Menokin is a 1769 plantation house that was home to Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the founding fathers of the United States and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe Lee. Like many buildings from the nation’s founding, the ruins of the manor house are being restored for historic preservation. But this project is a bit different, as it will be encased in glass.
When the project is finished, the bones and tendons of the house will be left exposed, and the glass facade will offer an unmasked look at the 18th-century craftsmanship and building techniques. The house will retain its original shape, and about 80 percent of the building’s original materials have survived, most in good condition.
The sandstone used for the exterior and white oak and pine used for the interior all came from nearby areas and give Menokin a unique appearance when compared to the brick homes made during the same period in Virginia. More than 1,000 pieces of the intricately carved interior woodwork were removed in 1968 after a tree fell on the house. They were stored at Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia, and later displayed at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond until they were brought back to Menokin in 2004.
The Menokin project is not meant to be a recreation of one moment in time or one period in history, but rather a continuum weaving together the threads of stories of centuries of inhabitation by many different races and cultures in order to help us find our place in the fabric of history, just like the marriage of architectural glass and 18th-century fabric.
Know Before You Go
Do yourself a favor and use the written directions. When you're this rural, GPS just doesn't cut it.