The Nittany Lion Inn opened in 1931 to provide first-class accommodations for visitors to Penn State and Centre County. Dubbed “Penn State’s Living Room” by university President Eric Walker, the Georgian-style inn is a sentimental destination for alumni and is a popular venue for university events.
In the late 1920s, Penn State embarked on a building program that added several important structures, including a mineral industries building, a home economics building, a new power plant, and a replacement for Old Main. Financed by a private loan of $350,000, the inn was the last building during that span to be erected. University leaders recognized that the small borough of State College did not have a first-class hotel to accommodate visitors to the campus. The inn helped solve that problem.
The 75-room hotel at the northwest corner of the campus opened under the management of the Treadway Corporation. Guests paid $3.50 a night for a room and the staff lived on the site. In 1948, it became a self-supporting arm of the university.
Renovations in the 1950s added a new wing with more rooms and a coffee shop. In 1990, another renovation added a 500-seat ballroom, meeting rooms, workout facility, expanded kitchen space, and 136 guest rooms. The main entrance of the inn also was moved to the north side of the building.
Today, the inn is operated by the university’s Hospitality Services Department, providing hands-on experience for students studying the hospitality industry. There are 223 guest rooms, a ballroom, thirteen conference rooms, a gift shop, and two restaurants.
The inn is a popular space for many Penn State events, as well as meetings, receptions, and parties. About 100,000 guests visit each year. Well-known guests who have visited the inn include President Dwight Eisenhower, Louis Armstrong, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, Helen Hayes, Dustin Hoffman, and Billy Joel.
In 2000, the inn received the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels designation, one of only twenty historic hotels in Pennsylvania to be recognized.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the inn was closed to guests. It became a residence hall for Penn State students and the conference rooms were used as classrooms.
“Nittany Lion Inn celebrates 75th anniversary on Friday,” Penn State News, May 1, 2006.
“How Penn State’s Nittany Lion Inn made switch from hotel to residence hotel,” Daily Collegian, February 12, 2021.
“The Nittany Lion Inn.” Historic Hotels Worldwide. https://www.historichotels.org/us/hotels-resorts/the-nittany-lion-inn-of-the-pennsylvania-state-university/discover.php (Accessed June 15, 2021).
First Published: August 2, 2021
Last Modified: January 5, 2022