Kappa Kappa Gamma’s headquarters at 530 East Town Street in Columbus, Ohio, the Snowden-Gray House, is likely the most unique of any NPC group. Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois on October 13, 1870. Its six founding members walked into chapel wearing small golden keys in their hair. The Alpha chapter was disbanded by the mid 1870s when Monmouth College forbid the existence of fraternities, although there is evidence the some of the organizations maintained sub rosa chapters for several years. It is a testament to the strength of the organization that it, along with its Monmouth Duo partner, Pi Beta Phi, continued to grow and succeed despite the demise of the Alpha chapter a few years after the founding.
Kappa’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, was the home of Governor David Tod during the 1860s. In 1923, the Columbus Women’s Club purchased it to use as a headquarters. During the Depression, the club could no longer afford the upkeep and the building fell into private hands. It was used for offices, a candy making operation, and several other business until it fell into disrepair and was used as a poorly-kept rooming house.
Clara O. Pierce, an Ohio State Kappa, was appointed Kappa’s Executive Secretary in 1929 and served in that position for 40 years. It was her influence that brought the fraternity’s Central Office to a suite of offices in Columbus’ Ohio State Savings Building. In 1951, it was her vision that led the fraternity to purchase a large distressed, yet historic, mansion in what is now the Town-Franklin Historic District.
Three rooms serve as the Heritage Museum. Incorporated in 1981, the Heritage Museum was renovated and redecorated through the late 1990s. One of the first things that a visitor notices is the full length portrait of Tade Hartsuff Kuhns, a Butler University Kappa who served as the organization’s first Grand President (1881-84). Kuhns was a world traveler, and in 1930, the New York Sun named her one of the world’s most widely-traveled women. The portrait was painted by a Monmouth College Kappa, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Gowdy. Early in her career, as a young Monmouth College faculty member, Gowdy was forced to resign from her position because she was seen wearing her Kappa key at a time when the organizations were banned from campus.*
The Heritage Museum hours can be found on the Kappa Kappa Gamma web-site and anyone traveling through Columbus should make time in their schedule to take a tour. Kappa’s archivist and curator Kylie Smith is knowledgeable and gracious (and she’s a hoot to boot!).
* For more information about the May 1882 dismissal of Lizzie Gowdy, art instructor visit Richard Sayres’ blog entry at http://heweslibrary.blogspot.com/2011/01/may-1882-dismissal-of-miss-lizzie-gowdy.html
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2012. All Rights Reserved.