North Carolina State University, Office of Finance and Business, Chinqua-Penn Plantation Records 1863-2002

Creator
Penn Family
Size
209.7 linear feet
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff.
Call number
UA 003.011
Access to materials

Collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice. Patrons may not access original audio, video, or digital materials; copies of originals must be produced prior to patron use.

The Chinqua-Penn Plantation records contain the papers of the Penn family (1863-1975, bulk 1923-1946) as well as the records of the management of the property by the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina State University, and the Chinqua-Penn Foundation (1921-1926, 1957-2002, bulk 1965-2002). This collection includes correspondence, reports, financial records, property and animal records, architectural drawings, photographs and scrapbooks, audio-visual materials, newspaper clippings, marketing materials, and inventories of the art, artifacts, and furniture collections, among other items. Within the materials dating from the management period are extensive records from research conducted on the property and the Penn family.

Named for the chinquapin, a dwarf chestnut tree, Chinqua-Penn Plantation was built by Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Penn and Margaret Beatrice "Betsy" Schoellkopf Penn during the 1920s. The large house reflected their lifestyle of entertaining and traveling, and it showcased the art and furniture they collected from around the world. The plantation's grounds evolved into an exotic horticultural collection of both native and imported plants. The Penns ran a dairy at Chinqua-Penn as well. After Betsy Penn's death in 1965, Chinqua-Penn was maintained by the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. When funding was cut in the late 1980s, the house was closed, but NCSU took over its management and reopened it shortly thereafter. In 1991, funding became a problem yet again, and the museum was closed a second time. A nonprofit organization called the Chinqua-Penn Foundation was formed by Reidsville, North Carolina, officials to preserve the house and open it to visitors. The foundation secured Chinqua-Penn Plantation status as a National Historic Landmark and reopened the house with state funding. Although NCSU continues to administer the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center on the mansion grounds, further funding problems forced the foundation to close the museum's doors. NCSU sold the house to a private owner in 2006.

Biographical/historical note

Named for the chinquapin, a dwarf chestnut tree, Chinqua-Penn Plantation was built by Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Penn and Margaret Beatrice "Betsy" Schoellkopf (Schwill) Penn during the 1920s. The large house reflected their lifestyle of entertaining and traveling, and it showcased the art and furniture they collected from around the world. The plantation's grounds evolved into an exotic horticultural collection of both native and imported plants. The Penns ran a dairy at Chinqua-Penn as well.

Jeff Penn was the son of Frank Reid Penn (originally from Penn's Store, Virginia) and Annie Spencer Penn. Jeff moved to Reidsville, North Carolina, with his parents at six months old. His father and uncle started the Penn Tobacco Co. in 1875. Jeff worked for the family business until 1911, when the Penns sold the company to American Tobacco. Jeff turned his attention to stock and bond brokerage after the sale. He relocated to Buffalo, New York, where he met his first wife, Genevieve Schoellkopf Penn, daughter of Louis Schoellkopf and Myra Lee Horton Schoellkopf. They married in 1915 and lived in a house on Chapin Parkway. Jeff met Genevieve through his sister, Mattie Irwin "Penn" Schoellkopf, who had married Paul A. Schoellkopf Sr., Genevieve's cousin, in 1911. Genevieve had a son from previous marriage, Henry vom Berge. Her first husband died of thyphoid. Genevieve bore three children with Jeff, but only one survived past infancy. Genevieve died as a result of childbirth and a flu epidemic in 1919. Jeff and Genevieve's only surviving son, Spencer Schoellkopf Penn, died in 1921 at the age of four after contracting polio.

After the deaths of both his wife and son, Jeff Penn remarried, choosing another Schoellkopf as his bride. Margaret Beatrice "Betsy" Schoellkopf Penn was Paul A. Schoellkopf Sr.'s sister (and Genevieve's cousin), and her father Arthur Schoellkopf was chairman of the board of Niagara Falls Power Company, a venture in which Jeff Penn also had a hand. Betsy had been divorced from her first husband, Julius Schwill, a Chicago millionaire, in 1922. She had no children from her first marriage. Jeff and Betsy wed in 1923. According to the Schoellkopf family history, Jeff gave Betsy a choice between living in Buffalo and moving to Reidsville, North Carolina, to a parcel of land he had bought in his hometown around 1911. Betsy chose North Carolina, and the Penns spent much of the 1920s perfecting their new home there.

Jeff and Betsy lived happily together at Chinqua-Penn for nearly twenty years, until Jeff Penn's death in 1946. Betsy (1881-1965) made arrangements with the University of North Carolina system to maintain the house and its furnishings after her death, at which time Jeff Penn's will stipulated that the house and other assets would be split between Betsy's niece and nephew, Jasmin Trembley and Paul Schoellkopf Jr., and two of Jeff's nieces and nephews, Harriet Ann Boyd and Elmore Willets (children of Lucy Penn Willets). The heirs supported Betsy's plan, because none had plans to use the house as a residence and the four were reluctant to divide the estate. Betsy also gave the UNC system a $750,000 endowment and financed the construction of a 4-H center on the Chinqua-Penn grounds.

