What do Syracuse University’s Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Xi Delta, and Alpha Gamma Delta chapters have in common? Their chapter houses were all designed by alumnae of their respective organizations.
Kappa Alpha Theta
Marjorie Wright designed the home of the Chi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta at 306 Walnut Place. A 1915 initiate of Chi, she studied architecture at Syracuse and, from 1919 until her death in 1949, she was associated with her father’s architectural firm. The Tudor Revival home with a gable roof dates to 1928 and was one of the first homes on Walnut Park to be designed as a home for a Greek-letter organization.
The May 1929 Kappa Alpha Theta magazine published an article about Chi’s new home. It was on the lot that was purchased in 1912 by the Chi Association of Kappa Alpha Theta, Inc., a stock corporation. A May 1928 fire destroyed the chapter’s home. Its replacement, the house pictured above, cost $52,700 to build. A housewarming took place on April 12, 1929; 900 people attended. House tours were given while a small orchestra played. That evening, the chapter hosted its 40th annual initiation banquet and the Chi chapter dedicated the chapter hall to the founders of the chapter, the first Theta chapter to honor its founders in this fashion.
Through the double doors on the entrance on the left side of the house, stairways lead up and down, “Ascending a number of wide steps we find ourselves in the lounge, and the impression felt immediately is one of spaciousness and hushed quiet. The entire downstairs floor is covered with heavy taupe-covered carpet which catch all sounds.” The drawing room “stretches the entire width of the house, and is 45′ by 25′ in dimension. It is lighted during daytime through the windows stretching across the whole front wall, and in the evening by numerous table and floor lamps and by wall lights. A tall French door opens upon the wide terrace which stands several feet from the ground. The curtains to this casement are fashioned in the pinch-pleated style, as are the remaining drapes in the house, and are of a soft red hue. In the center of the drawing room a large oak Jacobean table holds a rich lamp, as well as rare bowls of Belgian glass. Green frisee davenports shelter each side of it, and all about this spacious room are placed formal lounging chairs, and throne chairs, and straightbacked chairs.”
A library and chaperon’s quarters rounded out the rest of the first floor. The two upper floors had a straight narrow hall with bedrooms on either side. The bedrooms accommodated 26. A room for city girls provided sleeping quarters for three. Two bathrooms, one on each sleeping floor, were done in white and green tile “and they are amply supplied with baths and showers and individual racks and soap dishes.”
The basement housed the dining room and kitchen including “zinc covered counters, and an adequate electric refrigerator.” A large bronze plaque dedicated to Chi’s founders “whose valor and devotion we owe our privilege of sisterhood” highlighted the chapter’s pride, the Chapter hall. The unveiling of the plaque took place after the initiation banquet. Remarks were given by L. Pearle Green, Theta’s Grand Secretary.
Alpha Gamma Delta
The youngest of the Syracuse Triad, Alpha Gamma Delta was founded at Syracuse University on May 30, 1904 by 11 students. One of these young women was Emily H. Butterfield. An architect (and authority on fraternity heraldry), she designed the Alpha Chapter’s home at 709 Comstock. According to the January 1931 Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly, the home was completed in the fall of 1928. The chapter’s first two homes were rentals. The third home was purchased and “occupied until plans for the new house were executed.”
The Quarterly article gave a detailed description of the chapter’s home at 709 Comstock. The house is Georgian in design, “being of Old Virginia brick with the coping, steps and replica of the coat of arms in buff Indiana limestone. Entrance is through the heavy colonial doorway into the foyer with its high arched windows, fireplace and colorful stone floor. First to the left of the main hallway, which is two steps above the level of the foyer, is the suite of three rooms reserved for the use of the housemother. Beyond, at the right, is the arched entrance to the living room opposite the attractive stairway which leads to the second floor. The living room is spacious in its proportions and with its lovely fireplace with ceiling high built-in bookcases on either side, its creamy walls, walnut beams,oriental rugs and attractive furniture makes a charming setting for the chapter life. At one end of the living room are French doors opening into the sun porch, from which one enters the dining room through an arch. The dining room is also entered through arches from the living room and hall, which makes the entire floor wonderfully adapted for dances and other gatherings.”
