Two Penn State offices, along with the Centre County Historical Society, are celebrating the university’s official birthplace with a historical marker at the Centre Furnace Mansion in State College.
On June 26, 1855, the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania’s Board of Trustees visited the Centre Furnace Mansion to discuss where to place its school. The trustees met again in Harrisburg on Sept. 12, 1855 and approved a motion to establish a school in Centre County, which would later become the Pennsylvania State University.
“This is the source of everything that became Penn State, including the Commonwealth Campuses over the years,” said Roger Williams, the president of the Centre County Historical Society.
Williams said the board of trustees decided on Centre County because of its central location and its good soil quality.
“It’s important to know what the roots of the Pennsylvania State University are and they are agricultural,” Williams said. “It wasn’t just a curriculum centered on learning how to plow a straight furrow. It was learning the chemistry, the physics, the botany, the biology of the agricultural sciences. And the hope was that the graduates would go on and adopt these practices and make farming practice more productive in the state of Pennsylvania.”
Williams said at the time, most Pennsylvanians were farmers. Last year, Penn State Extension said 1 in 10 jobs in the state were agriculture related, contributing close to 18% of Pennsylvania’s gross state product.
The new sign is part of Penn State’s “historical marker program,” which is sponsored by the alumni association and the office of strategic communications. Williams said the goal is to memorialize the university’s significant intellectual and scientific achievements since its creation.
“The fact that the Centre Furnace Mansion is the birthplace of Penn State has been known for a long time. This seals that deal and we’re just excited to have it here,” said Mary Sorensen, the historical society’s executive director.
Sorensen said there are many interns and volunteers that come to the mansion every semester.
“This marker is also a wonderful way to formally express that this is going to be part of their heritage as an alumni at some point,” Sorensen said.
The alumni association and office of strategic communications are revitalizing all of the historical signs on Penn State’s University Park campus. Williams said some signs have been up for nearly 30 years, and he’s excited to see them either replaced or refurbished.