Charles and Bella Schlow

If you’re a Penn Stater, you’ve walked by Schlow Library in Downtown State College countless times. At the corner of Beaver Avenue and Allen Street, it’s in a beautiful newish brick building that adds some verve and character to Allen Street’s otherwise mostly perfunctory aesthetics.

As with so many names on a map, “Schlow” was always just one of those things that existed in Happy Valley, and I never thought to explore the history of it. I’m sharing the text of this old article on Charles and Bella Schlow because it tells a bit of their life, but also because it’s such a perfect illustration of how much a familiar place can nonetheless feel foreign only a few decades later. Very little of the specific names and places mentioned is recognizable today, other than the town and the street names.

I’ll smile whenever I walk by Schlow Library now, thinking of Charles and Bella and the life these two transplants chose to make in Mount Nittany’s shadow.


Mr. Schlow: Amazing

In 1919, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Schlow purchased a small ladies shop from a Miss Newman at the corner of Bishop and Allegheny in Bellefonte. From time to time he brought small exhibits of his wear to an upstairs room of the State College Hotel. At that time there was a very small store catering to the State College women, known as the Imboden Shop, located across from the old Post Office.

Mr. Schlow was advised by one of his clients, Hassel Montgomery who had a prosperous men’s shop located where the Juliet Room is now, that State College had great prospects ahead of it and was badly in need of a ladies’ store. A few months later, a small empty rom became available in the middle of Allen Street next door to the present Murphy’s. Mr. Schlow established his business there and the store prospered … small as it was. Following a fire which destroyed all of the old stores existing on the corner of College and Allen Street, Mr. Schlow purchased from the Metzger Company the piece of land where the Schlow Shop is now located.

Mr. Schlow had ideas of grandeur, hoping to develop a chain of ladies’ shops but then discovered that unless one has unlimited numbers of capable personnel it is best to stick to one store.

The addition of a gift shop to his ladies’ shop led to further expansion with the result that his son Frank, who died two years ago, established an interior decorating and furniture store as part of Schlow’s. It was located in the site of the present TwelveTrees Theatre and was operated until Frank Schlow’s death.

Prior to coming to Centre County, Mr. and Mrs. Schlow both taught. After her college work, Mrs. Schlow taught elocution. Mr. Schlow graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia, had a two year course in the School of Pedagogy and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Among his numerous associates in school were Harry Sherman, president of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and Alexander Wolcott, the first “Man Who Came to Dinner.”

Once Mr. Schlow moved to State College he became very interested in the community with the result that for several years he was a member of the State College Borough Council, and its president for four years.

At the death of his wife some 10 years ago he and his children along with several friends made it possible for the library organization to build and operate the present Bella S. Schlow Memorial Library. In the very near future it will be located in the old Post Office at the corner of Allen and Beaver Avenue.

Mr. Schlow’s hobbies include collecting books. He has over 3000 in his home, many autographed by author or illustrator, and many limited editions. The three he cherishes the most are those autographed by President Eisenhower, Mrs. Roosevelt, and King Edward.

Mr. Schlow likes State College and repeats as one man has told him … “State College makes me feel of a little bit of heaven. It is hard to reach but once you get there you don’t want to leave.”