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Summer 2015




In September, 1866, the United States was in the early

stages of reconstruction from the devastation of the

Civil War. In Pennsylvania, the Free School Act of 1834

had provided for a system of state-aided schools;

however, the war and lack of quality teachers had left

these schools in a poor condition.The Normal School

Act of 1857 was passed in Pennsylvania to create a set

of standards and a pool of educated teachers who could

advance the school system. Two years later, Millersville

State Normal School became the first institution to be

recognized by the commonwealth.


Stories of Kutztown University

Kutztown University:

The Early Years

What is now Kutztown University can be traced back

to the Maxatawny Seminary which opened in September

1864, with a three-story brick building and five acres of

land. At that time, area leaders were looking for an ap-

propriate spot for the normal school which would serve

Berks, Lehigh and Schuylkill Counties.

Among the towns being considered, Hamburg and

Fogelsville were leading the charge. In January 1860,

State Senator Solomon Fogel introduced a bill to create

the Fogelsville Male and Female College which would

serve as the district normal school.The bill was passed

but efforts failed and the plan was eventually abandoned.

It was Berks County School Superintendent John S.

Ermentrout who, while riding from Lyons to Kutztown,

had the idea of bringing the normal school to Max-

atawny.The growth of other schools in the area, such as

the Franklin and Fairview Academies, gave Ermentrout

hope that the new school would be equally as successful.

In 1865, five acres of land were purchased next to

Maxatawny Seminary and a large structure built on the

west side of the seminary building. A smaller three-

story building built to the west of the large structure

formed the original Old Main. On Sept. 15, 1866, the

Keystone State Normal School was recognized by the

commonwealth as the official normal school for the

three-county area and the fourth in Pennsylvania.

Some schools operated previous to these dates

under other names before being recognized by

the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s Normal Schools

1859 Millersville

1861 Edinboro

1862 Mansfield

1866 Kutztown

1869 Bloomsburg

1871 Shippensburg

1871 West Chester

1874 California

1875 Indiana

1887 Clarion

1889 Slippery Rock

1893 East Stroudsburg

1913 Cheyney

1914 Lock Haven

Left to Right: The original

Old Main consisted of

three sections. The far

left section was the

Maxatawny Seminary,

opened in 1864. The

larger center section and

three-story section to the

far right were built in 1865

to meet the require-

ments to become a state

normal school. Due to

structural concerns, the

entire building was razed

and replaced by 1895.

Male students hit the

books in the 1890s.

Female students enjoy

tea in the residence

section of the original

Old Main in the 1890s.