The State College Historic Resources Commission has been looking into expanding the borough’s historic districts to incorporate mid-century modern structures built after World War II to around 1960, former chairman of the commission Rick Bryant said.
“Think ‘Mad Men,’ ” Bryant said to explain the style of homes that fall under the mid-century modern classification.
State College is the first area in Pennsylvania to express interest in incorporating buildings of this style, but the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has not approved it, Bryant said.
The Historic Resources Commission reports on buildings that are part of the borough’s historic districts, Borough Planning Department staff Anne Messner said. The commission reviews significant alterations to buildings that contribute to the historic districts and provides information when there are questions about the districts, Messner said.
In State College, there are historic buildings that are individually registered with the National Park Service along with two historic districts — College Heights and Holmes-Foster-Highlands, Messner said.
The buildings and districts approved to be listed on the registry are architecturally and historically significant to the borough, Messner said.
The National Park Service’s qualifications for being listed as historic buildings include being 50 years old or more and having kept the architectural integrity of the facade, Messner said.
The borough's historic districts include buildings that were built right before the 1900s and were designed by local architects or Penn State faculty, Messner said.
One of the most famous architects whose work can be seen in the borough is A. Lawrence Kocher, Bryant said. Kocher was a professor of architecture at Penn State who built his home and some other houses on Prospect Avenue, Bryant said.
Additionally, there are many catalog homes that were built in the early 1900s, Messner said. These were houses that were ordered from catalogs like Sears, Messner said. The basic materials were shipped to the customer by rail, which had a stop where Hammond Building now is, Messner said.
There are self-guided walking tours that highlight specific homes that may be of interest to the public, Messner said.
Though there are many historically significant buildings downtown shown by markers, they are not part of a historic district, Bryant said.
The Grace Lutheran Church, known as the “Dorito Church,” Bryant said, is an example of mid-century modernism that was designed by Harold E. Wagoner, the architect who worked on the United States Airforce Cadet Chapel.
Additionally, a building that is not in the borough, but rather on the edge of Penn State, with a lot of historical significance, Bryant said, is the Centre Furnace Mansion.
With Founders Day on Friday, the Centre Furnace Mansion will provide free tours and trolley rides from the HUB from 12 to 2 p.m., Centre County Historical Society Program Coordinator Megan Orient said.
The Centre Furnace Mansion has a strong connection with Penn State because the people who donated money to found Farmers’ High School lived there, Orient said.
Currently, the Historic Resources Commission is working with people from Penn State to create a smart phone app to highlight the history of downtown State College, which will hopefully be done in the next year, Messner said.