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College Heights District

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1920–1960. Roughly bounded by Holmes St. Park, Ridge, Hillcrest, and Mitchell aves., Woodland Dr. and Sunset Rd.

The College Heights neighborhood, adjoining Pennsylvania State University (PSU) campus to the north, reflects the robust economy of the university town during the Depression years, when other regions of the commonwealth could afford little new construction. Enrollment at the college doubled during the 1930s, and with this expansion came an infusion of people and money. College Heights was laid out in the early 1920s, and by 1940, over 270 houses had been built in the neighborhood. Early deed transfers required that houses built here cost at least $5,000. This was a boon to the local building trades, since low prices for labor and materials meant that even faculty members could erect architect-designed houses. For example, at 721 and 722 Holmes Street, local architect Clarence Bauchspies designed homes in Tudor and Colonial styles. The former features cross gables with decorative half timbering, casement windows with stone lintels, and a corbeled brick chimney. The latter has a simple three-bay design with a hooded porch and door with fanlight. Bauchspies's own house at 608 Sunset Road (1935) is similar. At 154 Ridge Avenue, the multigabled Tudor Revival residence of 1928 by Frederick C. Disque has false half timbering in a fanciful lozenge pattern. Brick and stucco-finished walls and irregular fenestration add to the building's cottage ambience. At 335 Arbor Way, P. Boyd Kapp and Dean Kennedy, together with local contractor John Henszey, landscaped and built a charming Tudor Revival house in 1935. Cross gables, multiple chimneys topped with terra-cotta pots, projecting bay windows, and a slate roof combine with beautifully textured masonry of local hammer-worked stone. More than a dozen houses are authenticated as mailorder houses. For example, the Sears “Colchester” (1932–1933; 750 Holmes Avenue) has rounded stone arches, rustic clapboarding in the gable end, and a massive stone chimney with quoins. Trees, plantings, and professional landscaping completed the neighborhood to reinforce the atmosphere of an elite residential district.

Notable commercial, religious, and public buildings occupy prominent places in the district. The College Heights School (721 N. Atherton Street) was designed c. 1925 by the PSU architectural landscape firm of P. Boyd Kapp and Henley Eden in a restrained Colonial Revival. At 803 N. Atherton Street, the gas station built in 1935 (now College Heights Exxon) is in the cottage style to blend with its residential neighborhood; it retains its original neon-lit clock fixture.

After World War II, College Heights continued to be a fashionable choice as the university burgeoned. The International Style was employed for houses at 667 Franklin Street, 315 Martin Terrace, and 515 W. Park Avenue. A bolder architect-designed house (1956, William Hajjar) at 327 Arbor Way presents a solid facade to the street side and is dominated by austere garage walls. The Islamic Center of Central Pennsylvania at 709 W. Ridge Avenue was originally a Unitarian church, built c. 1960 and modified for its new use in 1989 with the addition of a minaret. This shallow-pitch gable-roofed building, with its simple lines, fits the modernist tenor of the western part of the neighborhood.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "College Heights District", [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, 350-351.

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