This tranquil scene was photographed in Big Hollow, whose 90 acres have been designated for the re-creation and preservation of native plant communities.

Arboretum Chronology

The chronology of arboreta developments from 1855-1993 was developed by Leon Stout, University archivist, in October 1997, and updated thereafter by Arboretum staff.

Gen. James Irvin donates 200 acres with option to buy adjacent 200 acres at a favorable price to trustees of the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania.

Professor of Horticulture William G. Waring plants a variety of species of trees around Old Main and the core of today's campus, including many of the large American Elms.

Tree-planting continues, especially American Elms, Norway Spruce, and Norway and Silver Maples. In the 1870s and 1880s, this is largely the work of Professor Buckhout who, in 1882, surveys plantings and reports 110 species and varieties on campus.

Professor Francis Fowler and President John Fraser attempt to secure the services of Frederick Law Olmsted to design the campus of the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. College's impoverished state prevents them from hiring Olmsted.

Professor of Agriculture John Hamilton succeeds in leveling much of the campus and planting the front lawn of Old Main in grass (it had been planted with potatoes and corn at various times). Hamilton suggests the hiring of landscape architect William Saunders to lay out the campus, but again funds are lacking. Hamilton reports: "We were left to the mercy of amateurs and worse for locating our buildings, constructing our drives, and planting our trees and shrubbery. The result has been the cutting up of what were the most spacious grounds of any college in America into a few sections of common, rectangular city blocks."

Profs. Butz and Pillsbury continue tree planting around the campus. In 1911 Pillsbury surveys plantings and estimates 400 species and varieties on campus at that time. First major "building boom" on campus takes place in 1887-1893, with a second building campaign in the 1900-1907 period. These take the college beyond one central building with a few barns, residences, and outbuildings -- the sum total of the physical plant from the 1850s to the mid-1880s.

First campus development plan is accepted by the Board of Trustees. It is created by Charles Lowrie, a New York City landscape architect. This is the first plan to suggest a system of roads, walks, and building groups in a landscaped environment. Specifically, the plan proposes maintaining the large stands of trees on campus around the current Nittany Lion Inn and in Hort Woods, which is intended to be a park. To the east of Hort Woods, the plan proposes a botanical garden and greenhouses, adjacent to future agricultural buildings north of Patterson Building.

Board of Trustees selects the Philadelphia firm of Day and Klauder as College Architects. Charles Z. Klauder creates first campus plan. Klauder continues the initiative of Lowrie by adopting a Beaux-Arts campus design plan of highly geometric building placements, quadrangles, and roads. Klauder continues as designer of many campus buildings until his death in 1938.

Board of Trustees at their January 27 meeting accedes to the requests of the Forestry and Landscape Gardening Departments and sets aside 25 acres in what is now the northeast corner of the golf course for an arboretum. No actual development takes place, however.

Board of Trustees adopts a comprehensive plan for landscape development designed by Warren H. Manning of Cambridge, Mass. Manning's plan includes the following elements:

(a) A scheme for central campus with the principal object of beauty that befits the educational values of the college as much as possible, and

(b) "An arboretum to be located as may be suggested in the proposed comprehensive plan" and a nursery in conjunction with the arboretum to propagate plant materials to use in the plan.

Manning confides to a trustee, "An arboretum of the type of the Arnold Arboretum would not be practicable unless a very large endowment could be secured. The cost of maintaining the arboretum alone is about $100,000 a year."

The Board requests that he make a further study of roads and paths, parking and other transportation issues, and project future building expansion and plantings. Manning's plan initially calls for an arboretum to be located in the old golf course location. After much debate, he writes to President Thomas in October, "I do not consider an arboretum advisable or practical on a general section set apart for this purpose. We can provide in general plantation [around the campus], all varieties of proven value and some experimental material."

Faculty members are critical of giving up the arboretum space on the golf course and the separate arboretum concept, but the Administration follows Manning's advice.

Landscape Architecture Professor J. R. Bracken proposes a memorial arboretum and recreation area for Thompson Spring (on both sides of the current College Avenue between University Drive and Porter Road). The senior classes of 1927-1931 pledge their class gifts for the project, but because of the Depression, the College cannot collect enough funds to complete the project.

