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Penn State Libraries Highlight Evolution Of Campus & State College Through Maps

Penn State University Libraries recently launched an ArcGIS hub that stores several maps highlighting both State College and Penn State’s transformation over time through geospatial data.

There are several interesting maps that people can look at, whether it be State College Land Use Over Time or maps of Altoona, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. Truly, though, the most interesting map in this collection is State College Change Through Time.

Below, we’ll use the visualizations to show you the evolution of Penn State and its buildings from 1906 to 1929 — the most recent set of maps that the ArcGIS hub offers so far.


Courtesy of ArcGIS

Penn State was a small university back in 1906. Anything east of where the HUB sits today practically did not exist at the time. But, there are some cool components that are still around, although they are used in new ways today.

Old Main was still the center of campus, as noted by the blue building on the map. Staples like Carnegie, McAllister, and Schwab Auditorium were in use at the time in the same spot that they are located today.

Courtesy of Penn State Libraries

However, most of these buildings had different uses at the time. Carnegie, at the time, was the school library, while McAllister was the boys’ dormitory. There was also an armory that’s clearly no longer on campus these days.


Courtesy of ArcGIS

A lot of these buildings remained the same about five years later, but there are some notable differences and additions in 1911, including the expansion of land on campus.

In the southernmost part of campus, there was the Department of Mining. Oddly enough, that building looks eerily similar to what Hammond looks like today. Hammond wasn’t built until 1958, though, so the Department of Mining could have been an inspiration for the design.

Courtesy of Penn State Libraries

There also seemed to be more cottages and dorms than in 1906. In 1906, there was one girls’ dormitory and one boys’ dormitory. Five years later, they had cottages and dorms all throughout the east area of campus. As time moves forward, population at Penn State grew, and more dorms needed to be developed.


Courtesy of ArcGIS

There wasn’t a whole lot of change in terms of on-campus buildings, but that’s likely due to World War I. The war meant that there were very few students coming to campus since they were fighting overseas. Additionally, Penn State was likely lacking in resources that were instead directed toward the war effort.

However, the university did add engineering buildings to the cluster of facilities in the southern part of campus. Included in those developments were Engineering Buildings A, B, and C, which are still on campus today.

Courtesy of Penn State Libraries

The other big noticeable change is that, at this point, there are more residential homes being developed on the north end of campus. The map is starting to resemble what the State College area looks like in 2022 as downtown State College continues to grow along with the local residential neighborhoods.


Courtesy of ArcGIS

The university is continuing to grow as the country heads into the 1930s and eventually into the Great Depression. A new recreation building was created located exactly where Rec Hall stands today. Also, the Department of Mining changed into different, unnamed buildings.

There were also new dorms added, as well as a new engineering building that was in construction at the time. Over this map’s span, we can really see State College begin to flourish just south of campus.

These maps, along with others from the greater Pennsylvania commonwealth, are available online.

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About the Author

Owen Abbey

Owen Abbey is a junior from Annapolis, Maryland, majoring in secondary education and minoring in social justice in education. When he is not writing for the blog, he enjoys rooting for the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, supporting Penn State basketball and softball, dreaming of all of the ways he would win the TV show "Survivor", and yes mom, actually doing school work. If you would like to talk about sports or "Survivor", the best way to reach out is on Twitter @theowenabbey. All other compliments may be sent to [email protected]

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