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Pennsylvania State University (PSU) (Farmer's High School of Pennsylvania)

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1887–present. Roughly bounded by College and Park aves., N. Atherton St., and Porter Rd.
  • Old Main
  • Old Main
  • Old Main
  • Old Main
  • Pattee Library
  • Armsby Building
  • Information, Science and Technology Building
  • Pattee Library
  • Stuckeman Family Building
  • Weaver Building
  • Rec Hall
  • Executive Education Building
  • Executive Education Building

In 1855, the trustees of the Farmer's High School of Pennsylvania (later the Pennsylvania State College, and today, the Pennsylvania State University) chose two hundred acres in Centre County for the school. Currently, more than two hundred buildings occupy PSU's University Park campus. Old Botany is the most significant of the early buildings. Designed by the college's staff architect Frederick L. Olds in 1887, this Richardsonian Romanesque two-and-one-half-story hipped-roof building of stone and brick presents the squat, massive volume typical of its style. Among the several buildings added to the campus between 1899 and 1906, under the presidency of George W. Atherton, were the first buildings financed by individual donors (Charles M. Schwab and Andrew Carnegie). These were Schwab Auditorium (1902, Edward Hazlehurst) and the Carnegie Library (1903, Davis and Davis). Both are rectangular Beaux-Arts-inspired buildings with hipped roofs and faced with light-colored, smooth stone. Farther east on “Ag Hill,” the Patterson (1903), Armsby (1905–1907), and Weaver (1914) buildings surround the agriculture quadrangle. All designed by Edward Hazlehurst (1853–1915), these Renaissance Revival buildings create a harmonious ensemble. All are executed in warm-colored (deep red, tan, or brown) stone, with a massive first story and progressively lighter-detailed second and third stories. Round-arched windows, tile roofs, wide projecting eaves, and dormers are shared architectural features.

In 1914, Charles Z. Klauder (1872–1938) developed a master plan for the PSU campus. Klauder decided to make a new Old Main the focal point and to create a set of symmetrical quadrangles in the spirit of Beaux-Arts planning, one of which would evolve into a mall stretching to Allen Street in downtown State College. Klauder's Old Main (1930) is constructed from limestone blocks reused from the campus's original College Building. The Georgian Revival, H-shaped building has an eight-columned portico supporting a tall entablature, and a domed cupola of slender proportions and simple geometric lines. With Klauder as university architect, a building boom in the 1930s resulted in many new laboratories, an expanded agriculture campus, and student residences. Klauder designed many of these buildings, including the Pattee Library (1938) at the head of the mall. Its plain, massive square-columned portico, topped by a glassed-in second story, can be categorized as the “starved Classicism” of the 1930s. A row of historic elm trees line the mall. Additional designs by Klauder include the West Halls dormitory group, a Georgian Revival ensemble facing open quadrangles, and the Mineral Industries Building (now Steidle Building) of 1929–1931 that has a projecting domed entrance supported by a semicircle of columns.

Expansion after World War II included the long, rounded one-story building (1930; 200 W. Park Avenue) adjacent to the Nittany Lion Inn. Designed in 1974 by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates as a faculty club, the building's wood shingles blend with the surrounding woods. Unfortunately, the faculty club never materialized, and the interior fittings have been removed. Increasingly, football became a focus of Penn State life. Beaver Stadium was constructed in 1960 out of materials from the old Beaver Field. Its horseshoe shape, with bleacher sections on the long sides, was eventually filled in with bleachers added to the end of the horseshoe (1999–2001, John C. Haas Associates/HOK Sport). In scale, the stadium dwarfs all other campus structures. Its exposed steel framework, concrete ramps, scoreboard, and spiky lights (added in 1984) are often seen on national television when the Nittany Lions play football here. The stadium seats 107,000 people. The neighboring Bryce Jordan Center (1993–1996, Haas/Rosser Fabrap/Brinjac, Kambic) claims it is the largest covered arena between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; it seats 15,261 people for basketball events, graduation ceremonies, and concerts. Its rounded profile, red brick facade, and imposing, white curved and segmented roofline are eye-catching.

Across Park Avenue, the Agricultural Arena (1986, Dagit/Saylor) features an oversized and creatively ornamented barn shape. Another notable addition to campus architecture is the Palmer Museum of Art on Curtin Road, built in 1972, and given an addition and major renovation, completed in 1993, by Charles W. Moore (1925–1993) in association with Arbonies King Vlock. Moore was the first out-of-state architect to design a building on the Penn State campus. The new entrance, with its arched, angled front transformed the museum. It faces an expansive loggia whose geometric patterns echo those on the entrance windows. The brick arches refer to neighboring buildings on the Ag quad, and each arch, supported by white columns topped with colorful glazed-tile capitals, frames a view from a different point on campus pathways to create inviting vistas. An imposing two-story lobby with giant corbeled projections angles the visitor to the gallery spaces. These rooms have projecting portals placed at slight angles to the gallery walls, thus creating visual interest and a sense of movement.

In 2003, the Student Union and library were renovated, and more than a dozen red brick residence halls and buildings devoted to the applied sciences were built on the west campus. The Information Sciences and Technology Building (1999–2003), by Rafael Viñoly with Perfido Weiskopf, spans Atherton Street (U.S. 322), linking the central and west campuses in a graceful sweep of glass anchored by red brick. The new brick, steel, and glass Smeal College of Business at the corner of Park Avenue and Shortlidge Road was designed by Robert A. M. Stern with Bower Lewis Thrower (2003–2005). In 2005, the Architecture and Landscape Architecture departments moved into the Stuckeman Family Building, a gold LEED-rated, copper-sheathed building south of Park Avenue and west of Shortlidge Road. It was designed by Overland Partners of San Antonio, Texas, and WTW Architects and Landscape Architects La Quatra Bonci of Pittsburgh.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Pennsylvania State University (PSU) (Farmer's High School of Pennsylvania)", [State College, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 348-350.

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