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Old Main
Type Central Administration Building
Location University Park, Pennsylvania
Owner Pennsylvania State University
Design team
Architect Charles Klauder
Old Main

Old Main, originally called "Main Building" and first built in 1863, was the first major building of The Pennsylvania State University. Built over a six year period with limestone quarried from the land directly in front of it, the structure was designed by Hugh McAllister and contained classrooms, laboratories, offices, a chapel, and residential space for 400 students. The limestone was carried in part by a mule named Old Coaly, whose bones were subsequently preserved and became a sort of mascot to the school. (Coaly's bones are currently on display in the Hetzel Union Building.) After being deemed structurally unsound in the 1920s, the building was razed in 1929 and rebuilt in 1930. The new building, occupying the same footprint as the previous structure and incorporating some of its limestone, was christened "Old Main". The building cost $837,000, most of which was paid for by state appropriations and an emergency building fund campaign. The bell in the tower was a gift from the 1904 graduating class, and westminster chimes were added as a gift of the 1937 class. The original chimes remained in use until the late 1970s when the university replaced them with a mix of mechanical and electronic bells. These bells eventually gave way in 1993 to the digital chimes which ring over the campus today. Between 1940 and 1949, Henry Varnum Poor utilized the fresco style to paint large murals (over 1300 ft²) on the second floor of Old Main that depict Penn State's land grant history. Today, Old Main serves as the administrative center of Penn State, housing the offices of the president and other officials.


During the week, Old Main's chimes play the Westminster Quarters, but on Fridays and Saturdays, part of a Penn State school fight song, "The Nittany Lion", is played instead. For special events the tune can vary additionally; for example, on February 22, 2005, the university's 150th anniversary, the clock tower toned "Happy Birthday to You".




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