Penland’s Edward F. Worst Craft House is one of the most iconic buildings on campus. Its red roof and rustic log siding are the unofficial welcome sign to visitors as they round the curve in the road and the expanse of the knoll opens up before them. It’s also one of the most beloved buildings, as anyone who has spent a lazy afternoon on the rocking chairs sketching, thinking, or chatting could tell you. In the eight decades the Craft House has been a part of Penland, it has housed everything from students and studios to offices and the campus supply store and has served as a gathering place for our community to perform music, dance, tell stories, and simply relax.
A little history: the Craft House was built to house Penland’s weaving studio, and its construction was a true community event. Penland students, instructors, staff, and friends helped to raise funds for the structure by contributing $2.50 to purchase a log or a window sash. The two-day log raising took place in May 1935, and the windows, doors, fireplaces, chimneys, and other touches to finish the building were added over the next few years. The Craft House was named in honor of Edward F. Worst, an early and influential weaving instructor at Penland, and it was home to Penland’s weaving program until 1949. In December of 2003, the Penland School Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places, in large part because of the Craft House and the history it holds.
Unfortunately, the old saying “all you need is love” doesn’t quite hold true, at least not for large log structures. Over time, many of the soft poplar logs that clad the Craft House have deteriorated, and Penland is now embarking on a complex project to restore this beloved building. Together with a team that specializes in historic preservation, we have developed a restoration plan that will address repair and replacement needs while maintaining the Craft House’s special character.
The most visible part of this restoration project is the logs themselves. In fact, anyone who has been to campus this spring will have noticed the impressive stack of long, straight trunks in the parking lot adjacent to the Craft House. These trees have been cut locally from Penland’s 420-acre campus and will be used to replace sections of the original logs that show significant cracking or decay—roughly 16% of the building’s total logs. This aspect of the project will also include repairs to the chinking and daubing and additional reinforcements to anchor the log siding to the Craft House’s internal structure.
The Craft House’s windows, doors, porch, and roof will also receive attention as part of the project. This includes restoring the original paint scheme, bringing the porch railing up to current building codes, replacing siding shingles and sections of roof that have deteriorated, repairing the original stonework on the building’s steps, and fixing or replacing the sixty-nine windows on the upper floors. And for any student who has stayed in the Craft House and battled with summer insects at night, you’ll be glad to know that each window will also be outfitted with a screen!
All this work will be happening in the coming weeks now that more spring-like weather has arrived. We are delighted to be able to give the Craft House the care and attention that it needs to continue to serve as an important touchstone for our community, and we are grateful to the many generous supporters who have helped to make it happen. We can’t wait to share this process—and especially the final outcome—with all of you. Stay tuned as those logs in the parking lot get woven into the fabric of the building we know and love!