Centre County PA Homes for Sale
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“By heavens, Thompson, I have discovered an empire!” exclaimed James Potter to his attendant upon reaching the summit of Mount Nittany and viewing the “prairies and noble forest beneath him,” in 1764. Read More...
This first account of the lands that make up Centre County from the book “Centre County, Pennsylvania: 15 Historical Sketches of our 200 Years” have acted as a harbinger of what’s to come, as an empire has indeed been created from these bucolic valleys and stately ridges.
Formed on Feb. 13, 1800, from parts of Huntingdon, Lycoming, Mifflin and Northumberland counties, the area has come a long way from its rural beginnings in the early 19th century.
Perhaps best known as the home of The Pennsylvania State University, the county is one of the largest geographically in the state (ranking number 5 at 1,113 square miles) that holds a population of 154,000 people according to 2010 U.S. Census data. This makes the State College, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area the 13th most populous in the state, and the county the 22nd most populated in Pennsylvania. It’s aptly named, as the geographic center of the state is located within its borders.
You cannot mention Centre County without acknowledging the presence of The Pennsylvania State University. Formed as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania in 1855, it’s one of the two oldest land-grant universities in the country, and conducts teaching, research and public service. There are over 99,000 students attending the university, with over 47,000 at the University Park campus in Centre County.
Despite the university’s strong presence, there’s much more to life here than just Penn State. From the Grange Fair, the oldest encampment fair in the country, to the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, a five-day celebration of the arts that consistently ranks as one of the top outdoor fine art shows in the nation, there’s always something happening in “Happy Valley.”
'HAPPY VALLEY' AND BEYOND
The State College area is commonly referred to as “Happy Valley,” a name coined during the Great Depression when the area was less affected by the country’s economic downturn. Happy Valley is generally considered a nickname for Nittany Valley, a valley found within the Ridge-and-Valley province of the Appalachian Mountains. While much of the county is located in this geographic region, the northern portions belonging to the Allegheny Front, the Pittsburgh Low Plateau and the Deep Valley sections of the state. The most populated areas of the county are defined by forested ridges separating large agricultural valleys.
Speaking of agriculture, it’s an important industry within the county, which holds over 1,200 farms on 164,500 acres, according to data from Centre County government. As one of the most historically important industries in the area, it’s no surprise that the county created an agricultural land preservation board in 1989 to protect its rich agricultural heritage. This strong agricultural heritage also helped pave the way for the founding of Penn State in this area in the mid-19th century.
Outdoor recreation is big here, too. With over 71 percent of the county covered in forestland and parts of three state forests located within its borders, it’s no surprise that you can pursue just about any outdoor activity you’d like. With six state parks found within the county, hiking, cross country skiing and equestrian trails are all easy to find, along with downhill skiing, kayaking, and plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities.
Centre County living is rural living at its finest. With two larger metros to choose from, along with countless towns and villages, there’s something for everyone here. You can live among the hustle and bustle of State College, or perhaps take the short drive to the county seat of Bellefonte (laid out in 1799), which features Victorian architecture and more affordable home prices.
Housing stock is mostly single-family detached dwellings. However, unlike much of rural Pennsylvania, many condo and townhouse options are available in Bellefonte and particularly State College. Multi-unit homes are also prevalent in State College. According to the 2010 Census, 58.6 percent of residents own their homes, with 41.4 percent renting.
If you’re looking for your first home in the area, you have many options. One you may not have considered is building your own home. If you’ve always dreamed of your own private getaway, there’s seemingly unlimited options. Take a drive through pastoral Penns Valley or take in the endless views from the Allegheny Plateau, and you’ll realize that Centre County is a big place.
Fortunately, getting around the county is easy. Public transportation is provided by the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA). CATA was first incorporated in 1974 and covers much of the county; however, because of the rural nature of Centre County, not all townships are accessible by public transit, so owning or renting a vehicle is advisable. Also, vehicle ownership can expand your house search to more rural areas that offer increased privacy and better land values.
Three major highways can be found in Centre County. Interstate 80 is a major cross-country freight route, with up to 35,000 vehicles a day locally, according to the Centre County Planning Office and PennDot projections. Stretching nearly from New York City to San Francisco, it helps not only cross-country travelers, but cross-county travelers.
Interstate 99 runs from Bedford, Pennsylvania, through State College and eventually ends in Corning, New York. However, a large section of the northern portion of this highway is unsigned or undesignated. Locally, this highway is of great importance in providing high-speed travel between some of the most populated portions of the county.
Finally, U.S. Route 322 runs from northern Ohio to southern New Jersey. This road is important in connecting Centre County to Harrisburg and the Philadelphia region. While much of this route is four-lane highway, unfinished portions exist along southern Centre County’s border with Mifflin County. However, plans have been announced in 2019 to overhaul and upgrade this 2-lane portion of road, meaning travel between State College and the southern reaches of the state will be much quicker and safer.
Those looking for access to other parts of the country and world can choose flights from University Park Airport. This public airport is located in Benner Township not far from the university and both State College and Bellefonte, and provides quick access to connecting hubs in the Northeast and Midwest. The airport is currently served by United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 138,423 enplanements in 2017, making the University Park Airport the seventh busiest airport in the state.
Centre County has received many awards and accolades. The county made livability.com’s “2018 Top 100 Best Places to Live” list, and we have to agree.
State College itself has received many accolades as well, including recent awards such as making the “50 Safest College Towns of 2018” list by Safewise, and the “Most Educated Cities Award” in Pennsylvania by Insurify.
With a great mix of urban amenities and rural living, we believe Centre County is one of the best places to live not only in Pennsylvania, but in the country and beyond. We also believe the best way to experience “Happy Valley” is to see it in person … and we’d be happy to show you the highlights whenever the time is right for you.