The Allen Street Gates are the historic entrance to today’s Penn State campus. Located at the intersection of College Avenue and Allen Street, the gates are a traditional gathering place for university and State College events.
When construction began on the College Building of the newly established Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, a rudimentary road built for construction traffic established a main entrance to campus for the building’s eventual opening on February 16, 1859.
For many years, the agricultural village of State College did little to discourage livestock from roaming the streets, which led to the construction of a wooden post and rail fence that ran along the school side of College Avenue. A stile and wooden gate were placed across the campus gateway at Allen Street allowing only pedestrians and carriages to enter.
After 1897, when the State College Borough Council approved Ordinance No. 9 making it “unlawful to let horses, cattle, mules, hogs, sheep or goats run at large within borough limits,” the campus gateway was opened permanently.
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, featured a Pennsylvania exhibit. After the fair ended, materials from the exhibit, including two brick pedestals topped with alabaster lion statues, were transported to Penn State and erected on each side of Allen Street. The lions bore shields with “PA” emblazoned on them.
The columns marked the entrance as the main gateway to campus and the lions became affectionately known as “Pa” and his companion “Ma.” They remained until 1916 when the graduating class voted that their class gift to Penn State would be a memorial gateway at the main entrance to campus. The four elaborate stone structures completed near the end of 1916 framed the parallel walkways of the mall, but still allowed vehicle traffic to travel on campus via Allen Street.
In 1930, ornamental black iron fencing was installed between the two largest stone columns, which transformed Allen Street into a pedestrian mall below Pollock Road, and completed the iconic aesthetic that has remained virtually unchanged since then.
For decades, the Allen Street Gates have been the site of the State College Borough’s Christmas tree. They have also been the site of the reviewing stand for Penn State’s annual homecoming parade. Various groups also hold gatherings and protests at the gates.
Bezilla, Michael. Penn State: An Illustrated History. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1985.
Chesworth, Jo. Story of the Century: The Borough of State College Pennsylvania. The Barash Group.
Esposito, Jackie and Steven L. Herb. The Nittany Lion, an Illustrated Tale. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1997.
University Park Campus History Collection. Lion Gates. Penn State University Libraries Digital Collections. University Park Campus History Collection.
First Published: March 5, 2022
Last Modified: May 26, 2022