Video tour of inside the ‘abandoned’ Chinqua Penn mansion in Reidsville

February 2014 (Bryson Thomas)

February 2014 (Bryson Thomas)

February 2014 (Bryson Thomas)

February 2014 (Bryson Thomas)

REIDSVILLE, N.C. — A video tour of the abandoned Chinqua Penn Plantation mansion in Reidsville shows a once majestic and historic home now abandoned and overgrown.

Chinqua Penn Plantation is an English manor home mansion that was built by Thomas Jefferson Penn and Margaret Beatrice Shoellkopf Penn in the 1920s.

Calvin Phelps purchased Chinqua Penn for $4.1 million in 2006, but he later declared bankruptcy.

Chinqua Penn Plantation was opened for tours through March 2012.

antiques

June 2013 (WGHP)

Phelps lost the mansion’s art, artifacts and furnishings during a 2012 auction. The items were sold for more than $3 million to pay creditors.

This week, Phelps was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay $5.1 million in restitution for his involvement in a multi-state scheme to avoid taxes and fees on tobacco sales.

The mansion went into foreclosure in September 2013 and is currently owned by SunTrust Bank.

Bryson Thomas posted the walkthrough tour of the mansion on YouTube last month. The video has been viewed over 12,000 times.

“I was fortunate enough to bypass the gates and walk the grounds which I had merely planned to do,” Bryson Thomas posted on YouTube. “To my surprise, as seen in my footage, the front doors were swayed wide open as I walked up the motor court and into its once grand entrance.

june2013

June 2013 (WGHP)

SunTrust Bank told the News & Record the home is back on the market. Rockingham County Sheriff’s Officer Kevin Suthard also told the paper the department was “looking into the matter,” but it’s unlikely that Thomas will be charged. The doors at the home have been closed and secured.

A Save Chinqua Penn Planation Facebook page created on March 17 has amassed over 5,000 likes.

Thomas posted the video on YouTube with this full description:

This is the beloved Chinqua Penn Estate in Reidsville, North Carolina, just minutes from my grandparents house and ancestral upbringing. It was once a great majestic estate of historic significance, architecture and setting as it played host through the centuries of North Carolina nobility and personality. Today, the ornamental walls of the estate reveal a depressing modern reality of bankruptcy and abandonment. The mansion, its history and romance sits abandoned, overgrown, but hopefully not forgotten by the graces of this video. Despite its current state and obstructions, I was fortunate enough to bypass the gates and walk the grounds which I had merely planned to do. To my surprise, as seen in my footage, the front doors were swayed wide open as I walked up the motor court and into its once grand entrance. I don’t know if the doors were intentionally left open, and I don’t know who would have been authorized or appointed to open them, or even what purpose opening them would have had while the mansion sits under bank seizure, but there was certainly no one in sight for the two or three hours that I spent there at the estate. Either way, it was a great opportunity to snoop around and tour the interiors. Unfortunately, as seen, the mansion has been ravaged by damp and rot. Seeping water and moisture has caused wall prints and paints to crumble and ceilings to flop. The electricity has obviously been shut off for quite some time. No electricity means no running air, no sump pump or dehumidifier for years now. The mansion is filled with slimy sticky patches of mold and mildew on the floors, creeping up the drywall and blanketing the once glorious bathroom fixtures, stair hand railings, and crystal like doorknobs. The bedrooms and bathrooms are completely uninhabitable. The contrast is dramatically illustrated by the opulence it once had, the people it once housed, and the squalor of smelly damp walls and swarms of rot as it sits today. Interestingly to note, the temperature outside was 67 degrees, but I could literally see my breath as I walked through the cold and lonely mansion. It was a truly fascinating experience, being alone in the unknown lodgings, adrenaline pumping, literally getting lost in the servants quarters, not knowing at times which floor of the house I was on, stumbling into what I thought was a closet, but ended up being a spiral stairway entrance to the attic, or in some cases the dark basements which I wouldn’t have dared to completely tour without being prepared or having another light besides that of my camera phone. Even in its current state of filth and shabbiness its fascinating and quite quirky graces are still evident. Without a doubt, it’s salvageable, but it will be a massive undertaking and will need some real professionals and cash pumped into its restoration. It would make a great country estate or family home or you could even draw upon its past and repurpose it into a unique tourist attraction, wedding venue or winery. My hopes are that private or even public interests will step in and save this treasure before it’s too late, and it’s definitely nearing that state as far as the interiors are concerned. I imagine I toured about 60% of the interiors of the main house and rear wings and clock tower structures and lodge buildings which consist of over 33,000 square feet. I suppose this will be part one of two videos which I’ll post that will consist of about 40% of my tour. Regrettably, parts of my footage were too dark and in some cases overlooked and missed when I decided to patch this first video together and upload it to YouTube so there will be a second video coming soon. Stay tuned for updates, please comment, like and subscribe to my channel and feel free to share your thoughts and memories of the estate; I know it still pains the locals to see such a treasure in this state. Thanks for watching!

