The Centre County Historical Society received the Mansion and approximately two acres through a bequest in 1978. Beginning in 1983-1984 , the restoration of the Mansion and plans for the recovery of the gardens and grounds were underway. With the help of landscape architects, historians, and horticulturists, the gardens were researched, sited, thoughtfully designed, and cared for by dedicated Historical Society volunteers and part time gardening staff. Another nearly seven acres was added to the property in the 1990s, through purchase, a gift, and a long-term lease agreement with Penn State. With this growth and over time, there became an increasing need for consistent and more volunteer support in the gardens. In 2001, with help from volunteers from the local PSU Master Gardeners of Centre County Cooperative Extension, the Centre Furnace Mansion Garden Committee formed to maintain and develop the gardens and garden programming.
With the help of the Centre Furnace Mansion Garden Committee, coordinated by volunteer Master Gardener, Katie Frieden, the gardens remain a vital part of the Centre Furnace Mansion property, teeming with hundreds of varieties of perennials, herbs and roses. The gardens also benefit from the hard work of volunteer students from two Penn State departments – Landscape Contracting and Integrative Arts. Other service groups that contribute to the Centre Furnace Mansion and it’s grounds include the PNC Bank-United Way Day of Caring, and Penn State volunteers– Service Learning Coordinators, Fresh START and the Homecoming Committee.
Our vision with the Centre Furnace Mansion gardens is not to attempt to replicate what may have been on the property (since much of the original landscape has disappeared over time), but to add plant material that may have been used in the Victorian era in Centre County; to maintain and expand the Kitchen Garden and perennial beds; and to focus on creating educational opportunities and materials associated with the gardens and how gardening may have looked in the mid nineteenth century here.
Credit for the gardens goes to the hard work, leadership and weekly persistence of the Centre Furnace Mansion Gardeners. The service and contributions generously given by many individuals, organizations and businesses in the community make the gardens at the Centre Furnace Mansion possible.