Downtown Bellefonte
Downtown Bellefonte
Location of Bellefonte in Centre County, Pennsylvania
Location of Bellefonte in Centre County, Pennsylvania
Location of Centre County in Pennsylvania
Location of Centre County in Pennsylvania
Bellefonte is located in Pennsylvania
Location within the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Bellefonte is located in the United States
Bellefonte (the United States)
Coordinates: 40°54′53″N 77°46′29″W / 40.91472°N 77.77472°W / 40.91472; -77.77472
CountryUnited States
Incorporated (borough)1806
 • MayorGene Johnson
 • Total1.84 sq mi (4.78 km2)
 • Land1.84 sq mi (4.78 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
919 ft (280 m)
 • Total6,105
 • Density3,310.74/sq mi (1,278.08/km2)
  • Bellefontian
  • Bellefutian
Time zoneEastern (EST)
 • Summer (DST)EDT
ZIP code
Area code814
FIPS code42-05256
DesignatedMay 08, 1947[4]

Bellefonte is a borough in, and the county seat of, Centre County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is approximately 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.[5] It houses the Centre County Courthouse, located downtown on the diamond. Bellefonte has also been home to five of Pennsylvania's governors, as well as two other governors.[6] All seven are commemorated in a monument located at Talleyrand Park.

The town features many examples of Victorian architecture. It is also home to the natural spring, "la belle fonte". bestowed by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord during a land-speculation visit to central Pennsylvania in the 1790, from which the town derives its name. The spring, which serves as the town's water supply, has since 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.[7]


Aerial photo of Bellefonte in July 2007

William Lamb sold his mill to John Dunlop in 1794. The following year, John’s father James Dunlop and John’s son-in-law James Harris (1756-1841) laid out the town that would become known as Bellefonte.

As the years went by, Bellefonte boomed and soon became the most influential town between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.[8]

Bellefonte Historic District

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, Bellefonte Forge House, Brockerhoff Hotel, Centre County Courthouse, Gamble Mill, McAllister-Beaver House, Miles-Humes House, Pennsylvania Match Company, South Ward School, and the William Thomas House. Bellefonte Academy was listed until 2008; it was destroyed by fire in 2004.[9]

Bush House Hotel

Main article: Bush House Hotel

Bush House Hotel was built in 1868-69 by Bellefonte attorney and developer Daniel G. Bush. 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 Brockerhoff House, the Haag House, and other area hotels were competitors. Many notable guests stayed at the Bush House including Thomas Edison.[10] The Bush House burned down on February 8, 2006.[11]

The Cadillac Building

This building was designed by pioneering female architect Anna Wagner Keichline, a native of Bellefonte, and originally served as a car dealership with a showroom on first floor, a repair shop on the second, and an office and living space on the third floor. 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.

The Cadillac Building was rebuilt in 2016 and is now home to 11 two- and three-bedroom apartment units. It remains a part of the Bellefonte Historic District.[12]

Garman Opera House

The Garman Opera House was originally built in 1890 and hosted many notable stars of the day including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Western performer Tom Mix, and illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini.

The 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.

Garman House was rebuilt in 2016 and is now home to 21 one and two bedroom apartment units.

Victorian era

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 a dungeon eight feet underground, 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 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.


Bellefonte is located in the Nittany Valley of the Ridge and Valley Appalachians. It lies 12 miles northeast of State College. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2), all land. Bellefonte is in the northwestern corner of and is surrounded by Spring Township.


Historical population

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 inhabitants per square mile (1,355.3/km2). There were 3,038 housing units at an average density of 1,669.2 per square mile (644.5/km2).[14]

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.

The population distribution by age was as follows: 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.


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

Major employers


Courthouse at night
Looking down Allegheny Street from Reservoir Hill

The Centre County Correctional Facility is in Benner Township, just outside Bellefonte. It is county-run and houses between 250 - 300 inmates.[15]

The State Correctional Institution – Rockview is a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison located in Benner Township, Pennsylvania, 5 miles (8.0 km) from Bellefonte.[16][17] The prison houses Pennsylvania's execution chamber.[17]

The State Correctional Institution – Benner, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections facility, is a 2,000 bed prison located adjacent to SCI Rockview.[18]



Bellefonte forms part of Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district. The current representative is Glenn "G.T." Thompson.


