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California University of Pennsylvania (California State Teachers College, South Western Normal School)

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California State Teachers College, South Western Normal School
1868–present. 250 University Ave.

California in Washington County was founded in 1849, and named for the California gold rush of the previous year. In the following decade, the borough successfully competed to be the site of one of the commonwealth's ten teacher training, or normal, schools. The first campus building was not completed until 1870. Old Main and its flanking men's and women's dormitories North (demolished 1969) and South halls were designed by John Upton Barr and Henry Moser. Old Main has twin brick mansard-roofed towers, differentiated by clock faces on the southwest tower and the college's bells in the northwest tower. Windows throughout are round arched, with bull's-eye windows above the second-floor windows. In 1900 and 1907, J. C. Fulton Architect of Uniontown designed additions to the east and west elevations. His design for the Library Annex included a stained glass interior dome, a feature he used repeatedly in his churches. John Charles Fulton also designed the First Presbyterian Church of California (1900; 303 4th Street). The round arches of Old Main are echoed in the striking entrance of the Old Science Hall (1890–1892), now the Watkins Academic Center, designed by Frederick J. Osterling. Stylistically, Vulcan Hall (also called Watkins Academic Center, 1892) appears to be by Osterling as well. Red brick Colonial Revival buildings dating from 1930 to 1938 fill out the quadrangle on the south and east, among them the Industrial Arts Building of 1939 by C. C. Compton, who also designed the boiler plant. A quadrangle runs east toward the Monongahela River behind the Herron Recreation and Fitness Center of 1932, designed by Emil R. Johnson and Clarence F. Wilson, terminating in the concrete block and aluminum New Science Hall (1956–1961, Slater, Cozza and Critchfield).

In the 1950s and 1960s, the campus plan called for the demolition of the older structures, and, in anticipation of this event, buildings were crowded around Old Main. Most of the campus buildings were built in this period, until a recent spate of new building. A campus plan of 1996 proposed to make Old Main the focal point again, and this resulted in the demolition of the Reed Arts Center (former library, 1962) and several older dormitories north of the Natali Student Center (1992, WTW Architects). The bold, three-story Manderino Library (1980), sheathed in a warm peach-colored stone, was designed by Norman Frey Associates, the successor firm of Slater, Cozza and Critchfield. The Eberly Building of 1998, designed initially by MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni, was built by Hayes Large Architects and is in keeping with the new campus plan to create a primary entrance at the northern facade of Old Main. The Kara Alumni House (2002; 611 2nd Street) also was built after the designs of MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni in a similar red brick Colonial Revival style. Since 2000, more than half-a-dozen new building projects continue to upgrade the campus. An entirely new quadrangle of dormitory buildings, orange brick with hipped roofs and gabled dormers, surrounds Natali Student Center. The Steele Auditorium is being expanded and renovated by Tasso Katselas (2007), and a New Duda Hall (2007, MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni) will be a Welcome Center at 3rd Street and University Avenue.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "California University of Pennsylvania (California State Teachers College, South Western Normal School)", [California, 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, 292-293.

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