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Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Downtown Bellefonte
Downtown Bellefonte
Motto: Central Pennsylvania's Victorian Secret
Bellefonte is located in Pennsylvania
Location within the state of Pennsylvania
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Centre
Settled 1795
Incorporated (borough) 1806
 • Mayor Thomas J. Wilson
 • Total 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)
Elevation 919 ft (280 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,187
 • Density 3,510.1/sq mi (1,356.7/km2)
Demonym(s) Bellefotian
Time zone Eastern (EST)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC)
Zip 16823
Area code(s) 814 Exchanges: 353,355,357
Website .netbellefonte
Designated May 08, 1947[1]

Bellefonte is a borough and the county seat of Centre County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It lies about twelve miles northeast of State College and is part of the State College, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area. The borough population was 6,187 at the 2010 Census.[2] It houses the courthouse located downtown on the square. Bellefonte has also been home to five of Pennsylvania's governors as well as two other governors.[3] All seven are commemorated in a monument overlooking Talleyrand Park.

The town features many examples of Victorian architecture as well as a natural spring, from which the town gets its name ("la belle fonte") bestowed by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord during a land-speculation visit to central Pennsylvania in the 1790s. However the spring, which serves as the town's water supply, has been covered to comply with DEP water purity laws. The early development of Bellefonte had been as a "natural town." It started with one house and a crossroad, then iron was found and the town grew.[4]


  • Geography 1
  • Demographics 2
  • History 3
    • The Bush House 3.1
    • Cadillac Building 3.2
    • Garman Opera House 3.3
    • Victorian era 3.4
    • Renaissance 3.5
  • Notable people 4
  • Economy 5
    • Major employers 5.1
  • Government and politics 6
    • Federal level 6.1
    • County level 6.2
    • Local level 6.3
    • Law enforcement 6.4
    • Prisons 6.5
  • Education 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Bellefonte is located in the Nittany Valley of the Ridge and Valley Appalachians at (40.914684, -77.774756).[5]
It lies 12 miles northeast of State College, Pennsylvania.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2), all of it land.

Bellefonte is in the northwestern corner of and is surrounded by Spring Township.

Aerial photo of Bellefonte looking south


As of the 2010 census, the borough had 6,187 people, 2,837 households, and 1,496 families. The borough was 96.3% White, 1.5% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.3% other, and 1.3% were two or more races. 1.4% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino ancestry. The population density was 3,510.1 people per square mile (1,356.7/km²). There were 3,038 housing units at an average density of 1,669.2 per square mile (644.5/km²).[10]

Of the 2,837 households, 23.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 3.5% had a male householder with no wife present, 10.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.2% were non-families. 38.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.81.

Courthouse at night

In the borough the population was spread out, with 18.4% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 25.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.9 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $48,211, and the median income for a family was $62,292. The per capita income for the borough was $26,938. About 4.4% of families and 10.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over.


Looking down Allegheny Street from Reservoir Hill

William Lamb sold his mill to John Dunlop and the next year James Dunlop, John's father, and his son-in-law James Harris laid out block by block and the town became known as Bellefonte. As the years went by, Bellefonte boomed and soon became the most influential town between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.[11] Bellefonte was a frequent stop in the transcontinental airmail route. The route ran from New York to San Francisco and opened August 20, 1920.

Currently Bellefonte is home to the Red Raiders, the Bellefonte School District's mascot. The school colors are red and white.

The Bellefonte Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Other buildings on the National Register of Historic Places are: Bellefonte Armory, Brockerhoff Hotel, Centre County Courthouse, Gamble Mill, McAllister-Beaver House, Miles-Humes House, Pennsylvania Match Company, South Ward School, and the William Thomas House. The Bellefonte Academy was listed until 2008, after having been destroyed by fire in 2004.[12]

The Bush House

The Bush House Hotel was financed by Daniel G. Bush and built in 1868. It was one of the first hotels in the country to have electric lights. A man would stand at the train station and call out to the passengers, "Walk ya' to the Bush House." The Bush House, the Brockerhoff House, the Haag House, and some other hotels were competitors. Thomas Edison stayed at the Bush House.[13]

In the recent years, the Bush House had several businesses in it including Schnitzels Restaurant and it held receptions of various kinds. The Bush House burned down on February 8, 2006.[14]

Cadillac Building

Another fire heavily damaged one of the borough's other landmark buildings less than four years later. The Cadillac Building, so named because it was originally built as a Cadillac dealership in 1916, was a mix use commercial and residential property hit by a devastating fire on December 22, 2009. Christmas tree lights in one of the apartment units were determined to be the cause.

