Abington's 94-year-old Sutherland Building gets a facelift

For the first time in its nearly 100 year history the Sutherland Building on the campus of Penn State Abington is getting a facelift.

“This is the most significant architectural improvement to the building since it was built nearly a century ago,” said Dale Hollenbach, chief operating officer at Abington. “While the interior of the building has gone through many improvements and upgrades over the years, this work will significantly enhance the front of the building, giving it a new face for the next generation of students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

The planned changes will indeed give a new look and presence to the building, but will have very little impact on the structure of the building itself. According to Hollenbach the design calls for minor changes to the front entrance and the addition of a handicapped accessible entrance on the north side of the building. “All the other changes essentially enhance the front lawn and the approach to the building by adding a more formal plaza area where mostly blacktop paths previously existed,” he said.

The plans specifically include a paved forecourt, elevated terrace, seating wall, an event lawn and a half wall to enclose the entire plaza. An area also has been set aside for a two-sided Victorian clock that was a gift from the class of 2002. The seating area surrounding the clock will be comprised of commemorative bricks that were purchased by students, faculty, staff and alumni over the years.

The entire design, created by Derck & Edson Associates of Bellefonte, was inspired by the Sutherland Building itself. Stone pilasters flanking the main entrance door, the open arch pediment, the lintels above the windows and the iron lantern over the entrance door are all architectural elements that will be repeated throughout the plaza. The Sutherland Building was originally designed in 1916 by noted Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer who is perhaps best known for his designs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Widener Library at Harvard University and locally, Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University in Glenside.

But most importantly, along with that new face comes a new space for the entire campus community to connect.

“The plaza enhances our signature building on campus by adding a welcoming entrance point and providing new, inviting outdoor space for student programs, special events, informal gatherings and conversations,” said Karen Wiley Sandler, chancellor of Penn State Abington. “The entire area, combined with the recently completed Lion Shrine, promises to be the centerpiece on campus, bringing together classmates, colleagues and friends. This project, and the equally essential companion project to add a handicapped accessible entrance on the north side of the building, brings enhanced connectedness for many purposes.”

Work continues on the plaza through mid-August. To see an artist’s rendering of the completed plaza go to http://www.abington.psu.edu/psasite/news2/suth-construction.html online.