Tag Archives: Virginia Historical Society

Honoring A Legend in Historic Preservation 

  Jack Zehmer served as a trustee of the Menokin Foundation; one of many important roles he had in the field of historic preservation. 

His son, James D. W. Zehmer, serves on the Advisory Council of the Menokin Foundation, and is a co-chair of the Foundation’s Building and Grounds Committee. He completed his first term as a trustee in January 2016. 

Menokin is proud to have the Zehmer legacy in its history. Our condolences go out to the Zehmer family and especially to Calder Loth, honorary trustee and close friend of the Zehmer family. 

His obituary from the Richmond Times Dispatch follows:

ZEHMER, John G. “Jack” Jr., 73, died February 7, 2016, after a long illness. He was the son of the late John Granderson Zehmer and Emily Butterworth Zehmer, and grew up in McKenney, Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architectural history from the University of Virginia, and served in the Peace Corps in Malaysia. He began his career in historic preservation in 1970 for the state of North Carolina, where he served as director of Historic Sites and Museums. He returned to Virginia in 1974 to become the City of Richmond’s first senior planner for historic preservation. He became director of the Valentine Museum in 1981, where he undertook research that led to the restoration of the Wickham-Valentine house interior. He was the Executive Director of Historic Richmond Foundation from 1984 to 1998 and was instrumental in expanding the foundation’s real estate projects and advocacy programs, and founding its publications program. He also chaired the Citizens Advisory Council for the Virginia Executive Mansion which oversaw the restoration of the mansion’s exterior. He joined the staff of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in 1999, serving as director of the Capital Region Office, which provided services to 30 counties in south central Virginia. He retired in 2004 and continued to publish books on architectural preservation. Organizations for which he served as a board member include the Virginia Art and Architectural Review Board, the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, the Preservation Alliance of Virginia, APVA, the Menokin Foundation, the Battersea Foundation and the Edenton Historical Commission. He was also a member of the advisory boards of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Mount Vernon, an honorary member of the Garden Club of Virginia, and a past president of the Antiquarian Society of Richmond. He was involved in many preservation projects including Monumental Church, the National Theatre, the restoration of Linden Row and the Bolling Haxall House, and the establishment of the Monument Avenue Historic District and the Broad Street Historic District. He also served as Senior Warden of the Church of the Good Shepherd in McKenney, where he was a lifelong member. Jack Zehmer is particularly remembered by his friends for his knowledge and love of gardening. He was predeceased by his first wife, David Kathryn Wilborn Zehmer; his parents; and his sister, Emily W. Zehmer. He is survived by his wife, Frances N. Zehmer; his sons, John G. Zehmer III and wife, Andrea, of Ashland, Va., and James D. W. Zehmer and wife, Anne, of Gordonsville, Va.; his brother, Dr. Reynoldson B. Zehmer and wife, Nancy, of McKenney; his stepdaughter, Elizabeth J. Whitman and her husband, Bradley, of New York; and his stepson, Chester W. N. Johns and wife, Emily, of Chatham, Va. A grandson, John Franklin Zehmer; and three stepgrandchildren, Alexander Whitman, Catherine Whitman and Madeline Johns, also survive him. In addition, he is survived by his devoted friends, Estelle H. Lanier and Calder C. Loth. The family would like to thank the staff and caregivers at The Hermitage in Richmond for their compassionate care during his illness. (Continued…) ZEHMER (Continued) The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, February 12, at the Petersburg Chapel of J.T. Morriss & Son Funeral Home at 103 South Adams Street, Petersburg. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 13, 2016, at 11 a.m., at The Church of the Good Shepherd, 7800 Lew Jones Road, McKenney, Va. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond, 4600 Cox Rd., Glen Allen, Va. 23059; the Historic Richmond Foundation, 4 E. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23219; The Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St., Richmond, Va. 23219; or to Church of the Good Shepherd, c/o Allen Denmark, treasurer, 7728 Lew Jones Road, McKenney, Va. 23872.

Welcome Home

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.

Woodwork stored at Bacon’s Castle
Woodwork stored at Bacon’s Castle

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.

BC_WW_005 back
1996 descriptive note about woodwork written by Foundation founder, Martin King

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.

Menokin Woodwork (14)
Photographs and measurements are rectified to create scaled images for future installation as part of the Glass House Project

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.

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.

The dining room mantle is carefully moved into the Visitors Center.

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.

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.

In case you missed it….

The Virginia Historical Society has posted a video of the recent banner lecture, Planter Oligarchy on Virginia’s Northern Neck, which was co-sponsored by Menokin. The video features a fabulous introduction by Menokin’s own, Sarah Dillard Pope, Executive Director of the Menokin Foundation.

Also includes a shout out to Tayloe Negus and Tayloe Emery, both Hampden-Sydney alums, who help established the relationship between Dr. Coombs and Menokin.


VHS Banner Lecture Video

The Menokin Foundation Takes to the Road

The popular Banner Lecture Series offered at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, VA will host two guest speakers in October, both co-sponsored by The Menokin Foundation.

These programs will be held at the VHS, which is located at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond, VA.

The first takes place on Thursday, October 4, 2012 at noon, and features Dr. John C. Coombs, a professor at Hampden-Sydney College, discussing Planter Oligarchy on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Unlocking Menokin’s Secrets: Archaeological and Landscape Research at a Northern Neck Plantation takes place on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at noon, and will be presented by David Brown and Thane Harpole of DATA Investigations.

One of the great houses to survive from colonial Virginia, Menokin was the result of a unique collaboration between John Tayloe II of Mount Airy and Francis Lightfoot Lee, the husband of his daughter Rebecca. Tayloe gave Lee a life interest in 1,000 acres of his vast Richmond County estate and, as a wedding present, built the plantation house and surrounding structures.

David Brown at work at Menokin.

Though scant written records remain, other clues offer insight into this adaptation of European design to the environment of eastern Virginia. David Brown with DATA Investigations will discuss recent archaeological and landscape research conducted at the site.

Reservations are not required for either lecture. Admission is $6/adults, $5/seniors, $4/children and students, free/members (please present card) and to Richmond Times-Dispatch readers with a Press Pass coupon. Parking is free. For more information visit: www.vahistorical.org/news/lectures_banner.htm.

Planter Oligarchy on Virginia’s Northern Neck

Virginia Historical Society Banner Lecture Series

Dr. John C. Coombs, Presenter

Co-sponsored by the Virginia Historical Society.
Program held at the VHS located at 428 North Boulevard, Richmond, VA

The rise of a distinct class of affluent families to economic, social, and political dominance in Virginia during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries is without doubt one of the most important developments in the Old Dominion’s early history.

As a group, however, the “gentry” were far from homogenous. John C. Coombs will draw on research for his forthcoming book The Rise of Virginia Slavery to discuss the foundations of power that were common across all ranks of the elite, as well as the circumstances that allowed the Carters, Lees, and Tayloes to achieve distinction as the colony’s “first families.”

Dr. Coombs is a professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College and coeditor of Early Modern Virginia: Reconsidering the Old Dominion.

Reservations are not required. Admission is $6/adults, $5/seniors, $4/children and students, free/members (please present card) and to Richmond Times-Dispatch readers with a Press Pass coupon. Parking is free.For more information visit: www.vahistorical.org/news/lectures_banner.htm