The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, managed the estate and kept it open to visitors from 1965 to the late 1980s, when the museum closed for the first time. Management duties were transferred to North Carolina State University, and NCSU reopened the house shortly thereafter but was forced to close the museum again in 1991 due to funding issues. After the residents of Rockingham County, North Carolina, refused a tax increase to maintain the house, a task force was formed by local leaders, most notably Libby Cole, then-director of the Reidsville Chamber of Commerce, to reopen the plantation, and they later established themselves as the Chinqua-Penn Foundation. In April 1993, the foundation gained recognition for the house as a National Historic Landmark, and the Rockingham County Tourism Development Authority subsequently offered about 10 percent of their revenues to promote Chinqua-Penn. In 1994, the state approved funding to reopen Chinqua-Penn, which would be managed by the foundation although NCSU still owned the property. The Chinqua-Penn Foundation operated the historic site for a little over ten years before funding issues forced them to close its doors once again. Although NCSU still operates the Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center on the property, the university sold the residence to a private owner in 2006.

Scope/content

The Chinqua-Penn Plantation records contain the papers of the Penn family (1863-1975, bulk 1923-1946) as well as the records of the management of the property as a historic site by the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina State University, and the Chinqua-Penn Foundation (1921-1926, 1957-2002, bulk 1965-2002).

The Penn Family Papers contain financial records and statements, correspondence, blueprints and other designs and plans, photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials related to the Penn family, their businesses, and their properties from the years 1863 to 1975, the bulk coming from the 1920s through the 1940s. The Penns were involved in the tobacco instustry in Rockingham County, North Carolina, until 1911. Most of these materials pertain to Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Penn and his wife Margaret Beatrice "Betsy" Schoellkopf Schwill Penn, their relatives, their travels and artcollecting, and their dairy farm and mansion near Reidsville, North Carolina, called Chinqua-Penn Plantation. Although these materials have been arranged in seven series, there is significant overlap between series, especially in regard to financial records for the Penns and their property (see, for instance, the ledgers). The scrapbooks and photograph albums are fragile and require special handling. Although home movies exist, they have not yet been fully processed.

The Management Records cover all facets of organizational planning and implementation related to the preservation and administration of Chinqua-Penn Plantation, as a historic site from 1957 to 2002. The materials include appraisals; inventories; maps, blueprints, and other designs and plans for renovations and restorations; reports; financial records; memoranda and correspondence; personnel records; marketing and publicity materials; meeting minutes; curatorial records and research; tour and exhibit planning records; event planning records; volunteer and museum teacher orientation materials; photographs and albums; audiocasettes and tapes; and videotapes. Of particular note are the extensive curatorial records, which include research conducted on the property and the Penn family and documentation of the historic preservation of Chinqua-Penn Plantation, including its art and object collections. The Management Records also include several oral history interviews listed in the subseries Curatorial Records and Audio, Video, and Data Disks.

Physical description

79 cartons, 26 flat boxes, 4 boxes, 2 legal boxes, 6 card boxes, 1 artifact box, 14 flat folders, 2 tubes

Arrangement

Series 1, the Penn Family Papers, has been organized in its original file units, where possible, and arranged topically in seven subseries: Jefferson Penn Financial, Betsy Schwill Penn Financial, Chinqua-Penn Plantation Records, Estates and Trusts Administered by Jefferson Penn, Personal, Public Service, and Photographs and Scrapbooks. Within the financial subseries, the folder names have been alphabetized for easier access.

Series 2, the Management Records, has been organized in its original file units, where possible, and arranged topically in the following six subseries: Appraisals and Inventories; Administrative Records; Visitor Programs; Curatorial Records; Photographs, Slides, and Transparencies; and Audio, Video, and Data Disks. The Administrative Records have been divided into two major subsubseries, University of North Carolina/North Carolina State University (UNC/NCSU) and Chinqua-Penn Foundation (CPF), and then further subdivided for easier access.

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], North Carolina State University, Office of Finance and Business, Chinqua-Penn Plantation Records, UA 003.011, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Related material

Source of acquisition

Transferred from North Carolina State University, Office of Finance and Business.

Processing information

Processed by: Kelly Clark Policelli and Aaron Cusick, February 2009;machine-readable finding aid created by: Kelly Clark Policelli, February 2009; Finding aid updated by Susanne Hutchison, 2009 July; Aaron Cusick, 2010 February

The entire collection, including materials not available online, may be viewed in the Special Collections reading room in D.H. Hill Library.

The collection is organized into two principal series:

Access to the collection

Collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice. Patrons may not access original audio, video, or digital materials; copies of originals must be produced prior to patron use.

For more information contact us via mail, phone, or our web form.

Mailing address:
Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111

Phone: (919) 515-2273

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], North Carolina State University, Office of Finance and Business, Chinqua-Penn Plantation Records, UA 003.011, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.