How Much Did Penn State’s Landmarks Cost To Build?

After diving into the history books and discovering how Penn State buildings got their names, we were still hungry for knowledge.

We decided to get out our magnifying glasses and put on our accounting caps to discover how much it would cost to build Penn State’s most famous landmarks today.

Using U.S. CPI data and Penn State’s archives, here’s what we found:

Old Main

The Old Main that we know and love today isn’t actually the original Old Main! The first Old Main was completed in 1863 but was deemed structurally unsound in the 1920s. To fix the issue, Penn State closed and demolished the original building and built the current Old Main on its predecessor’s footprint.

The new Old Main was completed in 1930, with a price tag of $837,000. Today, this would be equivalent to $13.18 million, with a 1,474.9% inflation rate. (Fun fact: Penn State purchased Old Coaly, its previous mascot, for $190 in 1857. This is equal to $5,356.52 today.)

Schwab Auditorium

The Schwab Auditorium, one of the oldest buildings on campus, was completed in 1903. Charles Schwab, president of Bethlehem Steel, gave Penn State $150,000 in 1902 for the construction of the auditorium that would be named in his honor. The generous donation would be equal to $4.54 million in 2021 — almost three times less expensive than Old Main.

Carnegie Building

It didn’t take too long for the Carnegie Building to be built once the Schwab Auditorium was finished. The building, named for Andrew Carnegie, was completed in 1904. Due to a friendly rivalry between the two, Carnegie wanted his building to be grander than Schwab’s.

According to the Penn State Libraries Digital Collections, the Carnegie Building was constructed for a grand total of $316,414.34, which is equal to about $9.42 million today. Talk about a grand building!

Pattee and Paterno Library

The Pattee Library, named for former Penn State professor and author of the Alma Mater, Fred Lewis Pattee, was built in 1938. The structure replaced the Carnegie Library. The construction cost Penn State $546,097.67 in 1938, equivalent to about $10.11 million today.

We can’t mention the Pattee Library without giving a shoutout to its counterpart, the Paterno Library. Joe and Sue Paterno lead a 1994 campaign that raised $13.4 million to expand the already-massive library at the time. The entire project came out to a grand total of $34.4 million in 1997, which equates to $56.73 million in today’s dollars. That is equal to about 1,134 JoePa statues!

Bryce Jordan Center

The Bryce Jordan Center broke ground in 1993 and was completed just three years later. The original cost of construction was $52.762 million, which translates to about $96.03 million today.

Rec Hall

Rec Hall, at different points in time the home of Penn State basketball, commencement, and THON, broke ground in 1927 and opened in January 1929. The $572,260 spent to construct Penn State wrestling and volleyball’s home is equal to about $8.80 million today.

The Lion Shrine

Dedicated as a class gift at Homecoming in 1942, the Lion Shrine was sculpted by Heinz Warneke from a 13-ton block of Indiana Limestone. The Symbol Of Our Best cost approximately $5,000 in 1940, which is equivalent to $80,679.14 today.

Beaver Stadium

Like many buildings on campus, Beaver Stadium was built throughout a stage of renovations.

The original model of Beaver Stadium, previously known as New Beaver Field, which held a capacity of 46,284, was constructed in 1959 and completed in 1960. The stadium cost the university $1.6 million at the time, which is now equivalent to approximately $14.36 million.

Following a series of renovations and expansions over the next 40 years, Penn State completed Beaver Stadium’s biggest expansion project in 2001. An upper deck was added above the south end zone, and three stories’ worth of luxury suites were added to the east side of the stadium, bringing Beaver Stadium’s capacity to the #107kStrong that we all know today. The expansion cost Penn State $93 million, which is equal to a whopping $142.65 million.

The JoePa Statue

According to some ~rough~ estimates, the JoePa statue is worth around $50,000. 

The original bronze sculpture was completed in 2001 by sculptor Angelo Di Maria, in addition to the Beaver Stadium expansion. The $50,000 used to create the statue in 2001 is now worth about $74,088.45 today. Of course, it would probably be much more valuable than that…if somebody could find it, that is.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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