About Burrowes Building

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Central Burrowes was built in 1938 to 1940 and was dedicated and occupied in 1940. It was designed 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. Throughout this site, we have posted historic photos of Burrowes from the University Archives. Click to enlarge them.


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Burrowes was the last building designed by the famous American campus architect of the early 20th century, Charles Z. Klauder (1872-1938). (See an article about him in the Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com/article/Charles-Klauder-s-Brilliant/2122). 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. The Penn State Libraries have pre-wing views of the building on file here: http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/upchc/id/190/rec/43

President Hetzel asked the Dean of the School of Education, Will Grant Chambers, to suggest appropriate names to be carved around the top of Burrowes. The 28 names include Americans on the Mall side and European educators on the other side. The list of luminaries include Edwin Erle Sparks and George W. Atherton, two Penn State presidents. Read the story of the naming in this news article: http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/upchc/id/142/rec/11

During the 1960s, enrollments at the University Park campus grew from 16,000 to 26,000, and many new buildings were constructed and wings added. Looking backward, it seems that money was probably short and these new facilities may not have met earlier design and construction standards. In that context, in1967, the north and south wings were built Read the story of the construction of the north and south wings: (http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/upchc/id/44/rec/7). Even at the time they were seen as “incongruous” with the original Burrowes (as noted in the article on the naming).

The College of the Liberal Arts assumed control of the building in the early 1960s after the construction of Chambers Building for the College of Education. 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.

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