Red Hill wins grant

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The votes are in and the People’s Choice Award goes to Patrick Henry’s Red Hill for Elvira Henry’s handwritten cookbook. The nonprofit won in competition among Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts. 

The Virginia Association of Museum (VAM) conducts the annual competition to award $1,000 for preservation of the artifact selected by the public. Patrick Henry’s Red Hill was awarded the People’s Choice Award for the most votes received in this competition March 9 at VAM’s annual conference held in Virginia Beach, said Cody Youngblood, director of historic preservation and collections at the national memorial site. 

“In total, Elvira’s cookbook received 1,229 votes which accounted for 29% of all votes cast,” Youngblood said. 

With the $1,000 award, he said two generous individuals have donated the remaining money needed for the cookbook’s conservation, which is estimated by conservators to cost $6,115. 


The rare leather-bound handwritten cookbook contains the personal recipes of Elvira McClelland Henry, daughter-in-law of statesman Patrick Henry. 

Born in 1808, Elvira married Henry’s youngest son John in 1826 and lived at Red Hill until her death in 1875, according to information provided by VAM. She compiled more than 235 recipes in the cookbook that she used during those years for items ranging from desserts, bread, puddings and pickles. 

The book was inherited by her daughter, Elvira McClelland Jr., who added her recipes to the collection. 

“The book is currently being treated by conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts,” Youngblood said. 

The work to preserve the book that endured more than 175 years of use in hot kitchens is expected to be complete in about three months, he said. 


Youngblood explained that each page will be cleaned, rips and tears will be mended using archival paper and glue, new hinges and reinforced bindings will reattach the pages to the cover, and the leather covers will be cleaned. 

“The cookbook will be on display for at least six months after returning to Red Hill,” he said. “We are currently looking into ways to digitize the book, so each page is accessible to the public.” 

Those wanting to give the recipes a try at home will find a transcribed version of the cookbook available for purchase through the Red Hill Museum Shop, Youngblood said. 

Funding for the collection isn’t always the first thing people contribute to, he noted, but it is a vital part of what he said they do at Red Hill. 

“Our collection spans thousands of years of history — from the first indigenous peoples to today — which makes it unique in that generations, races, and cultures of people are connected by this singular place,” Youngblood said. “Caring for this collection means regular conservation of our most important artifacts.” 


He said this work could not be done without the generous support and interest of our supporters. 

“We thank every one of them,” Youngblood said. 

There are hundreds and hundreds of artifacts in the Red Hill collection that could benefit from conservation. 

“Most of these are 18th- and 19th-century letters written by Patrick Henry and his family,” he said. “We expect some of these items may be listed on the endangered artifact list, but we hope the public will help us in preserving the letters which do not make the list.” 

If anyone would like to donate to support the conservation of Red Hill’s artifacts, Youngblood said they can do so by going online at or by calling 434-376-2044. All donations are tax-deductible. 

Other awards presented at VAM’s annual conference and announced on its Facebook page are the Juried Award going to the Robert Russa Moton Museum for preservation of the 1954 RR Moton High School Composite in its collection. Student poster contest winners are Hailey Robbins (first place), Alexa McNeil (second place) and Madison Hall (third place). VAM also announced that Truly Matthews won the Museum Educator award, the Office of Historic Alexandria received the Innovative Museum award, while Sam Futrell received its Ann Brownson honor. 

“We can’t wait to see the restoration process,” VAM’s Facebook post stated. “This impactful program helps strengthen our communities by supporting museums to tell these stories.”