Bringing history home

While a few fraternities are looking forward to living in brand new houses next fall, there are some that are perfectly happy living in their old, historic houses. So old and historic are these houses, in fact, that they’re listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the nation’s official list of places recognized for their historical, architectural or archaeological significance and considered worthy of preservation.

Here on campus, the Preservation and Conservation Association of Champaign County (PACA) spearheads the efforts of enlisting historic places into the NRHP. Since their founding in 1981, PACA has helped nominate and successfully enlist many University buildings into the NRHP, including several fraternity and sorority houses.

One house that they successfully helped place into the NRHP will be holding its centennial celebration next year. The Kappa Sigma house, located at 212 E Daniel St. in Champaign, was completed in 1911. Although living in a house that old does have its disadvantages, former Kappa Sigma Executive Officer Dan Polito, junior in Engineering, said that he likes living in a house with so much heritage.

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“Yeah, it takes a lot of work to keep the house maintained, and we have undergone some minor renovations over the years,” Polito said. “But it’s a classic, old school fraternity house. Knowing that 70 years ago there were guys walking through the same doors is really cool.”

The Alpha Delta Phi house is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The house, located at 310 E John St. in Champaign, was completed in 1925, and has been home to the fraternity ever since. This Tudor style house “is the anchor” for the Illinois chapter of Alpha Delta Phi, according to Dave Cervantes, senior in FAA, who lives in the house.

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“Thirty years ago guys were living in the same rooms that we’re living in today,” he added. “To have that link between our older brothers, it’s like this house is a family heirloom.”

”When alumni come to visit the house, it’s nice knowing we can welcome them back to the same house they lived in,” said John Jaeger, former vice president of Alpha Delta Phi and senior in LAS.

Another house listed in the NRHP is the Delta Upsilon house, 312 E Armory Ave. in Champaign, which was built in 1926.

“During homecoming, alumni are always bringing back pictures of the place,” said Andrew Pedersen, junior in Business. “Some pictures are from the 40s, and nearly everything looks the same.”

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Former president of Delta Upsilon Nik Abel, senior in LAS, also noted that many alumni like to go up to see their old rooms.

“They always look for their signatures on the president’s table, which has signatures back from the 1950s. There’s also another president’s table downstairs with signatures from the 1910s and 20s.”

Another fraternity house — a women’s fraternity house — listed in the NRHP is the Kappa Kappa Gamma fraternity house, located at 1102 S Lincoln Ave. in Urbana. The term “sorority” was not coined until after their founding in 1870.

“This house has a lot of character,” said Lindsay Sparrow, sophomore in LAS and vice president of Kappa Kappa Gamma. “Not a lot of sororities have lived in the same house for this many years.”

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The Kappa Kappa Gamma house was completed in 1928, and has since maintained nearly every original feature.

“There’s been a few small changes throughout the house, like wallpaper and basic modern additions, but other than that the house really hasn’t changed,” added Melissa Kolod, sophomore in LAS.

Both Sparrow and Kolod agree that alumnae love coming back to the house to see the rooms they used to live in.

Newly built houses have still tried to maintain their heritage as well. The Theta Xi house, at 205 E. Armory Ave. in Champaign, was just completed last year and maintains nearly the same exterior look as their old house, including features such as the fraternity emblem mounted atop the front door that was above the old house’s door as well. There is also a World War II memorial plaque inside the living room of the house, honoring their brothers who gave their life to our country. Give them a hundred years, and new houses like Theta Xi’s could find themselves on the NRHP as well.