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


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.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.