Someone attempting to characterize State College by its architecture might conclude that ours is a pretty conservative community. Houses and public buildings tend to be in various traditional styles, or if contemporary, not particularly daring. If true today, it was just as true in the years following World War II. As State College expanded southward toward and beyond what is now Easterly Parkway, and northward into newer areas of College Heights, good, solid, comfortable, but not very original houses were erected to serve the influx of new residents.
Onto this scene entered William Hajjar, a new professor in Penn State's Department of Architecture. Possessed of a talent for marketing and land development as well as architecture, Hajjar soon built a thriving architectural practice. He was an innovative designer whose houses struck many State Collegians as jarringly "modern." Some were appalled, some were amazed, but some were delighted. Such was the impact of his designs that some of the town's older, established architects, such as Dean Kennedy and Clarence Bauchspies, were moved to experiment with more contemporary designs. Younger architects, such as Philip Hallock and Kenneth Heidrich, enthusiastically competed with the Hajjar aesthetic. Although 50 or more years old today, many of the homes created by Hajjar and those who followed the path he pioneered still have a distinctive and daring look.
Despite Hajjar's success, contemporary residential architecture remained the exception in State College. After Hajjar's departure for California, no architect with his combination of entrepreneurial and design gifts came to take his place. Nevertheless, he was the man who most changed the look of our town's architecture during a period when many new homes were built. Even today, there are home buyers who find Hajjar's houses too "contemporary," in spite of their actual age; but the houses still have great appeal to those who appreciate the best in the modernist design of the post-war era. Owners of William Hajjar's houses take a special pride in possessing a part of the architectural legacy he left in State College.
Richard Porter, Ph.D.
Broker of Record
RE/MAX Centre Realty
Member of CCHS Contemporary Homes Project Committee