Since Penn State began as the Farmers High School in 1855, the University has undergone numerous transformations and expanded considerably in size (obviously!). With such a long history of education, there’s bound to be some interesting stories and buildings on campus.

Check out our list below of the top buildings on campus when in town – one even dates back to the 1800’s. And, these buildings aren’t just pretty to look at, they house some of the most important University matters on campus.

Old Main

Arguably the most recognizable building on Penn State’s campus other than the football stadium, Old Main is Penn State’s administration building, home to the president and other top administrators. The original Old Main was built in 1863 and razed in 1929 to make way for the current structure.

Inside Old Main’s main entrance, visitors immediately are greeted by the land-grant frescoes that surround the walls. The frescoes depict Penn State’s founding and early development and were done by Henry Varnum Poor in 1940 and 1949.

In the fall, Penn State Lion Ambassadors host tours of the Old Main bell tower, which is a great way to explore the architecture and history of the building.

The Old Main lawn is a great spot to enjoy a picnic, while looking at downtown State College right across the street. Also, check out the sundial on the lawn that was a gift of the class of 1915. Did you know, this is where President Obama gave a speech to students and onlookers during his 2008 campaign?

University House

Currently connected to the Hintz Alumni Center, the Alumni House is the oldest building on Penn State’s campus. It housed 11 university presidents from 1864 to 1970. The building was renovated in 2001 for use with the alumni center, which coordinates all Penn State alumni activities.

Rec Hall

Rec Hall is a great place to see a sporting event on the Penn State campus. It was built in 1928 and typifies the “field house” structure that so many colleges built for their athletic venues back in the day. It’s a multipurpose facility, which can seat up to 7,200 fans. 

The architect, Charles Z. Klauder, also designed the famous Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania that was built one year earlier in 1927. The total cost to build Rec Hall was $572,260.

Watching a game in Rec Hall today is certainly a treat with its cozy surroundings and raucous atmospheres. It has a charm that newer arenas are simply missing. Currently the hottest draw in the arena is the two-time defending national champion Penn State wrestling team that begins their on-campus season in November.

Rec Hall is also a museum of sorts. Walking around the hallways of the arena, you can gaze upon team portraits of many different Penn State teams from decades past. There’s also past championships displayed prominently in trophy cases.

Other Penn State teams that occupy Rec Hall are men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s gymnastics. Rec Hall played host to Penn State basketball until 1996 and has hosted 21 NCAA championships, 16 international gymnastics meets and 12 NCAA women’s basketball tournament games.

Rec Hall is located at the corner of Curtin and Burrowes on the Penn State campus. For more information about Penn State athletics click here.


Carnegie Building

The Carnegie Building is home to Penn State’s College of Communications and it was built as a gift from trustee and steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie in 1904. Located on the Allen Street mall directly next to Pollock Road, the building was the original home to Penn State’s student newspaper The Daily Collegian, from 1972-1989 and served as the University’s first library building.


Schwab Auditorium

Located just across Pollock road from the Carnegie Building is another classic building. Schwab Auditorium was completed in 1903 and was initially built as a chapel. Trustee and president of Bethlehem Steel, Charles Schwab donated $150,000 for the construction of the building.

The building combines elements of Imperial Roman, Italian Renaissance and French and Italian Baroque styles.

Today, Schwab Auditorium is much more than a chapel, as it hosts campus performances and world-renowned musicians and performers. Recent shows have included The Fiddler on the Roof.

Three ghosts are rumored to haunt the building - former president George Atherton, (whose burial site is right next to the building) Schwab himself, and an unknown soldier.

Pattee and Paterno Library

Penn State’s main library is one of the biggest buildings on campus. The first library collection resided below Old Main before moving into the Carnegie building in 1904. After the library collection outgrew the Carnegie Building, it was time for an upgrade. Pattee Library opened in 1938. It was named after Fred Lewis Pattee, a professor of American literature at Penn State from 1895 to 1928 and it has since undergone four renovations (1951, 1964, 1970 and 1973).

Paterno Library, named for Joe and Sue Paterno’s generous donations, was dedicated in 2000. The five story, 132,000 sq ft addition also connected to Pattee library after it underwent a renovation.

Pay a visit to these classic buildings on Penn State’s sprawling campus and stay with Lion Country Lodging. 

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