Thomas W. Sears creates a landscape plan to complement Klauder's work and it becomes the basis for plantings under the supervision of Walter Trainer in the 1930s and 1940s. Trainer reports the formal, geometric arrangement of buildings by Klauder is softened by Sears' plan to create a more informal appearance for the campus by planting tree and shrub groups within the quadrangles. In 1934, Trainer reports his survey shows 439 species of trees and shrubs. He begins the careful recording of the campus trees that results in his publication with extensive maps, Campus Trees and Shrubs (1946). This clearly continues Manning's concept of the campus as arboretum. A botanical garden plan created by John Bracken for the Thompson Spring Tract in the mid-1920s is still discussed ten years later, but no one can see any likelihood that it will reach fruition.

Trustees renew approval of Bracken's Thompson Spring plan, but funding is still unavailable.

A committee to create a comprehensive proposal for an arboretum is created by the Provost (and former Dean of Agriculture) Russell Larson.

The committee's report says the campus, with more than 750 species, should be recognized as an arboretum. A tract of about 320 acres (Farm No. 17 and part of Farm No. 13) stretching from north of the present Foods Building to behind the Overlook Heights residential development is identified as the most appropriate site for the plan. In September, the Board of Trustees reserves that space for an arboretum.

Continuing the committee's work, landscape architecture professor Glenn Steyers and his students present a master plan for the arboretum in May in preparation for fund-raising efforts.

Long-range planning efforts begin to examine questions of whether Agriculture or Physical Plant should operate and maintain the arboretum and how much money will be necessary to operate it. Trustees authorize a fund-raising effort of more than $9 million to construct the arboretum and its buildings and to create an endowment to maintain it.

Fund-raising activities move slowly; an arboretum fund-raising booklet is created in 1980 to move the efforts forward. Unfortunately, President Oswald loses interest in the project and it languishes.

There is a flurry of interest in the project again, but no progress is made.

October 1994
Associate Vice President James Wagner appoints a task force of faculty and professional staff to develop a report on the merits and feasibility of establishing an arboretum at University Park. Report is issued in July 1995.

January 1996
The task force plan is presented to members of the University Administration, and it is agreed that the arboretum should be considered as "an important element" in the upcoming master planning process and that a consultant should be retained to perform the necessary work.

September 1996
Sasaki Associates, Inc. is contracted to work with Penn State faculty and staff to develop a preliminary master plan for an arboretum on 395 undeveloped acres adjacent to the University Park campus.

January 1999
The preliminary master plan is completed. The plan is accepted by the Board of Trustees in March as part of the University Park Master Plan.

October 1999
A part-time arboretum director is appointed and funded by the University Provost, and a steering committee is appointed. Out of the director's budget, a part-time program assistant is hired in July 2000, and with supplemental funding this position is made full-time in October 2001.

November 2000
Marshall·Tyler·Rausch is hired to create the detailed master plan for the facilities and program elements of the 56-acre landscape and botanic gardens portion of the arboretum (Mitchell Tract) bordering Park Avenue. The firm is also charged with designing the master plan for the President's residence (the Schreyer House) and grounds, which occupy approximately seven acres within the Mitchell tract. The design is expected to reflect the vision and mission of the arboretum as expressed in the preliminary master plan.

Fall/Winter 2000
The Arboretum's first newsletter is written and distributed.

Summer 2001
The Arboretum publishes its second newsletter.

October 2001
The Arboretum serves as the lead grant applicant in a regional partnership with College, Ferguson, and Patton Townships, and the Borough of State College to transform 1.3 miles of a former railroad bed in Big Hollow from an informal path into a pedestrian/bike trail called the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail. The partners agree to share the initial design costs of $71,214, and the University agrees to maintain the trail.

November 2001
The Arboretum director accepts an offer from George Biemesderfer, a Penn State alumnus in agriculture, to donate a 30- to 35-year-old white oak (Quercus alba) to the Arboretum. The tree is a gift in honor of Dr. Charles L. Hosler, senior vice president for research and dean emeritus of the Graduate School and professor emeritus of meteorology, and Dr. Hosler's late wife, Anna Rosa Hosler. Preparations to move the Hosler Oak begin at the donor's nursery with extensive trenching around the tree's root ball to encourage root development. Over the next three years, the progress of root development is monitored.