35 comments

  • D Lynn

    We toured Chinqua Penn a couple of years before it closed. It was a dump. Musty, smelly, rotting furniture. Five minutes after entering my allergies were at full blown levels. The winery was a silly, redneck joke. This was a party house for rich people a hundred years ago. They would do well to raze it and turn it into a golf course.

    • Richard Nance

      @D Lynn: Good, hopefully you won’t come back to Rockingham County for Anything plus I bet even your own family can’t stand to be around you,so,do everybody a favor & get Lost!!

  • Rene'

    This is so sad. I remember going on several field trips to tour the house and grounds when I was in elementary and junior high school. I had hoped it would be restored and kept in good repair for other generations to appreciate.

  • T Brown

    This place has too much history to just be torn down, I too have been on the grounds bypassing the already opened gate yes there are issues but there are people who dedicate their lives to refurbishing things like this.

    • D Lynn

      If they wish to dedicate their lives to restoring this disaster, they are fools with more money than sense. Look at the actual history of the place. It has always been a failing enterprise, regardless of the owners. It is in a remote location that is definitely NOT a tourist destination. The heirs GAVE it away because it was such a boondoggle and they didn’t want that hanging around their necks.

      The mold issues alone would cost hundreds of thousands, if not into millions of dollars to remediate. What about the damage done by dry rot, wet rot, etc? When we toured the guides were lamenting the water damage (leaky roofs), the mold damage (lack of modern heat and air conditioning in every room, especially the great room) and the run general run down condition of the house (non functioning bathrooms, etc.) Can you IMAGINE the cost of a commercial kitchen? A small one is $100,000, minimum. They also spoke of the need for gutter repairs that cause water damage. . . The sight of water stained walls, the smell of mold, the general decay in every space should be enough to scare away anyone but a billionaire with nothing better to do.

      The list is LONG and it is EXPENSIVE.

      Unless every room is ripped to the bare walls and everything is mold remediated, a complete HVAC system is installed and all of the plumbing and wiring (100 year old plumbing and wiring) are replaced, this place could never be a public venue.

      I’ve been involved in renovation, building and expsosed to commercial renovation. Anyone that tackles this has money to burn.

      • Jessica Matt Poff

        Well I don’t see why it can’t be done. How neat of a project would it be for those on tv that like to go around restoring things. This house is beautiful. And it does have a lot of history to it. I would hate to see it tore down. I remember touring this when I was little which has been 20 years ago and it was in excellent shape then.

      • Stephen Body

        Is this some personal crusade of yours, or what? What’s it to you if somebody has the money and desire to try to restore the place? From your feverish posts, you seem to be mortally offended that the author even dared to speak the word “renovation”. Unless you and your family owned it, at some point, and this is coming from that sort of frustration, your posts seem rather pointless. I think, as adults, we would all be smart enough to know what’s involved in restoring a neglected piece of property like this or, at a minimum, would do our due diligence and have a contractor inspect it before buying. I think your lecture seems driven by something more than the simple reaction of a reader replying to a piece like this. If your allergies were aggravated by that tour, are your allergies not activated by spring pollen? What would you have us do with that, outlaw trees? Good Lord, it’s a piece of North Carolina’s history. Whatever you think of it being, as your dismissive comment cast it, a “party house for rich people”, plenty of structures qualify as that. Should we shutter the Biltmore Mansion and The White House, because a case can be made for both of those being “party houses for rich people”. Ultimately, your comments come off as rather condescending, as though we’re all standing in awe, awaiting your Wisdom.

        Trust me on this…we’re not.

  • BRYAN JOHNSON

    I’m sure it looked great back in the day, but would have to give it away, the cost of bringing it back, i would take it, but looking at alot of money to get back

  • Frances Coley

    Never been there but would love to visit it . No matter what went on its still Historic and would make an Amazing bed and breakfast . To bad it can’t be done.

  • Elisabeth Evans

    Watching this video brought back so many memories of the day I took my children to Chinqua Penn in 2010. They were 2 and 3 at the time. We took so many photos that I still cherish to this day. In fact, one of the photos of the boys and I, I had blown up on canvas and it is hanging in my bedroom. I’m glad this man gave us a “last look” (for lack of better words) of Chinqua Penn. I sincerely hope that he will not face any repercussions. He is a local, as am I. He did not damage or take anything. And most importantly, he had the best of intentions.

    *TEAM BRYSON!*

  • Christine Davis

    My great uncle Kermit Edwards, worked with the 4 H club on the plantation for years. He taught many young people how to tend to a garden and can their food.

