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Official Historic Places Of State College & Penn State

If you’ve ever ventured off to a house party on the west side of downtown State College, chances are you’ve probably drank cheap beer on ~official~ historical ground.

Right in town, there are six historic sites and districts listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, which aims to identify and compile places “worthy of preservation.” Since State College has been around since 1896, it’s no surprise the NPS thinks Happy Valley has a few worthy historic places.

From seemingly random houses to notable landmarks, there are quite a few historic places on and around Penn State’s campus. Here’s a quick look at the local sites.

Ag Hill Complex

The Ag Hill Complex on Penn State’s campus was added to the register in 1979 and is a collection of buildings in the north section of campus. This historic site consists of the Respiration-Calorimeter, Patterson, Armsby, and Weaver buildings.

You might also recognize this site from the slew of sculptures in its surrounding green areas. This site gained historical significance for its “absolute importance to the history of Penn State’s agricultural program and to the history of campus architecture.”


It’s not quite a castle, but the historic State College home nicknamed “Camelot” made its way onto the register in 1979 thanks to its “fairytale”-like qualities. The two-story home, which was constructed in 1922, features what the NPS calls “whimsical irregularity.”

But what makes it so historic? The NPS explains that Camelot is a great representation of the odd yet charming homes built by Penn State professors in the early 20th century. This particular abode was designed by engineering professor David A. Campbell. He, quite fittingly, taught engineering drawing.

File:Camelot (State College, Pennsylvania) 1.JPG
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The stucco and limestone home is located at 520 S. Fraser Street if you want to pass by it for yourself.

Centre Furnace Mansion House

Although its digitized register document is a bit faded, Centre Furnace Mansion House also gained historic place status in 1979. This building dates back to the 1830s and has been completely restored and refurnished to reflect when it was occupied by Moses Thompson in the late 19th century.

The mansion is historically lauded for its representation of the growing iron industry in Centre County before it was home to Penn State. Its furnace stack is one of two in the county that is still standing today.

Ironmasters like Thompson who lived in the mansion actually donated about 200 acres of adjacent land to help found Farmer’s High School and later Penn State.

College Heights Historic District

This is where things start to get not-so-obvious. Rather than being one site, this historic district is the neighborhood north of campus bound by Park Avenue, Holmes Street, Ridge Avenue, Sunset Road. It contains 278 contributing historic buildings and was entered in the register in 1995.

This area represents the early residential development in suburban State College that came after Penn State was founded. The College Heights area features Revival, Cape Cod, and Dutch Colonial houses and still functions as a microcosm of houses built during this period of growth in the mid-20th century.

Farmer’s High School

Added to the register in 1981, Farmer’s High School National Historic District is the crown jewel of official historic places in Happy Valley. It contains 37 contributing buildings and one contributing object (the Lion Shrine) in the heart of campus.

Old Main, the Nittany Lion Inn, and all of West Halls are included in the district thanks to their importance as Penn State’s original core buildings. While Farmer’s High School obviously doesn’t exist anymore, the NPS wanted to recognize the historical significance of its transition to Penn State University.

Classroom buildings like Sparks, Carnegie, Burrowes, and even Willard are also included in the district. So, chances are you’ve had a class on ~historic~ ground.

Holmes-Foster/Highlands Historic District

This district, added to the register in 1995, is located on the west side of downtown State College and roughly bounded by Bouckhout Street, Highland Avenue, Keller Street, and Prospect Avenue. A total of 731 buildings in this neighborhood contribute to the historic district.

Similar to College Heights, the Holmes-Foster/Highlands Historic District commemorates community growth around Penn State as the university became more popular. Houses here are often in the Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, and Bungalow style, which the NPS calls a “field guide” of 20th-century architectural examples.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected].

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