Our Street Names Are Memorials

It’s always great when we come into deeper contact with the life and history of the place we live. That happened last year with a column for Town & Gown about a project cataloging the CBICC historical archive:

Vince Verbeke, immediate past president of the Mount Nittany Conservancy, left a comment on the article that included some pretty cool information on the origins of State College’s many unique street names. I think it’s great to have that knowledge in the back of your head as you’re out navigating around town, because it helps remind of its unique character and history and enhances the experience of the place. It’s a little thing, of course; but those often are the very details that enrich our lives, no?

Vince comments: “Did you know that Fairmount Ave is so named because of its higher location gave it the best view of Mt. Nittany from town?”

He then adds the following, which is drawn from the History of State College, 1896-1946:

“Our Street Names Are Memorials”

Frequently asked by newcomers to the town, and occasionally by “oldtimers,” is the question, “From what source were such unusual street names derived?” State College streets are in a sense memorials to outstanding residents and faculty members. For instance, the name “Foster” has always been prominent in the history of the town. At one time, there were nine Mrs. Fosters in the village! Today there are seven telephones listed under that name. The inclusion, here, of a list of street names and their sources may prove interesting. Several of those listed are not yet within the borough limits. A, part of this list is included in Mr. Ferree’s thesis. (Name of street is given first and for whom named follows.)

Allen street – Dr. William Allen, president of the College, 1864 – 1866.
Atherton street – Dr. George W. Atherton, pres. f the College, 1882 – 1906.
Barnard street – Prof. L. H. Barnard, professor of civil engineering.
Beaver Ave – Gen. James A. Beaver, early landowner, influential in gaining aid for College; president of Board of Trustees, 1873 – 1881 and 1897 – 1915.
Buckhout street – W. A. Buckhout, professor of botany and a prominent citizen.
Burrowes street – Dr. T. H. Burrowes, president of the College, 1868 – 1871.
Butz street – George C. Butz, professor of horticulture, first president of borough council.
Calder Alley – Dr. James Calder, president, 1871 – 1880.
College Ave – Proximity to College.
Corl street – Several Corl families of the town.
Fairmount Ave – View of Mount Nittany.
Fairway Road – Named for J. T. McCormick’s first wife, Anna Maria Fair.
Foster Ave – Named for many Foster families who featured in the town’s history.
Frazier street – Gen. John Fraser, president of the College, 1866 – 1868.
Garner street – Samuel Garner, former landowner and farmer of State College.
Gill street – Rev. Benjamin Gill, D.D., chaplain for many years.
Glenn Road – For the Dr. W. S. Glenn Sr. family.
Hamilton Ave – John Hamilton, former landowner and for 37 years treasurer of the College.
Hartswick Ave – Henry Hartswick, son – in – law of John Neidigh, early settler.
Heister street – Gabriel Heister, one of the first trustees of the College.
Hetzel Place – Ralph Dorn Hetzel, president of the College, 1927 – 1947.
High street – Because of its location on high ground.
Highland Ave – Named for home of Prof. John Hamilton, “The Highlands.”
Hillcrest Ave – Named for its location on a ridge.
Holmes street – Holmes family, active in the borough organization.
Hoy street – W. A. Hoy, fourth burgess of the borough.
Irvin Ave – Gen. James Irvin, once part owner of Centre Furnace Lands, and donor of 200 acres of land for College.
Jackson street and Ave – Josiah P. Jackson, professor of mathematics, 1880 – 1893; and his son, John Price Jackson, dean of the School of Engineering, 1909 – 1915.
James Place – James T. Aikens estate.
Keller street – The Keller family of State College.
Krumrine Ave – Fred and John C. Krumrine families.
Locust Lane – Named from trees bordering the street.
Lytle street – Andrew Lytle, supervisor of roads in College township at time borough was formed.
Markle street – “Abe” Markle, early landowner and town’s first butcher.
McAllister street – Hugh N. McAllister, promoter of the College and designer of the original Old Main.
McCormick Ave – John T. McCormick, who helped organize the First National Bank.
McKee street – James Y. McKee, acting president, 1881 – 1882. Also vice – president for many years.
Miles street – Col. Samuel Miles, part owner of Centre Furnace ore furnace until 1832.
Mitchell Ave – Judge H. Walton Mitchell, president of the Board of Trustees, 1915 – 1930.
Nittany Ave – Nittany Valley and mountain.
Osman street – David Ozman, first blacksmith.
Park Ave – Formerly called “Lovers Lane,” changed to Park because its many trees resembled a park.
Patterson street – W. C. Patterson, the second burgess of State College.
Pugh street – Dr. Evan Pugh, first president of the College, 1859 – 1864.
Ridge Ave – Because it is higher than Park Ave.
Sauers street – John Sauers, first shoemaker.
Shattuck Drive – Professor Shattuck, first borough engineer, appointed 1907.
Sparks street – Dr. Edwin E. Sparks, president of the College, 1907 – 1920.
Sunset Road – Because it runs directly toward the sunset.
Thomas street – Dr. John M. Thomas, president of the College, 1920 – 1925.
Thompson street – Named for Moses Thompson whose early aid helped establish the College here.
Waring Ave – William G. Waring, first agricultural superintendent of the Farm School.
Woodland Drive – Location in a natural woodlot.

