Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chinqua-Penn Plantation

Chinqua-Penn Plantation has been on our list of places to visit for a while. So
when Living Social e-mailed with a deal for tour, plus wine tasting, I ordered
it immediately. And I'm so glad I did. It was a beautiful day for a visit today!
 Chinqua-Penn Plantation began in 1925 as the home of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff"
Penn and his wife, Beatrice Schoellkopf Penn. Beatrice, or Betsy as she was known
was Mr. Penn's second wife. His first wife, Genevieve Schoellkopf Vom Berge was
Betsy's first cousin. Genevieve and Mr. Penn had two sons, but neither lived past
childhood. Then in 1919, Genevieve died giving birth to a daughter, who also died
Mr. Penn was a salesperson for the family tobacco company. After his father sold Penn
Tobacco, Mr. Penn used his inheritance to purchase several hundred acres of land
here in Rockingham county, North Carolina. He called his land, Corn Jug Farm
and began a dairy business. The black Angus herd that can still be seen on the
adjoining North Carolina State University research farm are descendants of
Jeff's original herd. The name of the plantation, Chinqua-Penn is a bit of a
play on words. It's named for a tree on the property, the Chinquapin, a
dwarf Chestnut. Jeff and Betsy Penn modified the name and born was
the Chinqua-Penn plantation. And, this... This is a Chinquapin tree! 
The house took two years to build and was finished in 1925
 There is no photography allowed inside the house. If you'd like to take an on-line
photo tour, you can at the Plantation's website here. Honestly, the house is in
need of moderate repairs. And, the decoration and furnishings is the strangest
mix we've ever seen. Eclectic-eclectic best describes it. Basically, the Penn's
traveled the world and they either brought back or had copied the things they
saw and liked. I was initially really turned off by the interior but by the end
of the tour it all kinda made sense. But it took a while for me to get there!
Now the kitchen, especially the butler's pantry and all of the bathrooms did not
disappoint. The staircase and most of the tile in the house is also beautiful. However,
to us the best part of the tour, the part we instantly loved is the surrounding gardens!
 Easy to see why there are a lot of weddings held at Chinqua-Penn!
 I especially l-o-v-e-d that chalice-shaped planter on the dance terrace!
 There is lots to love about this garden!
 Again... This planter!
 There is another planter I loved - you can see it hanging in the balcony opening
above the arched picture window, which is the highlight of the entry to the house
 We opted to skip the golf-cart ride back down to the gift shop and walked
 And on our walk we discovered this lovely wishing well in the cutting garden!
 Mrs. Penn enjoyed the house filled with flowers. She said flowers brought life
into the house, which was exactly the type of house she wanted. Mrs. Penn
was fond of pink. There is a semi-double pink geranium with a white center,
named Chinqua Penn Pink that is planted in many locations on the grounds
 I love the cat-tail design on the wishing well... And, I wished for one just like it!
 Any day now...
 Mr. and Mrs. Penn are buried on the property. Actually, Mrs. Penn is buried in
a 900-pound bronze casket next to an urn containing only Mr. Penn's heart. It
was his wish to have his heart buried and his ashes scattered over the plantation
from an airplane. It was Mrs. Penn's wish to have the grave site be kept simple
  You may have already visited Chinqua-Penn Plantation in the movies... It
was used as set for two movies. To see which two movies, read here 
 This row of Lavender along the driveway knocked me out! And, it's exactly why I
asked my personal gardener to fill the bed in front of the solarium with it this year!
 This is an example of the eclectic-eclectic style of the Penn's. It's a pagoda they had
built following a trip to China. It replaced the original pool house, a log building
trellised with wisteria, which I personally would have preferred to see on our visit!
 We were told that the current owners of Chinqua-Penn plantation have no plans to
restore the swimming pool; however, there is work currently underway to repair the
pagoda, which has been deemed unsafe for visitors. Five years ago the plantation
was purchased by Calvin Phelps and his wife Lisa. We were told that while their
4.1 million dollar bid was not the highest bid for purchase, theirs was the only
bid that came with a promise to share the plantation with visitors. Like us!
 We learned that Mr. and Mrs. Phelps were high school sweethearts,
and that they first visited Chinqua-Penn plantation for prom/first date.
So when the plantation became available for purchase, Mr. Phelps, now the
owner of Renegade Tobacco company in Mocksville, NC bought it. Now, how
romantic is that!? We think it's very sweet and we are very grateful to them for
taking responsibility for the preservation and for keeping it open to the public!
We wish Mr. and Mrs. Phelps well, and sincerely hope their recent legal troubles
and seizure of the property and contents by the Feds, (oh, my!) won't prevent
us from visiting Chinqua-Penn again... The way we so enjoy Reynolda house and
Biltmore (here and here
that we're soon off to Biltmore again? Yes! We have tickets to see the Beach Boys
and Eddie Money perform there as part of their summer concert series! Oh, and
let's not forget Orton Plantation. You know, Wiki is still using my photos!
  Despite the uncertainty of our future visits, we're
delighted we could visit Chinqua-Penn today!
 I loved these gates... The owl, the squirrel, and the JB monogram,
for Jeff and Betsy. So romantic. And, they just happen to be my
initials too! Perhaps we should play the lottery on the way home...
At the end of the drive is the staff quarters. This log building is what I imagine the
original pool house must have looked like. Wait! What's that in the window up there? 
Must be a prestigious award!
(Movie line alert... Quick! Name that film)
 The four-story Tuscan clock tower at the entry drive plays Westminster chimes...
 The chimes are currently being restored, so not today! 
 After our tour of Chinqua-Penn Plantation we drove to Greensboro to shop for
new kayaks. Then we had dinner at PF Chang's and ended the evening with a
drive out to a few of the lakes recommended for Kayaking. This is Lake Brandt
And this is Lake Higgins. And both look very doable!


  1. Wow, what a beautiful tour you gave us. The plantation is stunning and I can imagine how fragrant the grounds are.
    Any drive in that car is worth the trip by the way and you are the best promoter of that automaker ever!

    P.S. Never heard of Mandi and the Secret Tunnel, wondering if it's a good movie for my 7yr-old grand-daughter. Will have to check it out.

  2. Stunning. Absolutely beautiful. What a great way to spend the day. Don't you love group buying deals? Love the idea of kayaking. Someday that will be me too. :)

  3. Wow! What a fun day. Happy Memorial Day Weekend!


  4. Leg lamp - Christmas Story. There is a person in Rural Hall who proudly burns their lamp every night in their front living room bay window!

  5. Oh that looks like a wonderful place to visit! Maybe some time I will make it up to your Carolina to check it out. I do love visiting Biltmore and had fun going several times when I lived up near Asheville years ago.


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