Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sponsored Lecture: Penn State, State College, a Sinkhole, the WPA, and the Building of Memorial Field

Presented by Ronald A. Smith, Professor Emeritus, Kinesiology
Sponsored by the Penn State University Archives
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Noon-1:00 p.m.
Foster Auditorium

Utilizing collections held by the Penn State University Archives and the Centre County Historical Society as well as material gleaned from newspapers, School Board and Borough meeting minutes, Professor Smith offers his presentation on the creation of State College’s iconic “Sinkhole” Memorial Field.

When State College was incorporated in 1896, it had one school, built by College Township and a high school would not even be created until the next decade. There were no intercollegiate athletics and no athletic field, except on the Penn State campus. There was, however, a sinkhole on a farm on the outskirts of State College that, when purchased in 1914, became a playground for a new school on Nittany Avenue.

The sinkhole was not prime agricultural land and was used by some in State College to deposit their garbage. When purchased, the objective was not to use it as an athletic field, but rather as a school play area. It wasn’t long before it became a place for the4 baseball team to play its games and a practice field for football (State College boys played their games on the Penn State campus).

By the mid-1920s, the Chamber of Commerce saw the “Hollow” as a future athletic stadium and soon John Bracken, head, Penn State’s Landscape Architecture Department, had drawings of an expanded State College school campus, including a stadium.

Little progress was made on the “Hollow” until the Great Depression in the 1930s. At the height of the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President and the New Deal attempted to come to the rescue by building government projects and putting millions to work. The most prominent program was the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created in 1935. The WPA made possible the building of a stadium in State College, following the leadership of the State College schools superintendent Jo Hays. The nearly $100,000 project created the limestone-adorned athletic field that was named Memorial Field in 1946.

Smith offers the illustrated story of a sinkhole in the “Hollow” that was developed first into a baseball field, and then soon became the target of the State College Borough for an engineering project to drain surface water from Allen Street and elsewhere. How the School Board negotiated the draining of State College run-off water into the sinkhole with the State College Borough will be part of the discussion.

Join us for a lively hour-long presentation. For more information, contact Jackie Esposito, University Archivist,, 814-863-3791.

Video: The Legacy and the Promise: 150 Years of Land-Grant Universities

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Looking at French Revolution Pamphlets on Bastille Day

Observations de quelques patriots sur la nécessité de conserver les monuments de la literature et des arts. Paris, [1793]. Pamphlet #556, French Revolution Pamphlet Collection
On July 14, the French celebrate Bastille Day. The Bastille was a medieval fortress and prison located in the center of Paris, which during the French Revolution represented royal authority. The storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 is held as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation of France and the reconciliation of all French citizens. Festivities, including fireworks and parades, are held all over France on Bastille Day.

In honor of Bastille Day, Sandy Stelts, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, is showcasing our collection of French Revolution Pamphlets:

The pamphlet pictured above is a plea by several moderates who call themselves the sons of Renouard (the printer), of Chardin (the painter), and of Charlemagne, in which they argue strongly for the preservation of France’s heritage. For a time the Republic called for the destruction of landmarks of the past, most notably the cathedral of Notre Dame. Collections of paintings and furniture were sold off, and religious objects were melted down for their gold and silver in order to raise funds for warfare. As one among a number of protests, this pamphlet is interesting as it cites the losses in past conflicts when great manuscripts and books were destroyed or mutilated and collections scattered. The plea is made that such collections are a part of the national patrimony and far more than symbols of tyranny and repression.

Rare Books and Manuscripts’ collection of 720 French Revolution pamphlets, ranging from 1789 to 1796, includes both private and government publications that deal with virtually all aspects of the Revolution, but there is a particular emphasis on political and military issues, financial matters, the position of the clergy, and legal and social conditions throughout France. Among the authors represented are many major Revolutionary figures, including Lucien Bonaparte, Danton, Lafayette, Marat, Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Talleyrand. The collection represents only a few of the almost overwhelming number of pamphlets and books that appeared when the events were current and that were part of an enormous production of paper and ideas—including polemics, cruel edicts, new constitutions, pleas for sobriety, demands for justice, excoriations of the past, and justifications for legal murder.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts: A Cultural Olympics

Image from

University Archivist Jackie Esposito has a guest column on on the past and present of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (coming to State College & the University Park campus July 14-17, with "Children and Youth Day" on the 13th):
'This year (1967) we only scratched the surface. ... In years to come, when people want to know what is going on in the arts, they will come to central Pennsylvania to find out.'

That assessment by Dr. Jules Heller, then dean of Arts and Architecture at Penn State, appeared immediately following the very first Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Dr. Heller was extraordinarily right. Forty-four years later, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is the place to come to learn about the arts, to enjoy your summer days in State College and to create your own family memories.
Go to to read the rest of the article.