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


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


Bellefonte Area School District operates public schools in the borough and wider area. Centre County Christian Academy is a private school located in Bellefonte. Since 1890, Catholic Education has been present in the Bellefonte community and vicinity through Saint John Parochial School. Saint John the Evangelist Roman Catholic School provides 3 and 4 year-old Pre-Kindergarten classes, as well as full-day instruction in Kindergarten through grade 5.[1]

Bellefonte is 10 miles from Pennsylvania State University. Joel Rose of National Public Radio said, "These days, it seems everyone in Bellefonte has ties to Penn State, or knows someone who does."[21]


Logan Fire Company Engine 1 responding to a call


Bellefonte is served by the Centre Area Transportation Authority for local bus service, linking Bellefonte to various points in State College including the Nittany Mall, downtown and the Penn State main campus. The town is also served by the University Park Airport for commercial air travel.

Bellefonte does not have passenger train service, with the nearest Amtrak stations located in Lewistown (approximately 32 miles away) and Tyrone (approximately 35 miles away) and serving Amtrak's Pennsylvanian train between Pittsburgh and New York City.[22]

Public safety

The law enforcement agency in Bellefonte is the Bellefonte Police Department, headed by Chief Shawn Weaver. The Centre County Sheriff's office is also located in Bellefonte.

The Bellefonte Fire Department is made up of two volunteer companies: Logan Fire Company #1 and Undine Fire Company #2.[23] Ambulance service is provided by Bellefonte EMS, which separated from Logan Fire Company in 1994.[24]

Early railroads

Up until 1946 the Bellefonte Central Railroad served the town on a Bellefonte-Lemont (State College) route. Until 1933 the BCR continued the route south to Tyrone over the Pennsylvania Railroad's former Fairbrook Branch.[25] Additionally, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran passenger trains from Altoona to Williamsport, after Milesburg heading into Bellefonte, then backing out to return to the Bald Eagle Valley Branch's route to continue the trip northeast.[26] The last Altoona - Lock Haven train was between August 1950 and 1951.[27][28] The PRR also operated trains until the late 1940s from Bellefonte south to Lemont (nearest train station to State College), then east to Northumberland and Sunbury, Pennsylvania.[29]

Turnpikes and roads

A turnpike was created in 1822 after ten years of construction. This turnpike, named The Northumberland and Anderson's Creek Turnpike, connected Bellefonte to Clearfield on the west and Sunbury on the east.[30] Today, Pennsylvania Route 550 runs through the town. Interstate 99/US Route 220 pass by the eastern outskirts of the town.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Oct 12, 2022.
  3. ^ "Bellefonte PA ZIP Code". 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2023.
  4. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers Search". Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original (Searchable database) on 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  6. ^ Victorian Bellefonte: Old-world charm in a modern world Archived September 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  7. ^ Victorian Bellefonte: Old-world charm in a modern world Archived September 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  8. ^ Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ bushhousefacts Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  11. ^ A Virtual Walking Tour of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania: The Bush House. (2006-02-08). Retrieved on 2013-07-23.
  12. ^ "Cadillac and Garman Houses | Leonard S. Fiore, Inc. General Contractor". Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  13. ^ "Census 2020".
  14. ^ "Archived copy". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2017-08-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Centre County Government: Centre County Correctional Facility". Archived from the original on 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
  16. ^ "Benner Township Zoning Map." Zoning Ordinance Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine. Benner Township, March 2009. Retrieved on July 26, 2010
  17. ^ a b "Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: SCI Rockview". Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  18. ^ "Contract Awarded for New State Prison in Benner Township, Centre County" (Press release).
  19. ^ "Mayor's Welcome".
  20. ^ "Council Members". Borough of Bellefonte. Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  21. ^ Rose, Joel. "Sandusky Trial Opens Near Penn State." National Public Radio. June 11, 2012.
  22. ^ "Pennsylvanian schedule" (PDF). Amtrak. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "Bellefonte Fire Department". Borough of Bellefonte. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  24. ^ "About Us". Bellefonte Emergency Medical Services. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  25. ^ Bellefonte Central Railroad timeline
  26. ^ Official Guide to the Railways, June 1921, Pennsylvania Railroad section, Table 114
  27. ^ Pennsylvania Railroad timetable, August 6, 1950, Table 30
  28. ^ Official Guide to the Railways, December 1951, Pennsylvania RR section, Table 109 freight only
  29. ^ Official Guide to the Railways, May 1946, Pennsylvania RR section, Table 109
  30. ^ The Tallyrand Park Citizens Committee. "Background to the Virtual Walking Tour of Bellefonte, PA". Retrieved 28 March 2023.
  31. ^ Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) [1969]. The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8.