|Chinqua Penn Plantation|
Built in 1925 by Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Penn and his wife Margaret “Betsy” Schoellkoph Penn, the house was a treasure trove of architecture and decorative arts; a culmination of years of travel and collecting. Mr. Penn was a native of Reidsville and a descendant of both William Penn and Thomas Jefferson. Mrs. Penn was from an affluent New York family that helped harness power from Niagara Falls. The family pedigrees were buoyed by serious tobacco money. The management of tobacco interests in the East as well as three world tours gave the Penns an ideal platform from which to amass their extensive collection. To house these treasures, the Penns built a thirty-room mansion created from the stone that surrounded the land. It was decorated in an eclectic style with art and architecture from every corner of the world, including a full size stone and timber pagoda. They named the “plantation” Chinqua Penn, which was a combination of their family name and the chinquapin, a species of the American chestnut tree, which was indigenous to the area.
|Stone and Timber Pagoda|
|The Clock Tower on the Property|
The university system initially saw Chinqua Penn as a top tourist destination and a research center. UNCG would manage the house and NC State would develop a beef cattle and crop research center and operate a 4-H Club camp by the 25 ½ acre lake. The home was also seen as a perfect location for North Carolina students to study art and interior design.
For twenty-five years after Mrs. Penn’s death in 1965, UNCG and NC State oversaw the operations of Chinqua Penn. Management and economic challenges faced by operating the estate, as well as over $2,000,000 in estimated repairs, forced the UNCG Board of Trustees to close the house to tours in 1991. A non-profit agency quickly formed in an attempt to keep the home open to the public, but “lack of funding, economic conditions, and debt” required them to give up the endeavor in 2002.
|Interior of Chinqua Penn Before Auction|
|Chinese-themed guest bedroom|