State College then and now, from farmland to college town

    Then and Now is an ongoing photographic series from Keystone Crossroads, looking at historical images and photographs of today from Pennsylvania cities and towns.

    Penn State began as a small agricultural college nearly 160 years ago, intended to teach young men hard work, simplicity, and to improve methods of farming in Centre County, Pennsylvania.

    The founders of the Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania worried the state’s agricultural economy was losing its workforce to manufacturing and the allures of city life.

    By the beginning of the 20th century, the college expanded its focus from agricultural studies to a curriculum that included more traditional disciplines of business, law, engineering, sciences and liberal arts.

    Today, it may be difficult to recognize the school that was once designed for young farmers.

    The college that began on 200 acres of donated land in Centre County spans out to 24 campuses across the state, about 98,000 students, and a $4.3 billion operating budget.

    At State College, more than 46,000 students — undergraduate and graduate — attend Penn State at University Park campus. That’s about 4,000 more students than residents who live in the borough year round.

    Like other college towns, it’s hard to tell where the boundaries of where Penn State end and where the borough begins.

    A walk through downtown State College feels like an extension of the university. Small businesses cater to students. Flags of rival universities are strung across a quaint alley.  The words, “We are …” are proudly displayed on a window pane.

    Throughout the years, the university has maintained its agricultural roots as an important research intuition and through the College of Agricultural Sciences.

    The Penn State Creamery still churns out homemade ice cream. Students research plant sciences at campus greenhouses and pigs marked with PSU graze a hillside near Beaver Stadium.

     

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    Archival images courtesy of the Centre County Historical Society and Penn State University Archives.

     

     

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