Historic Burrowes Building to undergo major renovation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Burrowes Building, one of Penn State's landmark buildings on the Pattee Mall, is scheduled for renovation starting in mid- to late-February. After two years of careful planning and the recent authorization by the Board of Trustees, the project will begin construction to update electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as well as reconfigure office and classroom space for greater efficiency and access.

“This project has been a very successful collaboration with the engineers, architects and specialists from the Office of Physical Plant and two planning committees involving our faculty and staff in the college,” said Susan Welch, the Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “Once completed, the project will transform the space for greater learning and scholarship by our faculty and students, will preserve the central building’s historic appearance and will improve Burrowes’ face on the mall by redesigning the connectors.”  

Burrowes was the last building designed by the famous American campus architect of the early 20th century Charles Z. Klauder (1872-1938). He designed many buildings on Penn State’s campus, including Carnegie and Old Main, and transformed many other campuses including Princeton and Cornell. He also designed the original University of Colorado campus and the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh campus. Hunter and Caldwell, General Service Administration architects located in Altoona, collaborated.

Central Burrowes was built in 1938 to 1940 as the headquarters of the then-School of Education and named after Thomas H. Burrowes, president of Penn State from 1868-71, developer of the system of free public education in Pennsylvania, and drafter of the law establishing the Pennsylvania State Normal System.

During the 1960s, enrollments at the University Park campus grew from 16,000 to 26,000, and many new buildings and building expansions were constructed to meet this demand. The Burrowes wings were added in 1967, though even at the time they were seen as “incongruous” with the original Burrowes building.

The College of the Liberal Arts assumed control of the building in the early 1960s after the College of Education moved to Chambers Building. Since then, Burrowes has housed many different units. Currently, it is home to the Department of English and the School of Languages and Literatures, comprising most of the international language and literature departments: Department of Comparative Literature, Department of French and Francophone Studies, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, and Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

New York Times best-selling author David Morrell still remembers his days there as an English graduate student: “When the English department moved to Burrowes, I recall Philip Young and I carrying his books to his new office, which was on the same floor as the English department's office,” he said. “This brings back a lot of fond memories, especially the long conversations that he and I had in that office.''

''Some graduate students (including me) shared a common office, with cubicles, in the long part of the building, toward the middle, down from the English department's office. But at nights, prof. Young allowed me to use the privacy of his office in order to write (I was working on my 'First Blood' novel),'' Morrell said. "Paul West's office was across from his. At nights, Paul came in to write also. Sometimes we took a break and talked in the hallway between the offices. Our conversations were always about writing and were very helpful."

Before the beginning of spring semester, the faculty of the English department and the School of Languages and Literatures moved to temporary offices in downtown State College. Staff and advisers for the two units are now located in Ritenour Building. The schedule estimates construction being completed near the end of 2015, and the return of faculty and staff for spring semester 2016.

More information about the project is available at http://www.la.psu.edu/about/new-facilities/burrowes-renovation-project.

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Last Updated April 21, 2016