Mt. Airy, Menokin offer joint tour through history

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

The great families of Virginia’s Northern Neck have long known that forging partnerships through marriage and business often ensured financial success and the propagation of healthy and flourishing family trees.

Perhaps two of the most prominent colonial families, the Tayloes of Mount Airy and the Lees of Stratford Hall, formed such a partnership with the marriage of Francis Lightfoot Lee and Rebecca Tayloe in 1769. Though the marriage produced no children, the couple’s home, Menokin, a wedding gift from John Tayloe II (Rebecca’s father) became their progeny.

While Mount Airy has remained through history as the private home of the Tayloe family, Menokin changed hands many times and eventually fell into disrepair; it is now under the stewardship of the Menokin Foundation to interpret and preserve it.

Yet the relationship between Mount Airy and Menokin has remained strong. And now this ancestral partnership has created a unique opportunity for you to tour both properties for an in-depth look at the houses, the architecture and the families that lived in them. Previously closed to the public, Mount Airy is now offering guided tours of the house and grounds. In collaboration with this tour is the option for a guided tour through the Menokin house site, an opportunity that is otherwise unavailable.

An organized tour of Mount Airy would include a visit of both inside the house and its surrounding outbuildings, grounds and garden.  The tour would begin in the forecourt with a description of the construction materials used, the design characteristics and the uses of the dependencies. Visitors would enter the great hall for a viewing of all of the paintings and furniture. The tour would continue on the main floor to include the dining room, the library and the bedroom.  A description of all furnishings and portraits would be given.  After completing a tour of this main floor, visitors would exit out onto the bowling green for a tour of the garden and outbuildings. The outside tour would include a tour of the cemetery and grave of Francis Lightfoot Lee and his wife Rebecca.

The tour would then continue to nearby Menokin for a guided tour through the ruin. This tour begins by entering the cellar and witnessing the techniques of the stone masons that created this architectural gem. View evidence of carving experiments tried and abandoned. Touch the mortar laid by craftsman more than 240 years ago. Enter the barrel wine vault and marvel at the arched brick ceiling that has survived into this century. Continue upstairs through a series of platforms and catwalks to get an up-close look at the constructions methods employed by 18th-century artisans. Experience the unique feeling of peering behind the walls to understand how this giant jigsaw puzzle was constructed. The tour concludes with a stop at the Menokin Visitor’s Center to view the interior paneling, which was miraculously removed from Menokin before its collapse and remains in pristine condition due to the efforts of local preservationists. Before departing, hear about the foundation’s plans to restore Menokin in a revolutionary way using original fabric and architectural glass.

This joint tour is available by reservation only. To make arrangements for your group tour – large or small – please contact Anne Brumley at Mount Airy by phoning 804-301-7976 or emailing tours@mountairy.plantation.com.

Both properties are located in Richmond County near Warsaw.

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