The Centre Furnace Mansion grounds are rich in local history. In 1842, Ironmaster Moses Thompson, his wife Mary Irvin Thompson and the first two of their family of six children moved into their large home, now bordering the Penn State University campus at Porter Road and East College Avenue. The Mansion and nearby furnace stack were at the heart of Centre Furnace Village and a charcoal ironmaking operation that began in 1791 and extended over 15,000 acres.
In 1855, a new Farmers High School – now Penn State – was established on 200 acres of Centre Furnace land given by Moses Thompson and his brother in law General James Irvin. During the 1860's, Thompson served as the school's treasurer, and the Thompson home served as the center of hospitality for the new school. The property is tucked into a hillside, secluded by large spruce, maple, walnut and sycamore trees. But it is a 250-year-old sycamore tree that dominates the landscape graced with gardens and expanses of lawn as would have been common in the Victorian Era in which the mansion has been restored.
The Centre County Historical Society received the Mansion and approximately two acres through a bequest in 1978. Beginning in 1983-1984 , the restoration of the Mansion and plans for the recovery of the gardens and grounds were underway. With the help of landscape architects, historians, and horticulturists, the gardens were researched, sited, thoughtfully designed, and cared for by dedicated Historical Society volunteers and part time gardening staff. Another nearly seven acres was added to the property in the 1990s, through purchase, a gift, and a long-term lease agreement with Penn State. With this growth and over time, there became an increasing need for consistent and more volunteer support in the gardens. In 2001, with help from volunteers from the local PSU Master Gardeners of Centre County Cooperative Extension, the Centre Furnace Mansion Garden Committee formed to maintain and develop the gardens and garden programming.
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