“Centre County had a life before Penn State,” Cliff Bastucheck says. And in a recent presentation, he shared that life with his fellow residents at the Village at Penn State.

“Penn State is the dominant business in Central Pa., but Penn State wasn’t even chartered until 1855.” Cliff explained the rise of the iron industry in Centre County, beginning in the late 1700’s. “In the mid 1800’s this was the strongest economic area in the state,” he said. At one point, Centre County was producing about one third of the United State’s iron supply.

In the late 1800’s, the iron supply in Centre County was depleting, and transportation was poor and not cost effective. In 1923 Eagles Furnace, the last operating iron furnace in Centre County, closed.

“If it hadn’t been that in 1855 the Agricultural Society of Pennsylvania decided that farm boys needed more of education than they could get in a one room school house, State College would not exist,” Cliff said.

Penn State was chartered as the “Farmer’s High School,” on land that had been used for mining iron. “If it weren’t for the Farmer’s High School, this would still be a rural farming area,” Cliff said.

Cliff gained all of his knowledge about Centre County by volunteering with the Historical Society for 10 years. He is a docent at the iron master’s mansion, which has been restored by the Historical Society.

“I have always been interested in history,” Cliff said. “I think it’s important to know the history of the area in which you live.”

Cliff was a volunteer firefighter for 27 years, volunteers at the Schlow Library in State College, and has volunteered numerous other places throughout his life, including the Strausburg Railroad Museum. “I guess you could say volunteering is a habit,” he said.

The Village at Penn State encourages its residents to share their knowledge and expertise with the community. “There’s so much talent here at the Village, it’s important to share it,” Cliff says. “There are a lot of people here who have done great things. I’m always learning from other residents.”


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