The ‘Magic of Simplicity’ at the Nittany Lion Shrine

By Chris Buchignani

The Nittany Lion Shrine was reopened this week after a summer of renovation. Kevin Horne, Managing Editor of Onward State, shares his perspective on the iconic symbol of the campus:

I grew up only an hour away in Williamsport, so this campus was no stranger to me when I enrolled at Penn State three years ago. Consequently, neither was the Lion Shrine. (Proof: Flat Stanley and myself, circa 1999. I was a lot cooler back then, as you can see.) I didn’t realize it then of course, but there was something magical about the simplicity of the whole thing. When Heinz Warneke sculpted the Shrine 73 years ago, I don’t think he could have imagined the landmark — some might even call it sacred ground — that it would become. Indeed, you would hard pressed to find ANY Penn Stater who hasn’t snapped a photo with their arm around the thing.

It was, in a phrase, a true “symbol of our best.” It wasn’t much, of course — just a statue on top of an eroding mountain of mulch — but isn’t there an endearing quality about something like that? Isn’t that sort of modesty something Penn Staters have always held close to the heart, much like the basic blue uniforms our football team will run out of the tunnel wearing on Saturday?

I still get chills when I walk by the Lion Shrine. I would map out my nightly runs accordingly so I’d be able to pass the shrine with no one else around, looking stately as ever under the single spotlight. It was an emotion I couldn’t control, not because of how it looked or the landscape surrounding it, but because of what it symbolizes to generations of Penn Staters. A student today could talk to a student who graduated 50 years ago and the Lion Shrine is one symbol they share in common. In today’s thirst for modernity, that timelessness is difficult to find.

I walked over the new Lion Shrine yesterday morning and I just couldn’t shake the pit in my stomach no matter how hard I tried. Don’t get me wrong — the place looks fine. Aside from the base of the statue, which clashes with the actual Shrine and sticks out like a sore thumb, it’s an aesthetic improvement for certain. It’s also important to have a ramp for handicap access. But I don’t think it will ever be the same for me. The area just feels so scripted and manmade — almost like there should be a gift shop peddling Lion Shrine postcards and coffee mugs off to the side somewhere (don’t get any ideas, Old Main). It has lost the magic of simplicity. In this era of change, that magic is hard to come by.

I’m sure I’ll get over it. It is, after all, an impressive display. But I know that I’ll always miss that modest mountain of mulch. And I know that when my kids come to Penn State and I take their first Lion Shrine picture, something will be missing. At least to me, anyway.

Photo credit: Penn State University

Mount Nittany Memories

By Chris Buchignani

Tom Shakely’s “Conserving Mount Nittany” pairs original interviews and analysis with a wealth of previously-published but little-known content to create a definitive history of our community’s preservation of the mountain in its natural state. Rather brilliantly, I think, he contrasts this great success with the comparatively underwhelming “preservation” of Hort Woods, the once-sprawling sylvan refuge on Penn State’s campus that today is but a shade of its former self.

Its launch was covered by Onward State. The book presents the story of Mount Nittany’s conservation as “dynamic environmentalism,” Tom’s notion that natural preservation efforts are most effective when understood within a community/cultural context. I think this comes out in the comments about Mount Nittany below, which have come in as a result of the book’s release. Part of what makes the spirit of the Valley so special is that, although it feels timeless and immutable, we also each experience it in our own individual ways. While Mount Nittany means something different to each of us, it means something to all of us.

You’ll see this at work in the comments excerpted below. I hope you will enjoy reading them and that they may stir some of your own memories of the Mountain (or inspire a first journey, if you’ve never been). You can extend the experience by owning Tom’s book and learning more about the Mount Nittany Conservancy.