  • RPT

    This place is a treasure, I grew up touring this estate as a child on holidays etc. One of my best friends from childhood use to go swimming in the late 50’s early 60’s when Betsy Penn was still alive and living in the house. Looking into it and we will wait to see what comes of this lovely old place in need of much more than TLC! That is for sure.

  • Save Chinqua Penn

    I am a member of the “Save Chinqua Penn Plantation” group on Facebook. Thank you for including our link.
    We hope that the estate can be saved for future generations to enjoy. The task, while not simple, is a worthwhile one. There are so many things that can possibly be done to the home and grounds. It is such a part of Rockingham County history; we don’t want to see it crumble to dust.
    Please LIKE our page if you are interested in helping us in this mission! We need ideas, volunteers, and people with a passion to save such a place!

  • D Lynn

    The comments themselves make their own case: They are all from nostalgic locals. People who are not from here see it in a very different light. Nostalgic memories don’t make something worth saving.

    • Alice

      Wow!!! I agree with Mr. Brody. It wouldn’t be your money so why do you care!! Sounds like a very bitter person, hope things get better for you!! A golf course???? That is a waste of money!

    • Lynne C.

      What makes something worth saving, D Lynn….your opinion solely? You know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing. The house, almost a century old, is magnificent by any state’s standards regardless of where it sits and yes, believe it or not, projects of this magnitude have been completed in virtually every state of this country. Try doing an internet search of the Hudson River Valley, Winterthur Museum, or Mount Vernon. Don’t forget the White House or Washington’s Monument. You might even try plugging in Preservation(followed by the name of the state).org to see what each organization has accomplished in the last 20 years. If you live in NC, you might type in the name of Grimesland Plantation (that renovation exceeded $2 million) or Coolmore Plantation (the exterior painting cost more than $100,000). Ever heard of Boone Hall in Charleston? Speaking of Charleston, why don’t you Google preservation efforts both in the city and outskirts. Don’t forget Savannah! There are many people that appreciate both the grandeur and the history of these mansions and estates because unlike you, they realize the world did not begin the day they were born. A golf course? How totally mindless.

  • cathy kirkman

    This video was fascinating! I have always wanted to see the interior. I can only imagine what it must have been at one time. Please, please, please someone save this treasure….

  • tdavis

    It was creepy going there with other people there I couldn’t even begin to be there without anyone there but me.

  • Eric Preble

    Wow, my wife and i were married there at Chinqua Penn back in 2000. It was truly a fairy tale wedding for my wife and I. It is truly heart breaking to see the mansion in such poor disrepair. Im sure Betsy and Jeff are not smiling down on such a treasure that they donated to the State of NC. I have some wonderful wedding videos of the mansion and at least it will live on in fondly ion our thoughts!

  • Shelby

    We took our two children there, back in the mid 1970’s, and have very fond memories of Chinqua Penn. I’ve wanted to go back, but didn’t get to go, before it was closed down. I’m really glad to get to see this video! Thank you so much for posting it, and actually being brave enough to go into some of those abandoned rooms. I don’t think I could’ve. It’s so sad to see how it has been let go, and is running down so badly.

  • Wanda B

    Thanks for sharing, I have wonderful memories of this beautiful place. I had hope it would be restored.

  • Veronda Pruitt

    So sad to see this beautiful estate in such a state. It would be wonderful to see it restored to its former glory. I enjoyed your video very much.

  • Debbie Younts

    While I enjoyed your video, it is very sad to see this estate in such
    shape. My daughter was married there nearly 6 years ago, and it was the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen. I would love to see it restored to it’s glorious self. Somehow.

  • Transcender

    While the description written by the person who recorded this tour evokes a long ago romanticism of the estate and waxes rhapsodic about its history, as in this sentence – ” It was once a great majestic estate of historic significance, architecture and setting as it played host through the centuries of North Carolina nobility and personality.” – This estate was built in 1920 by the Penns. It did not “play host through the centuries…”

  • Hollyp

    I think abandoned buildings and houses and amusement parks can be quite beautiful. If we tore everything down that didn’t appeal to someone with allergies or to someone who just doesn’t understand that kind of history, we would just lose so much history. It takes all types to make the world go around. I consider myself lucky to be the kind that can recognize beauty where others see mold and are thinking about HVAC issues. Whatever.

  • SHARON

    I am so disappointed in the bank that has it now for not at least having a grounds keeper to keep the place locked up. So sad to watch….it was such a beautiful place……

  • Faye Farlow

    It was a grand place we visited in the 1980″s Such beautiful furniture bought from around the world.This is heartbreaking that it has come to this.There were cattle in the pastures then.The grounds had beautiful
    flowers and shrubs that were cared for so good!So sorry to see this.

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