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The Creamery: At Work Since 1865

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the creamery, the oldest of its kind in the United States. Let’s take a quick look.

Penn State Creamery 1865

The Penn State Berkey Creamery has a history longer than the ice cream lines that wind down Curtin Road on a home football weekend. In fact, for all but the first ten years of its existence, Penn State has continuously operated a creamery to process milk from the University’s herds and others and made it available—along with associated dairy products—to the campus and local community. That’s 150 years of service.

During that time, the creamery also has been a resource to teach students the science of dairy production and to research the best, safest, and most efficient processing methods for milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and, yes, ice cream.

But first, a brief history lesson.

In 1865, a creamery was established in the “College Barns,” which were located behind present-day Old Main. The barns also housed a blacksmith shop and a hayloft.

The first stand-alone creamery was built nearby in 1889. This one-story building resulted from efforts to upgrade the college’s instruction and research in dairying, which by then was an increasingly important sector of the state’s ag economy. Dairy short courses offered there proved to be very popular, and the now-famous Ice Cream Short Course began with ice-cream-making instruction in the 1890s.

In 1904, the creamery moved to the Patterson Building. The former Dairy Manufacturing major was created, and retail delivery of pasteurized milk and cream began.

The creamery moved again in 1932, this time to a wing of Borland Laboratory. The raw-milk receiving room and the salesroom were added to the original structure in 1960 and 1961, respectively.

In 2006, the creamery moved to its current location on the first floor of the new and subsequently named Rodney A. Erickson Food Science Building. The Berkey Creamery store, named after donors Earl and Jeanne Berkey, occupies 3,700 square feet of this space.

So next time you’re in the Berkey Creamery for ice cream say, “Happy anniversary.”

—Chuck Gill