Ambitious Menokin plans unveiled

W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. presents the model of how the Menokin home would appear following the restoration project.

W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. presents the model of how the Menokin home would appear
following the restoration project.

With a $25,000 helping hand from Union First Market Bank, the Menokin Foundation unveiled the model depicting their future vision of the historic Menokin house to an eager public on Friday.

Once a proud example of prestigious Northern Neck homes in the eighteenth century, the Georgian-style home fell into disrepair after the last inhabitants moved out in the 1960s.

Instead of looking at rebuilding the former home of Virginia statesman and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Francis Lightfoot Lee, in the exact form of how it would have appeared, the Menokin Foundation, started by the late Martin Kirwan King in 1995, seeks to preserve the structure using an innovative practice.

The model unveiled by Union management and the foundation on Oct. 4 showcased the brick home rebuilt with structural glass.

“From the get-go [King’s] vision was that…Virginia has plenty of beautiful historic house museums that are intact,” said the foundation’s executive director Sarah Dillard Pope. “But our unique contribution would be to show people the parts and pieces and how it was put together, and to do it in a creative way.”

“Can you imagine what this [house] would look like at night?” Menokin Foundation President W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. said as he gazed at the remnants of the historic home beneath its massive metal canopy. The glass casing containing the lit-up version of how the restored home would appear stood nearby.

“The combination of eighteenth century architecture with cutting-edged 21st century technology is going to make it a spectacular thing to see,” Murphy said.

He added that the innovative restoration, if realized, could create an economic boon for Richmond County and the Northern Neck and reiterate the area’s central yet overlooked role in founding the nation.

“It has the potential of recreating the atmosphere that existed in the 1770s and produced the Lees and Washingtons, the Monroes and Madisons, the men who articulated the aspirations of this country,” said Murphy.

Pope said the model, constructed by students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, gives the foundation a means of raising money for the project and educating potential donors about their plans.

W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. presents the model of how the Menokin home would appear following the restoration project.

W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr. presents the model of how the Menokin home would appear
following the restoration project.

The model made was possible through a $25,000 grant from Union First Market Bank. Union President John C. Neal said the historic venue fit right in with Union’s philosophy, which encompasses childhood education, sustainability and a healthy environment.

“We look for vibrant communities and quality of life, and we felt like this venue here had a significant impact on this area, the Commonwealth and the country,” said Neal, who also emphasized the importance of the Northern Neck to Union and Murphy’s role in the bank.

“His contributions over the years have been so important,” said Murphy. “This is something he and [Helen T. Murphy] are very much involved in and we felt that this was a prudent use of shareholders’ money.”

Pope said the project, estimated at $10 million, would feature collections from the Virginia Fine Arts Museum in the telling the story of Menokin while also providing the community with the chance to view high-quality artwork in their area.

In addition to saving the house and its history, the foundation seeks to restore the gardens and add both walking trails and a dock to the property.

She emphasized the foundation’s goal of turning Menokin into the cultural hub of the Northern Neck.

Pope wants Menokin to be a place where people could walk their dogs and hike along the proposed trails, as well as enjoy self-guided tours of the property.

“We have 500 acres here and we want this property to be used by the community,” said Pope.

For more information, call 804-333-1776 or visit http://www.menokin.org/.

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 10:01 am