The article continued, “The dining room is furnished with extensive refectory tables and narrow-backed Windsor chairs. There is also a most attractive built-in buffet. Back of the dining room is the butler’s pantry, the up-to-date kitchen, and two maid’s rooms with bath. On the main floor there are also the coatroom and large lavatory for use at parties, the attractive guest room with its private bath, and the town girls’ room, large and airy with plenty of closet space for all sorts of belongings that may need a safe and temporary housing. The large hall on the second floor is furnished as a lounging room and from it open thirteen bedrooms, each for two girls. All of the rooms differ but each has plenty of space and light and two clothes closets, one for each occupant.”
The chapter’s charter went dormant in 2001 and the chapter was recolonized nine years later. The chapter returned to the house after the lease with the university ended in 2011. During the interim, the house was used as an all-female residence hall called Butterfield House. According to the university’s web-site, “Butterfield houses 36 women on two floors. This is the only all-female facility on the Syracuse University campus. Room types include singles, open doubles, and triples. This building contains a main lounge/gathering space and a laundry facility.”
Alpha Xi Delta
The Eta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta began as a local organization, Kappa Rho. Eleven members of Kappa Rho became the chapter’s charter members in the spring of 1904. The American Construction Journal, Volume 35, 1914, stated that Alpha Xi Delta was building a three story, 35′ x 40′ house worth $15,000. The lot was at the corner of Euclid and Comstock. The house was designed by Alpha Xi Delta member Hazel Slayton.
[Editor's note - This paragraph was added two weeks after the original post when further information came to light) In 1915, the chapter was ready to go with Miss Slayton's plans. The alumnae had arranged for financing. The plans were halted when the chapter had an opportunity to purchase the home of the Dean of Mathematics home. Dr. Metzler's house was a large gray one a block from campus. It was said to be "suited to fraternity life." It appears to be the home pictured below.
Frances Hennigar reported,”Eta’s home is situated just around the corner from our campus and is in the new fraternity section. The house is a stately gray, three story building with a large tower. Recently Eta has added the corner lot adjoining the house. This gives her a corner location on tow of the main streets and facing a large and beautiful park.”
The description continued, “A circular porch extends nearly three-quarters of the way around the house and gives ample room for porch hammocks, lounging chairs and the like. The heavy door, with its Alpha Xi Delta crest, opens into a small reception hall. On the main floor are the kitchen, dining room, library and music room. Under the stairs we also have a small but cozy den. Our kitchen has three large closets and a butler’s pantry. Our dining room accommodates twenty people at five small tables. In our library one finds the bookcases, the fireplace and the easy chairs. Our music room contains our nicest things – soft divans, deep, upholstered chairs, floor lamp, piano, victrola and other instruments. Both the library and music room have soft, thick rugs over polished floors and the windows are draped in rose silk over soft lace curtains. These rooms on the first floor all open into each other with wide archways and make an ideal place for informal dances.”
The reception hall, “is furnished in brown wicker and a winding stairway leads up to the second floor. Here are five bedrooms. At the head of the stairs in a small room large enough for only one girl, but opening into an excellent sleeping porch. Next to this is the guest room with the tower adding to its size and affording an attractive bay window. Here everything is in exquisite order and the polished floors reflect the dainty hangings. Down the hall are two more large bedrooms each having roomy closets and comfortable bay windows. Three girls usually occupy each of them. At the end of the hall is the chaperon’s room. The stairs here lead up to the third floor which has the same number of rooms as the second floor. Throughout the house every floor is hardwood ad the improvements are modern and of the best.”
And the proof that this is not the current house is in the last paragraph, “Eta is a growing chapter and we are all looking forward to the next house which is soon to be built on the lot next door to our present house.”
In March 1930, a newspaper reported that “Hazel Slayton Brodsky of Pleasantville, NY has filed plans for a brick $50,000 sorority house, 44′ x 82′ to be built at Comstock and Euclid for Alpha Xi Delta.” The house that Hazel designed years before is the home in which the chapter now resides.”
If any additional chapter houses at Syracuse have been designed by members of their respective organizations, I am unaware of it. Feel free to let me know of any others I may have missed.