Think Apple Store meets Colonial Williamsburg
April 18, 2013 2:37 PM   Subscribe

240 year-old Menokin House was home to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Menokin Foundation would like to restore it, but all that's left these days are two broken walls and a pair of crumbling chimneys. Even the head of the foundation admits, "Virginia needs another house museum like it needs a hole in the head." So how to honor the home's owner colonial statesman Francis Lightfoot Lee while still trying to present something novel and worth seeing? The Foundation's answer: rebuild the structure, just as it was, but replacing all of its missing components with structural glass.
posted by DirtyOldTown (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Having lived on the East Coast and experienced its climate, I think this place will be a blast* to visit in the summer.

* furnace
posted by zippy at 2:47 PM on April 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Reminds me a bit of the Garibaldi House on Staten Island, which used to be covered by a celebratory canopy.
posted by Jahaza at 2:51 PM on April 18, 2013

Hmm... their point about exposing the interior of the building techniques may have some merit, but the air conditioning bills in the summer are going to be astronomical.
posted by Jahaza at 2:54 PM on April 18, 2013

Seems like good outside the box thinking......
posted by lstanley at 3:04 PM on April 18, 2013

I've seen this done with smaller artifacts, and the Weald and Downland open air museum carefully divided the modern part from the Tudor part of their kitchen building with a 4" strip of architectural glass defining a cutting plate (authentic on one side, modern on the other) but that was because the health people wanted them to have all kinds of modern facilities for their medieval food.

I'm kind of skeptical that they'll be able to mesh their structural glass with the existing building and not make an absolute mess of what's left - particularly for existing structural components that have to support new members that are two or three times heavier than they were because they're made of glass, not wood. This has the potential to turn into Disney's "It's a Small World" ride real quick.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:06 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having spent a while in historic preservation, I gotta say I'd rather see the money spent on fixing/maintaining historic properties that are still standing. Just a thought.
posted by suelac at 3:11 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is sone of the coolest unnecessary and stupid things I've seen lately. So it's got that going for it. Which is nice.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:15 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hope they can work out the practicalities, because it sounds like it would be gorgeous.
posted by ook at 3:17 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

The slideshow is worth looking at.

There's a picture in the slideshow showing a bit of glass wall in the building. It doesn't look like an Apple store. It sounds great, but it's just not going to look as cool as it sounds - and it's going to take a lot of money for some people to find that out.

I bet there's some local museums that could do amazing things with the $10-30 million that they're talking about spending on this. Hell, you could give out a free iPad to everybody who wanted to see the building, and still have enough change left over to fund some kick-ass outreach programs.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:58 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like this idea. A lot.

I grew up on Cape Breton Island, home of the Fortress of Louisbourg. One-quarter of the townsite was rebuilt by Parks Canada about fifty years ago or so, but the coolest and most interesting parts of the site are the ruins of the rest of the town and the site of the Royal Battery at the head of the harbour. These broken stones and cellar holes speak more to the history of Louisbourg than the cleaned-up and sanitized reconstruction ever could.

Colonial houses, restored to period perfection, are a dime a dozen. There are hundreds if not thousands of such houses, and they are all the same, if you discount the backstory behind each one. This project brings something completely new to the table, something we don‘t get to see in your typical reconstruction.
posted by Jughead at 4:10 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

This reminds me a bit of one of the Franklin Museums in Philadelphia. They laid out the floor plan in brick, decorated with quotes from letter that described the building, then built a 3D outline of the building with metal struts, so you get a sense of how the building filled the space. Sort of a minimalist house museum.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:30 PM on April 18, 2013

Looks pretty neat -- I'll have to make the trip out there in a few weeks.
posted by armage at 6:01 PM on April 18, 2013

Reminds me of museum displays of skeletons, with empty spaces where the missing bones are. Ghostly and beautiful.

Also, obligatory.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:44 AM on April 19, 2013

I think, if done properly and to vision, this could be a very cool project. I'm not sure if it's a project worth from 10 to 30 million. If private donations want to fund it, though, go for it.

It's somewhat surprising that the house went from at least a little livable in the 1920s into the 1930s to a couple walls and partial fireplaces. I wonder if the decision to strip the home of its interior niceties hasten up the home's collapse.
posted by Atreides at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2013

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