Q: What is the oldest building at Penn State?

What's up with that?

Wiestling Hall at Penn State Mont Alto, photo by Michelle Bixby/Penn State Marketing


A: It depends on how you define “oldest.” The formation of what is now Old Main began in 1857 and was partially completed when students started classes in 1859. Construction, delayed by a shortage of workers and materials due to the Civil War, was completed in December 1863. Old Main was razed and rebuilt from 1929 to 1930 using stone from the original building. University House, now home to the Penn Stater magazine and part of the Hintz Family Alumni Center, is often referred to as the oldest building at University Park; it was erected in 1864 and was home to Penn State’s presidents until 1970.


University House, Penn State University Park, Michelle Bixby/Penn State Marketing


Mike Bezilla ’75 Lib, author of Penn State: An Illustrated History, believes University House has a stronger claim than Old Main for oldest building because it still maintains “the central structure of the house itself.” Then again, Old Botany, which was completed in 1887 to house the botany department and was declared a historic campus landmark in 1962, is the oldest building at University Park whose exterior has not been significantly altered since its construction. “Old Botany [today] would be readily recognizable to anybody from the 1880s or 1890s,” Bezilla says. “Maybe not so much University House.”


Old Botany at Penn State University Park, Michelle Bixby/Penn State Marketing


The title of oldest building on any Penn State campus, however, belongs to Mont Alto’s Wiestling Hall (main photo above), which was erected in 1807 as the ironmaster’s mansion and was home to Col. George Wiestling, a Civil War general and ironmaster. In 1903, it became home to the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy at Mont Alto; in 1929, it became the university’s first official location outside of University Park when the forest academy became part of the Penn State system.