Historic University Club demolished after Penn State purchase

The 108-year-old University Club, once the social center of State College, is now just a memory.

The historic social club — a four-story building on West College Avenue that predates The Tavern by 34 years — was finally demolished on Friday, about seven months after the university bought the property for $4.07 million. Built in 1914, the club once hosted high-end get-togethers with dance college presidents, saw the 27th U.S. President William H. Taft visit after his presidency, and was home to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke (at the fourth floor).

“We’re losing a treasure, and the people on campus don’t understand it,” club member Marilyn Haugh, 80, told CDT in March. “The only people who understand it are the people who are members now, and have been for a long time, and remember the glorious times we had at the University Club.”

Penn State originally sold the 0.64 acre property to the University Club for $1 in 1913. But over the years, the 501(c)(7) social club has fallen on hard times, recently reaching a fever pitch. with the pandemic and progress, which has made outdated rooms without private bathrooms less desirable. Fewer events have been held over the years, and the city’s former gem has lost its shine. The members eventually voted to sell the property back to the university.

At a February board meeting when the purchase was publicly discussed, a university official explained that the renovations would prove too expensive. The demolition was expected to cost just under a million dollars, while the renovation was expected to start at “a few million”.

The purchase was considered a key purchase for the university, as it completed Penn State’s ownership of all parcels on the north side of College Avenue. It is not yet known what future plans, if any, the university has for the property.

Water is sprayed to reduce dust as workers demolish the old University Club on College Avenue on Friday, September 30, 2022. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

“After professionally evaluating its current condition, the university has determined that the facility is beyond its useful life and unable to meet the needs of the university,” the university spokesperson said. , Wyatt DuBois, Friday afternoon. “The estimated labor to repair the facility, comply with current codes and provide upgraded systems far exceeds the estimated costs of demolition and site restoration.

“The university has not made any final decisions regarding future plans for the site. For now, the site will be restored with a combination of gravel, grass and selected landscaping.

The University Club formerly provided housing for graduate students and staff, in addition to offering banquet halls as well as rooms for visiting professors and others. The club itself was founded between 1908 and 1910, and the University Club was built in 1914.

University club officials have previously said they want to continue at a future venue (without accommodation), although no official announcement has yet appeared on the club’s website.

The historic building is now in rubble. The memories remain – but the building that hosted orchestras for 12 years before Joe Paterno was born no longer.

Crews work on the demolition of the University Club on College Avenue on Friday, September 30, 2022. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

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Josh Moyer received his BA in Journalism from Penn State and his MS from Columbia. He has been involved in news and sports writing for almost 20 years. He boasts the best athlete he’s ever seen as Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson.