyard and winery with the help of their son, Dan.  The family planted their first 4,000 vines in 2005, their second 4,000 in 2006, and celebrated their first vintage at the end of 2006.  The processing of the grapes and wine, as well as the bottling, is done entirely on site.  Between the three of them and the help of a few seasonal workers, they produce between 1,600 and 1,700 cases…

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Get Up and Get Out at Westmoreland State Park


Looking for that perfect park or campground to visit that’s well maintained, offers a variety of fun, outdoor activities, and has spectacular scenic views?  Consider your search over upon discovering Westmoreland State Park, selected as one of America’s Top 50 scenic views.  Opened in 1936, the park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal program dedicated to conservation care.  The park is located just minutes away from the birthplaces of both George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

Perfectly positioned on the Potomac River, Westmoreland State Park is known for its water attractions.  In fact, in 2008 it was selected as one of America’s Top 25 canoeing spots.  The staff leads kayak and paddle boat trips, as well as rent them out individually, down to Fossil Beach, where visitors can sift for and find sharks’ teeth, whale bones, and pre-historic fossils. There is also a power boat…

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George Washington’s Birthplace


George Washington’s Birthplace, part of the National Park Service, offers an entertaining and educational adventure in one of Virginia’s most beautiful and historical settings.  The park is located along Pope’s Creek, which neighbors the Potomac River, and the water can be seen glistening through the cedars from almost any point in the park.  A memorial obelisk marks the park’s entrance leading to the historical grounds, picnic area, and visitor center.

The park’s main attraction, the historical area, was created in 1932 as part of the bicentennial celebration of George Washington’s birth.  The historical plantation buildings can all be viewed by walking along a crushed oyster shell path that loops through the grounds, although you might have to share the path with the numerous butterflies weaving in and out.  Along the loop you’ll first pass the tobacco garden, right outside of the animal barn where sheep can be seen grazing in…

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