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18th-Century Ruin Will Be Preserved with a Glass Shell

In the words of the Menokin Foundation, the Warsaw, Virginia, home of Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lightfoot Lee is an "evocative crumbling ruin." And though their end goal is preserving what remains of the 1769 brick-and-stone dwelling, they kind of want to keep it that way. The plan they reached with Boston's Machado and Silvetti Associates is not to traditionally restore the structure—despite the fact that 80 percent of Menokin's original materials have been recovered of the years—but to fill in missing sections with structural glass.

On the Preservation Nation blog, Meghan O'Connor explains how the plan came about. The home was deemed a National Historic landmark in 1971, by which time its roof had collapsed, and most of its interior woodwork was removed to prevent vandalism. The foundation acquired it in 1994, and built a roof over the ruin in 2000 to slow further deterioration. The idea for the glass shell came from Charles Phillips, an architect working with the foundation on the documentation and preservation of the building's collapsed pieces.

Though there were some raised eyebrows in preservation circles when they first floated the idea, by 2012, they had enough traction to bring on Machado and Silvetti to design the building's next phase. Foundation director Sarah Dillard Pope tells Preservation Nation that the idea is to "tease the spirit of the historic place out in a modern way." To their minds, this method has more educational opportunities than a full-on restoration. "We want Menokin the ruins, and what remains of it, to speak for itself."

Below are a few of Machado and Silvetti's renderings of what they want the next step to look like. (Preservation Nation has an archival shot of the structure intact.) Going off the renderings, it looks as if some of the facade will still be recreated with original materials that have been removed from the site, with a few interior features rebuilt from the same, while lateral struts will be used to support the glass.

· Eighteenth-Century House Ruin to Be Restored…With Glass [Preservation Nation]