“My favorite memories of the mountain are climbing it with the Blue Band… It was a great time becoming closer with different people in the 300+ band and having fun enjoying the wonderful views the mountain gives with everyone.”

“In the fall of 2009, myself and 34 other THON Rules & Regulations Captains made climbing Mt. Nittany one of our team building exercises. On a nice weekend morning, we helped each other climb to the top with the wooden pallet, some hot dogs, marshmallows, and all of our cameras or camera phones for that picture every Penn Stater should take at the top with the Happiest Valley in the world in the background!”

“I’ll always remember the first time I climbed Mount Nittany, the summer before my freshman year. I was a bit uneasy preparing for the ‘college experience’ but ultimately very excited. The view from the top of Mt. Nittany at dusk, the setting sun covering State College in a hue of sunset orange, is an incredible sight It left me feeling secure and calm.”

“I loved looking through my binoculars and pointing out Beaver Stadium, Old Main, west campus (where I lived at the time). These were all of the Penn State staples and for the first time I really got to put into perspective how immense our campus is and thought about how so many diverse activities could fit into such a relatively small area. I had always heard our campus referred to as the ‘Penn State bubble,’ but from this view it didn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing.”

“We had the perfect afternoon a few days after a snowfall in February… The view was incredible that day. Snow blanketed the valley and it was calm and quiet. We will never forget that day and what led to many more hikes/races to the top!”

“Climbing Mt. Nittany is a rite of passage for all Penn Staters who, upon making the journey, have their eyes opened and their vision enhanced to the world beyond and the possibilities that lie over the next horizon. I personally remember many such climbs including those undertaken as an NROTC midshipman. They served as a reminder of what we protect and why we were called to do so.”

The Initiation—A Parable of the Mifflin Streak

A Parable of the Mifflin Streak

I have often climbed Mount Nittany and spent afternoons and sometimes all night gazing at the valley and the campus. In my mind I would wander, trying to find a deeper meaning in the commonplace things which are often dismissed as unimportant. One day I was sitting on Mount Nittany thinking of what had happened last spring at the “Mifflin Streak.” That was when the idea of this poem came to me.

The poem is not set on campus, but begins at the foot of a mountain as an initiation ceremony. The poem would seem to have no connection to the Mifflin Streak, except in the wandering mind of a poet.

The initiation described has no counterpart in fact except that I freely admit to borrowing from newspaper accounts of initiations at other colleges at other times.

These verses were not written to be skimmed with the eyes, but to be read aloud, several times, moving the lips, giving a chance for the rhythm to be physically felt and for the images to take sensual form. The goal is not to convey information, nor to make a point, but to break through the crust of everyday experience. For poetry is, in its best sense, our deepest longings taking form in our imagination, bringing our senses into congruence with the deepest felt experiences of our civilization.

The Initiation

I. 

Assembled under ancient trees
On paths once strode by Indian Braves
Initiates of a noble order
Waking spirits from their graves.

Eyes enfolded in a kerchief
Cannot see to walk or stand
Up the Mountain blindly climbing
Hand on shoulder, hand in hand.

Footsteps groping through the forest
Feeling for each stone and leaf
Crossing logs and brooks and gullies
Hearing whispered ancient beliefs.

Trusting blindly to tradition
To those who walked where they now tread
Beating hearts must trust in friendship
To someday lead where they’re now led.

Past the ledge where ancient fires
Warmed the hunters, cooked their kill
Spirits of brave men long ago
Still take away the dark night’s chill.

II.

At a pool of deep still water
Guides remove the kerchief blind
The young boys stare at stars reflected
In the pool and in their minds.

At the spring they taste the water
Which anoints them deep inside
Makes them part of past primeval
Awakening what they thought had died.

Now it lives! And they’re the vessels
Bodies with new lives to wear
Dreams unfolding, visions rising
From depths they did not know were there.

They sense within them spirits moving
They hear old cries of victory
They feel the deaths — and births — of heroes
And lose their fear of agony.

III.

Then on they walk in wonder waiting
Each mind reeling, then at peace
Blindly following ever upward
Led to unknown mysteries.

Walking through the forest primeval
Under vaults of ancient trees
‘Til they feel they’re in an opening
Their blinds removed so they can see.

In the clearing men stand naked
Sons of fathers, sons of sons
Leaping flames and blazing fires
Beckon to the chosen ones.

