The Delta Kappa Epsilon house is one of 77 fraternity and sorority chapter houses located on or around the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the first decades of the twentieth century, university administrators across the country were adopting a more laissez faire attitude towards student life based on the model of the German university. Students were encouraged to exercise their freedom as a means of developing personal responsibility, and extra-curricular activities grew in importance.
As a result of these changes, administrators began to see Greek letter societies as allies in overseeing the physical, moral, and social development of students. The University of Illinois was the first university to create the offices of Dean of Women and Dean of Men, removing the responsibility of overseeing student affairs from the faculty. The first Dean of Men, Thomas A. Clark (1901-27), encouraged the growth of Greek letter societies as a means of keeping in touch with students and establishing norms of conduct.
The construction of chapter houses at the Urbana Champaign campus was driven by housing shortages resulting from the antipathy of the German system towards providing room and board to students. Dean Clark thought that the construction of chapter houses assisted in the socialization process of younger members and the training of future leaders.
The Delta Kappa Epsilon house is part of the first wave of chapter house construction on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lasting from 1906 to 1917.
The architecture of chapter houses was seen as a way of educating students by exposing them to classical design. On the Urbana-Champaign campus, the majority of chapter houses were built by local architects in revival styles (e.g. Classical Revival, Gothic Revival, etc.) The Beta Theta Pi house was constructed in the Tudor Revival style by developer Marion F. Tackett using plans drawn by chapter member E.G. Oldefest.
Delta Kappa Epsilon was founded at Yale in 1844. The Delta Pi chapter of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was chartered in 1904 and subsequently ordered construction of the house. Notable residents from this period include football player Ralph E. Fletcher and Illinois State Treasurer Richard Rowe.
In 1921, Delta Kappa Epsilon sold the building to Alpha Sigma Phi, who occupied the building until 1929. During this time, the house was residence for a number of notable athletes including Lloyd Burdick (football and wrestling) and Bernard F. Oakes (football and track.). It was also home to future investor Hal Yaeger and Raymond Glos, a future Assistant Dean of Men (1929-7).
From 1929 until 1940, the building was occupied by another fraternity, Tau Delta Phi. Subsequently, the building was operated as a private dormitory unaffiliated with any fraternity. Since 1986, it has been home to the Chi Phi fraternity.