Interest in Irish studies increased at Penn in the 1980s as the territorial conflict that began in 1968 continued over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. In 1981, the lord mayors of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Dublin, Ireland, came to Penn as part of their U.S. tour of East Coast cities with the charity Co-operation North to promote reconciliation between the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The Towne Building exemplifies the architectural character of Penn’s large laboratory buildings from the early 1900s. Constructed in 1906, it was originally known as the “New Engineering Building” and was the University’s largest structure. Later renamed in honor of industrialist, Penn trustee, and donor John Henry Towne, it is currently home to the office of the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.