January 2002
MTR's master plan for the landscape and botanic gardens is approved and presented in a series of meetings for the University and surrounding community.

June 2002
In partnership with The American Chestnut Foundation, Penn State holds a ceremony on June 24, 2002, to inaugurate one of the first two plantations of American chestnut trees that will produce blight-resistant progeny after the orchard is complete and the trees are sexually mature (a duplicate plantation was established in southwestern Virginia). This resistance has been incorporated from Chinese chestnut trees through backcross breeding. During the ceremony Herb Darling, president of The American Chestnut Foundation, signs the memorandum of understanding that documents Penn State's partnership with the foundation. Attendees include Robert Steele, dean of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences; Kim C. Steiner, director of The Arboretum at Penn State; Marshall Case, executive director of The American Chestnut Foundation; and John Oliver, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

July 2002
The Pennsylvania State University is awarded $213,000 by the Community Conservation Partnerships Program of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in the first of two grants for constructing the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail.

October 2002
A second grant for $213,000 to pay the balance of construction costs for the rail trail is awarded to Penn State by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT). For the next twenty months, a project management team consisting of the municipal funding partners, Arboretum, PENNDOT, DCNR, and Penn State's Office of Physical Plant coordinate the hiring of a firm (Erdman/Anthony Associates, Inc.), the designing of the trail, the procurement of environmental clearance and regulatory permits, and the bidding process.

Fall 2002
The Floristic Inventory of The Arboretum at Penn State by Daniel Laughlin is published. It is funded by an assistantship from the Graduate School specifically for the Arboretum.

December 2002
The Arboretum announces the launching of its Web site at a reception held in The Nittany Lion Inn. The banner on the home page establishes the Arboretum's "word mark" or visual identity, developed in consultation with University Publications.

September 2003
Fund-raising efforts by professor of plant pathology, John Skelly, culminate in the opening of the Air Quality Learning and Demonstration Center on a slope overlooking Big Hollow in the Arboretum.

Winter 2004
The Arboretum pubishes its third newsletter.

January 2004
The director appoints eight University faculty and staff members to the Arboretum Design Principles and Guidelines Task Force. Chaired by Eliza Pennypacker, professor of landscape architecture, the task force identifies the primary design concepts in the preliminary master plan by Sasaki Associates, Inc., and the Mitchell Tract master plan by MTR, and provides guidance for future planners and architects on how to interpret and apply those concepts.

March 2004
The Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the local body responsible for federal transportation enhancement funds, grants the University's request for an additional $33,000 to pay for consultation, engineering, and inspection costs related to a required change in the rail trail design.

July 2004
Construction of the trail, originally expected in 2004, has to be delayed because the initial bids exceed available funding.

December 2004
To help lower the cost of the rail trail project, the management team shortens the initial trail by approximately one-fourth, and the University agrees to convert the remaining section at a later date. PENNDOT re-bids the project with the revised specifications in December 2004, but again, the bids are too high.

February 2005
The Arboretum requests an additional $87,790 in order to proceed with the rail trail project. The request is granted and Penn State awards a construction contract to the lowest bidder, C. H. & D. Enterprises, Inc.

March 2005
Two days are required for digging and preparing the 33-foot Hosler Oak to be moved from the nursery in Lancaster County. When it is lifted by a 50-ton crane from the ground, the entire tree and its 9-foot root ball weighs approximately 14 tons, making it the largest tree transplanted onto Penn State property since at least 1933, when two large elms were planted at the front corners of Old Main. On March 21, 2005, a brief shovel ceremony is attended by several University administrators after the oak is planted in a prominent spot in the Mitchell Tract.

April 2005
Construction begins on the long-awaited rail trail, and the University approves the Design Principles, Design Guidelines, and Standing Review Committees for The Arboretum at Penn State.

September 2005
On September 28, 2005, the Hosler Oak, first official tree in the future landscape and botanic gardens, is dedicated. President Graham B. Spanier, and Anne Riley, a member of the Board of Trustees, join Robert D. Steele, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences; Kim C. Steiner, director of the Arboretum; and Charles L. Hosler in addressing approximately 150 to 200 people for the ceremony. The oak is described as being the Arboretum's "witness tree," a living cornerstone that will witness the full development of the Arboretum.

