The Phi Mu 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 Phi Mu house is one of 27 chapter houses built during a second wave of construction between 1926 and 1930, following an initial wave of building from 1906 to 1917. It was designed and constructed by the Crowl Construction Company.
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 Mu house is designed in the Spanish Eclectic style, which draws freely on the Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance elements of Spanish architecture. This style became popular in the United States following the 1915 Panama-California exposition. Notable features visible on the Phi Mu house include the side-gabled tile roof, square corner campanile, walled patio, arcaded porch, casement windows, and ornamental glazed tiles.
The Phi Mu Sorority at Urbana Champaign
Phi Mu was founded in 1852 as Wesleyan College. The Delta Beta Chapter at Urbana-Champaign was founded in 1921.