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Menokin chooses unique approach and architectural firm known for unique projects
Topped by two large chimneys, the ruins of the
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By Rob Hedelt
THE ANTE is being upped at the Northern Neck home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Restoration, interpretation, business operations and major fundraising are still in the planning stages for Menokin, in Richmond County.
But organizers are moving forward with the selection of an internationally known architectural firm and a visionary commitment to making Menokin a nationally relevant restoration.
From discussions with Menokin officials to an architect's talk about a unique re-creation of the 1769 Lee house to a vision statement from the Menokin Foundation Board, it's clear big changes may be in the offing, including:
One of the more unique historic restorations in the country, using original materials as much as possible. Staff and consultants are able to salvage and document some 80 percent of the original materials for the neo-Palladian estate. They would fill in missing pieces with structural glass and an underlining of other material.
The vision statement compares the approach--reconstructing some sections while letting the bones show--with "Living Man" anatomical models from grade school.
It notes that that "living building" reconstruction would help visitors and students to "understand the ingenuity and structure of a working 18th-century house and plantation." Right down to the "tool marks on timbers and the backs of the joinery" from the craftsmen, many of them enslaved, who helped create the home some 250 years ago.
Stepping back to take a look at the entire 500-acre property the board sees as a critical "classroom for heritage and natural resource conservation."
In the long term, that might mean reorienting on how visitors enter the grounds not far from Warsaw. Or focusing on various other aspects of the property, including the long, rolling terrace down to Cat Point Creek, where hogsheads of tobacco were once rolled aboard ships bound for England.
Included in the focus beyond the house is Menokin's ancient forest and pristine shoreline, where students can learn about ecological change and land use over hundreds of years.
An elevation of the Northern Neck estate's national profile.
It's an ambitious restoration. The architectural firm of Machado and Silvetti of Boston promises unique approaches using lighting, audio, apps and augmented reality. Menokin leaders know it will carry a healthy price tag.
TODAY: Officials proceed with plans aimed at making home of Declaration-signer a unique, national project. TUESDAY: Hullie Moore, one-time student of photographer Ansel Adams, has recently been a fixture at Menokin, capturing images both natural and structural.