Light illumines awe-struck faces
Unexpected shock appears
Dismay, concern at what will happen
‘Til the voices calm their fears:

“You do not live in just this moment
Others before you faced it, too
You will stand here naked next year
Feeling the fear we felt from you.

“The nakedness you see before you
Is not for you to touch or feel
Pleasure is not what man was made for
Higher goals will be your seal.

“For the beauty of the gods in heaven
Is not their flesh, it’s not their youth
That’s only the visage of their spirit
To be a man is to seek the truth.

“But truth’s alarming, truth’s unsettling
Truth does frighten, truth is spurned
That’s the reason for this baring
This the lesson to be learned:

“Never fear the naked body
Never fear the naked soul
Never avoid the naked truth
And never reject the naked role.

“Never fear humiliation
Don’t fear suffering, pain or tears
The mark of a man is never flinching
The only thing to fear — is fear.

“If you have courage and heart and honor
You’ll stand naked before all men
You’ll follow your heart where ere it leads you
Into the flames or the lion’s den.

“So learn this lesson, learn it well, boys,
On this our brotherhood depends:
Having guts is all that matters
When that is lost, our brotherhood ends.”

This is how the bond is fashioned
Naked truth becomes a trust
Fear transformed by faithful listening
Words can now break through the crust.

IV.

The men now dress in sacred clothing
Cloaks of honor, caps of care
Naked truth, a source of loathing
Now is something they can bear.

Now they circle round the camp fire
Each one sits to form a ring
Then the elders rise to face them
Each in turn to speak and sing.

Now are told the ancient stories
Here the secrets are revealed
Now the spirit’s incarnated
Here the fellowship is sealed.

Then silence. The fire dies to embers
And in the dark, stars reappear
The men in cloaks resume their journey
Young men follow without fear.

V.

As they walk they see the stars are
Growing closer, step by step,
The earth recedes, the ground grows farther
They’d enter heaven if they leapt.

They walk until they reach the summit
Of the sacred Mount they climb
Here occurs the last experience
Which must break the bonds of time.

For time corrupts and time effaces
Time’s the enemy of man
Unless it’s formed in timeless places
A bond can shift like shifting sand.

When they reach the highest point
Where the Mountain touches sky
Here each man beholds his brother
Stares him sternly in the eye.

Hands reach out to pluck the stars
And place them where his brother sees
From this night on his brother’s eyes
Will be his mark of loyalty.

When stars replace the eyes they glisten
Streams of diamonds flood the face
Stars are the eyes of gods and angels
The beauty seen by the oldest race.

Nothing can efface this moment
Can’t erase this time or place
Each man sees within his brother
The starry eyes of all the race.

At that moment every man
Who has ever lived or ever died
Is still alive and sees them seeing
And gazes right back through their eyes.

Then the gaze is quickly broken
Resurgent time has healed the breach
Timelessness has no duration
The stars are once more out of reach.

VI.

In silence they begin descending
And wonder if they’ve dreamed it all
‘Til tears they see on their brothers’ cheeks
In the light of stars like diamonds fall.

Now they know the sacred meaning
Understand why time was breached
Their eyes now see down through the ages
Farther than they’ve ever reached.

The ancient wisdom’s been transmitted
As it’s always been from age to age
The light of the world is in their eyes
As was foretold by the ancient sage.

VII.

They’ll never talk of what has happened
Never say what they have seen
But they’re now men of deeper courage
Deeper strength and deeper dreams.

And each evening they remember
The time they climbed that Mountain top,
Recall the naked truth they learned there
And the time when time was made to stop.

Something happens on that Mountain
Something to do with faith and stars
It’s easy to know just who’s been up there
Look for the men whose eyes see far:

Naked truth becomes their passion
And they seek stars most men don’t seek
And timeless eyes watch o’er their sons
And diamonds glisten on their cheeks.

Epilogue
An Imaginary Student’s Response

“And if this hasn’t happened to us
Why has it not? I’d like to know
The stars in the sky seem far away
Where di the men of courage go?

“Let’s climb that Mountain, pluck the stars
Two for your eyes, two for mine
Brothers and guts we know we need
We’ve got to stretch the bonds of time.

“We’ll learn the secrets on our own
Like all such things, they’re plain to see
We’ll search the wisdom in old books
Until we’ve found the ancient key.

“Such a quest is worth all efforts
Nothing else will suit my eyes
Until I find the men of courage
And see the watchers in the skies.

“And if you won’t go, I’ll go alone
I’ve got to overcome my fear
Damn it! There is more to life
Than textbooks, classes, parties, beer.”