The Phi Delta Theta 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 1920s, the University of Urbana-Champaign was one of the leading centers of Greek letter societies in the United States.
It was during this period that 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 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 Phi Delta Theta house was built in 1922 in the English Revival style, which imitates English domestic architecture of the sixteenth century. This style was extremely popular in America in the first decades of the twentieth century; there are five other chapter houses on campus built in this style. Notable features include the steeply pitched roof, grouped casement windows, limestone exterior, and tall chimneys.
The design of the house was planned by Howard Van Doren Shaw, a noted Chicago architect. Shaw designed houses in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, but is best known for his work on country houses including his own home, Ragdale, in Lake Forest, IL. The house was constructed by English Brothers, a well-known local construction company also responsible for Memorial Stadium (1924) and University Library (1926). It was featured in The Architectural Forum in 1922, which called it a fraternity house of outstanding architectural importance.
The Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at Urbana-Champaign
Phi Delta Theta was founded in 1848 at Miami University of Ohio. The Eta Chapter was established in 1893 following the repeal of anti-fraternity regulations; it was the third fraternity to appear on campus. In the early twentieth century, the chapter was known for its academic and athletic achievements.