Those of you who spent time at Penland last spring and summer will surely remember all the activity around the Craft House. During our major restoration of this beloved building, we upgraded windows and doors, re-shingled the siding, worked on the roof, and—most notably—replaced about 20 percent of the logs that clad the exterior. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the process was how the new elements of the building were added so skillfully that they are already virtually indistinguishable from their older counterparts.
It was in this way—with great skill and care and craft—that the final piece of the restoration was completed at the beginning of the month. Blacksmith and artist Greg Gehner designed, fabricated, and installed these elegant panels to bring the iconic Craft House railing up to current building codes. Considering how many people know and love this porch, altering the railing was a project we approached with trepidation. We are thrilled with Greg’s solution—one that references the Craft House’s distinctive stone chinking, preserves the views we all cherish, and exemplifies the functionality and beauty of the craft we teach here at Penland.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it still doesn’t come close to an experience. Come visit us soon to enjoy this fine porch in person!
For years, we’ve been talking about the renovation of The Craft House, Penland’s iconic log structure. (About 20 percent of the logs needed replacement.) For just as long we’ve all been wondering how it would be done. Now that contractor Richard Huss and crew are deep into the job, we are starting to get the answer.
And the answer is: log by log. They take out a log or two, put in some props, cut a new log to length, lay it in the space, mark it, cut notches, put it in place, refine the cuts, put it back in place, and then do it again.
It helps that the building has a quite a bit of structure inside of the logs and it’s nailed together every which way. But the secret seems to be patience and methodical application of craft—things we respect.
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!