Garman Opera House

The Garman Opera House was originally built in 1890 and hosted many notable stars of the day including Gracie Allen, Western performer Tom Mix, and illusionist/escape artist Harry Houdini. The popular song "After the Ball" was said to have been first sung in public here. It was eventually also used as a movie theater, first showing silent films and then "talkies." By the early 1960s, the property was converted to primarily commercial/warehouse use. In the 1990s, the building was restored and returned to its roots as a live performance venue and cinema.

The opera house was severely damaged by a fire on September 9, 2012 that also destroyed the Garman House Hotel. The cause of the fire has been ruled as arson. Preservationist groups' attempts to save the Garman were unsuccessful and the building was razed in January 2014. Plans are in place to construct a new apartment building on the site.

Victorian era

The first-time visitors who walk along the Victorian streets of Bellefonte see primarily Victorian houses. One of many examples is the Hastings Mansion, which was owned by Mrs. John Lane and was bought and remodeled by Governor Daniel H. Hastings.

In the 1800s the first jail was built. It had an 8-foot underground dungeon, which was located on the rear of the lot of the present YMCA. A second jail was on East High Street.


One of the town's historic sections experienced a renaissance in 2004. The Match Factory (officially the Pennsylvania Match Company), after standing vacant since 1947, was being renovated by the American Philatelic Society as their new home, one building at a time. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and the town was anxious to find an appropriate owner for the historic property.[15]

Notable people

Tallyrand Park along Spring Creek


The Bellefonte area, as part of Centre County, typically enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. The primary industries are education, health care, construction, retail, and government.

Major employers

Government and politics

Federal level

Bellefonte forms part of Pennsylvania's 5th congressional district. The current representative is Glenn "G.T." Thompson.

County level

Bellefonte is the county seat of Centre County and home to the Centre County Courthouse.

Local level

The Borough of Bellefonte government is currently run by the following elected officials:

  • Mayor: Thomas Wilson
  • President of Council: Frank Halderman
  • Vice President of Council: Paul DeCusati
  • Council Members:
    • Gay Dunne, Pro Tempore
    • Karen Harvey
    • Barry Spicer
    • Renee Brown
    • Randall Brachbill
    • Joseph Beigle
    • Walter Schneider

Law enforcement

The law enforcement arm of the Borough of Bellefonte is the Bellefonte Police Department, served by Chief Shawn P. Weaver.


The County Prison - Centre County Correctional Facility at 700 Rishel Hill Road, Bellefonte, PA, is in Benner Township just outside of Bellefonte. It is county-run and houses between 250 - 300 inmates.[17]

State Correctional Institution – Rockview, is a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison located in Benner Township, Pennsylvania, 5 miles (8.0 km) away from Bellefonte.[18][19] The prison houses Pennsylvania's execution chamber.[19]

State Correctional Institution – Benner, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections facility, is a new, 2,000 bed prison located adjacent to SCI Rockview.[20]


Bellefonte Area School District operates public schools in the borough and wider area. Centre County Christian Academy is a private school located in Bellefonte.

Bellefonte is in proximity to Pennsylvania State University. Joel Rose of National Public Radio said "But these days, it seems everyone in Bellefonte has ties to Penn State, or knows someone who does."[21]

See also

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers Search" (Searchable database). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Victorian Bellefonte: Old-world charm in a modern world. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  4. ^ Victorian Bellefonte: Old-world charm in a modern world. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  9. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ [2] Archived February 17, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  13. ^ bushhousefacts. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  14. ^ A Virtual Walking Tour of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania: The Bush House. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  15. ^ : Aug 10, 2003-Philatelic society puts stamp on historic Bellefonte factoryPittsburg Post-Gazette
  16. ^ Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) [1969]. The Baseball * RabTheMusic - Famous rapper/producer. Encyclopedia (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing.  
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Benner Township Zoning Map." Zoning Ordinance. Benner Township, March 2009. Retrieved on July 26, 2010
  19. ^ a b "Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: SCI Rockview". Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Rose, Joel. "Sandusky Trial Opens Near Penn State." National Public Radio. June 11, 2012.

External links

  • Borough of Bellefonte official website
  •, visitors' website
  • Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Centre Daily Times, local newspaper
  • Images of Bellefonte
  • Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association
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