Conscious Party: Penland Post Office Project auction

SNAIL MAIL CHARMS: The Penland Post Office and General Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. An online auction is being held Feb. 1-8 to raise funds for the next step of its restoration. Photo by Alicia Swaringen

WHAT: An online auction to raise funds for restoration of the Penland Post Office and General Store

WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 1-Thursday, Feb. 8

WHERE: www.32auctions.com/PenlandPostOfficeProject

WHY: The Penland Post Office and General Store holds a special place for the Mitchell County town. In operation since 1879 and housed the same 1902-built structure since the 1930s, it’s a place many residents visit on a daily basis to pick up their mail and where Postmaster Rebecca Davis has worked for over 50 years.

“It’s a nexus point for the community. It’s the heart of the community of Penland,” says Alicia Swaringen, whose great-great-great-grandparents Col. Isaac Bailey and Louisa Penland Bailey constructed the building.

To help preserve its legacy as what Jennifer Cathey, restoration specialist for the state Historic Preservation Office, has deemed a perfect representation of buildings from its era, Swaringen and her mother, Marsha Bailey, started the Penland Post Office Project in 2002. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, and in the same year the community formed a nonprofit to which Swaringen, Bailey and their family gave the building so that people could donate money toward its restoration.

“When I started looking into the history of the building and what it meant to the community, I didn’t want to be that generation that let this cool old building fall down — and once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Swaringen says. “The community, I discovered that tons of people up there wanted to keep it, only it’s an expensive project.”

Over $75,000 has been raised and primarily used to stabilize the building’s foundation. In order to accomplish the project’s next step and replace the electrical system, the nonprofit is holding an online auction Thursday, Feb. 1-Thursday, Feb. 8.

Artists from the nearby Penland School of Crafts have donated such items as ceramics, pottery and photography. Those and many other items may be shipped around the country, but services like power washing and gift certificates to local clothing stores must be redeemed within the Penland area. There’s also a dinner by award-winning chef Kyle McKnight at the town’s Chinquapin Inn.

Once the General Store side of the building is finished, it will be leased by Thrifty Adventures. The Spruce Pine adventure travel company had already been ending its river trips in Penland and is looking to start a new run from its second location, leading Swaringen to call the pending partnership “a match made in heaven.”

The Penland Post Office Project’s online auction runs Thursday, Feb. 1-Thursday, Feb. 8. www.32auctions.com/PenlandPostOfficeProject

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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