Menokin and The Octagon House are linked across
the centuries through historic events, a family and a love of architecture. Step inside their history and be immersed in an exhibit of revolutionary plans for their future in the Country House, City House exhibition.
The AIA Foundation (which operates The Octagon House) and The Menokin Foundation share a common mission: to encourage and educate the public and the architecture profession about the preservation of great design of the past, and the creation of great design for the future. That mission is made tangible through this collaborative exhibit.
Even in Virginia’s Northern Neck, Burnt House Field Cemetery is an out-of-the-way place to honor a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The cemetery at Hague in Westmoreland County is surrounded by a brick wall and 100 acres of corn. Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794) is buried here with his parents and grandparents.
Lee was more than just a signer. In the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Lee introduced the resolution calling for independence from Great Britain that led to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
His brother Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734-1797) also signed it. Ten years earlier, they had burned an effigy of the Tax Man at the Westmoreland courthouse and helped organize other opposition to the hated Stamp Act.
Sponsored by the Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society and Cople Parish, the commemoration at the Lee cemetery will begin at 8:30 a.m. It will feature a living-history interpretation of Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe Lee, visiting Richard Henry Lee’s grave. (Francis Lightfoot Lee is buried in the Tayloe Cemetery at Mt. Airy near Warsaw.)
The observance will then move 5 miles to Yeocomico Episcopal Church. Built in 1706, it was the home church of the Lee family. Richard Henry Lee and his father Thomas Lee both served on the vestry. The service at the church will include prayers and the singing of patriotic hymns and the national anthem.
For additional information, contact Steve Walker, 804-472-3291, firstname.lastname@example.org
CEMETERY: From State Rt. 202 (Cople Highway) at Hague, take Rt. 612 (Coles Point Road) about one-half mile to Rt. 675 (Mt. Pleasant Road). The cemetery is about a mile at the end of the gravel road.
CHURCH: From cemetery, turn left on Rt. 612 (Coles Point Road). Go one mile and turn right on Rt. 606 (Tucker Hill Road). Go three miles and turn right on Rt. 606 (Old Yeocomico Road). The church will be on the right.
Yesterday was the 248th anniversary of the signing of the Leedstown Resolves. This courageous protestation of the Stamp Act eventually led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.
Sometime before 1678, Edward Bray had built a brick church, an ordinary, ferry, and wharf at the present Leedstown. Up to this date the site was known as Rappahannock. After 1678, it was known as Bray’s Wharf or Bray’s Church. By 1742, it was known as Leeds. Later it was known as Leedstown. Leedstown was created a town by an act of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1742.
In colonial days, Leedstown was not only a place for commerce. General George Washington often visited Leedstown. There was a ferry across the river Laytons, on the south side of the river in Essex County (it operated until about 1927 when the Downings Bridge to Tappahannock opened). Following the Revolutionary War shipping at Leedstown began to decline as many planters moved west into the Kentucky and Ohio territories.
Both Francis Lightfoot Lee (of Menokin) and Richard Henry Lee signed the Leedstown Resolves. The Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society hosts an annual event commemorating this important day in American History. For the second year in a row, this event was held at the visitor’s center of The Menokin Foundation. A standing-room-only crowd of over 60 people gathered to listen to the history of the event. They were also treated to a Color Guard presentation by local Colonial reenactors.
We thank the NNVHS for including Menokin in this celebration.
The Leedstown Resolves, or Westmoreland Resolves, a courageous protest against the Stamp Act, was executed on 27 February 1766 and signed over the next several weeks by 115 citizens of the Virginia colony from twelve counties whose names are listed at the end of the document.
On Thursday February 27, 2014, The Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Society and The Menokin Foundation will commemorate the signing of the Leedstown Resolves at the Martin Kirwan King Visitors Center at Menokin.
Speaker Bill Horn, will lecture on the significance of the character of the Lee brothers in forming our nation. Among other related points, Mr. Horn will discuss Thomas Lee and the traits he passed on to his sons, Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee, who were the only two signers of both the Leedstown Resolves and the Declaration of Independence.
Bill Horn’s long and colorful life features a 4-year military service in the Korean War. This experience inspired him to study American history and pursue the field of education. His 28-year career teaching high school American and World History in New York culminated in a post-retirement job as a coach for handicapped adults.
Since moving to the Northern Neck in 1997, he has spoken about Living Museums at an American Legion Hall and again about the Lees. He has lectured at various sites in the Tidewater region about the American Revolution and our founding fathers. He was also a regular substitute teacher at Woodland Academy until it closed.
This annual commemoration starts at 10:00 am and will conclude no later than 11:00 am. No reservation is needed. Menokin is located at 4037 Menokin Road in Warsaw, VA. Call 804-333-1776 with questions.
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.
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.
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.