University plans to repurpose building into new Visitor Center
By Caroline Reger
Poplar House Renovations
Kutztown University announced plans to renovate Poplar House in January of 2020, but they have just now started construction. This had many students wondering what’s going on with that part of campus.
The Poplar House on Main Street will be repurposed as KU’s Visitor Center.
While preserving and renovating the existing Poplar House, they will be adding a 10,300 square foot addition, expanding the overall structure to 13,161 square feet, while keeping the 129-year-old structure intact.
This will be the hub for new and prospective students to be greeted and given information. The building will include offices for the Admissions Department, lounges for student guides and visitors, meeting rooms and presentation rooms.
Meeting and presentation rooms will be able to accommodate up to 200 people. They will also have a catering kitchen that will be used to support special events held at the University.
Martin Kimmel, of Kimmel Bogrette Architecture, told planners this new building would consolidate certain functions that are spread out throughout the campus.
Rob Reynolds, planning board member said, the welcome center will be in an excellent location. “It’s going to be the first vision you have of the University.”
Former vice president of finance, Matt Delaney, told planners the university’s main philosophy is to be a walking campus. As such, some of the new entrances will be moved farther back on the structure so students have easy access to campus facilities.
Matt Santos, Vice President of university relations & Athletics, said the project “will create a sense of place for KU: a lasting positive impression for those who visit.”
Construction has officially begun as of October 2023. Occupancy is projected to begin around winter/spring term 2024-25.
Graphics: Brian Salvador – Director of Communications
The plan for these renovations has been in the works for some time, going back to when academic affairs and student affairs were together. Currently, KU does not have an easily accessible place to greet visitors and new students. Planners believe that having the building on the corner, right at the entrance of the campus, will help draw more people in.
The project had been approved by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and was included in the Capital Project Plan submitted to the Legislature for fiscal year 2019-2020 funding.
The Poplar House is a 2-story brick Victorian residence located by the entrance to Kutztown University. The property was acquired by Benjamin Kutz in 1829. Kutz was the grandson of George Kutz, the founder of Kutztown.
According to Nee Sittler, at the time of the purchase, the property consisted of 99 acres rumored to be “some of the most fertile farmland in the area”. One of Benjamin’s sons and his wife Sarah built the house that is now known as Poplar House. In 1931 it showed that the ownership of the property and house was passed down to Kutztown State Teachers College.
An article in The Kutztown Patriot claims, on June 18, 1937, the historic “Kutz house,” as it was labeled, “was moved 140 feet in three stages using jacks, rollers, and iron plates to its current location to be in alignment with the recently constructed President’s house and the campus library(now the Graduate center.) (Frederick W. Kutz).
Over the years, Poplar House has been used for a variety of things. Currently, it is being used as storage for the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, but those items will be moved to another location.