October 2005
Created Wetlands at The Arboretum at Penn State, by Laura Hamilton, Kenneth R. Tammnga, and Charles Andrew Cole, is published by the Arboretum, the research by Ms. Hamilton having been funded by an Arboretum assistantship from the Graduate School.

Discussions begin regarding the relocation of the flower and vegetable trials and adjacent medieval garden due to the decision to build the University Park branch of the Dickinson School of Law on their site.

November 2005
The final inspection of the rail trail is conducted by the funding partners and representatives from PENNDOT and DCNR.

The director appoints the Arboretum Design Committee and its first meeting is held on November 14, 2005.

April 2006
Matthew Balkey, a local high school student, completes his Eagle Scout project in woodland restoration in the Arboretum. Matthew had chosen a ½-acre site on a prominent slope along the rail trail where invasive, nonnative shrubs had formed impenetrable thickets. Throughout the fall and winter, he had led a crew of Boy Scouts in clearing the exotic shrubs from the designated hillside, being careful not to disturb native plants or trees. To replace the nonnative species, Matthew and his crew now plant eastern white pine seedlings, donated by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Penn Nursery in Centre County. The objective of this project is to determine whether the white pine will prevent the re-emergence of the nonnative shrubs in the years ahead.

May 2006
On May 19, 2006, the Arboretum hosts a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony to acknowledge the partners who made the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail possible. Municipal partners and participants in the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition's annual Bike-to-Work Day hear remarks by Dr. Kim Steiner, the Arboretum director, and by Jim Eckert, chief of staff for state Senator Jake Corman, Karen Michael, assistant district executive for design (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation), Wes Fahringer, regional adviser (Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources), and Robert Crum, planning director (Centre Regional Planning Agency).

The University hires MTR (formerly Marshall·Tyler·Rausch) to update the master plan for the landscape and botanic gardens in response to the impending construction of the Dickinson School of Law's building directly east of the Mitchell Tract.

Summer 2006
The Arboretum publishes its fourth newsletter.

July 2006
On July 20, 2006, a public auction to benefit The Arboretum at Penn State is held at the Pennsylvania Green Expo in the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

September 2006
The newly revised Mitchell Tract master plan is finalized. The plan now creates a shared entrance corridor on Bigler Road between the Arboretum and the law school. The most noticeable differences are the enhanced spatial relationship between the Education Center and the Conservatory, their new location close to the entrance on Bigler Road, and the deletion of the pond and fountain in order to protect an important storm water recharge area along Park Avenue.

The College of Agricultural Sciences accepts an offer by the Office of Physical Plant to relocate the medieval garden in an area behind the Housing and Food Services Building on Services Road during the fall semester. Construction is expected to begin on the law school building in January 2007.

Charles H. “Skip” Smith agrees to donate $10 million to fund construction and endowment of “Phase I” of the Arboretum, which includes improvements to the front 30 acres of the Mitchell Tract, five acres of developed gardens, the Overlook Pavilion, and a 50-space parking lot.

Phase I of construction is completed in September, and in October Penn State’s Senior Class Gift Committee announces that a boardwalk over the Marsh Meadow in the Arboretum will be the class of 2010’s gift to the University.

On April 25, the University dedicates the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens, which quickly become popular with campus and community visitors. The Arboretum begins renting venues for social events. Among the first community events are a music festival, forest fest, pumpkin festival, and plant sale.

A large sundial, a gift from Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder of AccuWeather, is created by sculptor Mark Mennin and installed on the Joan Milius Smith Esplanade. The granite sculpture is both a functionally accurate timepiece and artistic attraction.

Edward R. and Helen S. Hintz and Charles H. “Skip” Smith make leadership gifts totaling $4.1 million to create the Children’s Garden. A gift from Marcia Day will provide endowment support for children’s education programs.

Working with Gund Partnership, the University completes preliminary plans for an education center, conservatory, planetarium, associated gardens, and an expanded parking lot. When completed, these ambitious projects will truly take the Arboretum into the first ranks of university arboreta and botanic gardens.

A collaboration between Oehme, Van Sweden & Associates, Inc., the Arboretum’s Plant Materials Committee, and Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research faculty yields plans for a renovated and expanded Pollinators’ Garden. This will be a one-of-a-kind research and teaching garden.


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