Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity House
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity House is a historic chapter house on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was designed by the Chicago architectural firm Dean and Dean and built by contractor A.W. Stoolman with elements of the Craftsman and Prairie School styles. Built in 1907, it was one of the earliest fraternity houses to be constructed on campus. It is therefore a precursor to the later flourishing of the Greek Letter Movement on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1920s.
Backstory and Context
The Alpha Delta Pi house is one of 77 fraternity and sorority chapter houses located on or around the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
By the early 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 Alpha Delta Pi house was one of a number of chapter houses built in an early wave of construction from 1906 to 1917. It was built by local contractor A.W. Stoolman and designed by the Chicago architectural firm Dean and Dean. The Dean brothers were members of a group of Chicago architects known as the Eighteen, whose membership included Frank Lloyd Wright. They are best known for their work on the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity House at Cornell University.
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.)
An exception to this trend, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house was built using elements from the American Craftsman and Prairie School styles. The American Craftsman School developed out of the British Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century, emphasizing originality, simplicity, and the use of local materials. The Prairie School, also looking to the Arts and Crafts movement for inspiration, was developed in the Midwest and emphasized horizontality and open floor plans.
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity at Urbana-Champaign:
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded at the University of Alabama in 1856.
It was chartered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1899, making it one of the first Greek Letter societies on campus.
Kummer, Karen L., et al. "Fraternity and Sorority Houses at the Urbana-Champaign Campus of the University of Illinois." National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, NPS. May 5, 1989. Accessed September 13, 2018.
"Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity." Illinois Fraternity and Sorority Affairs. http://fsaffairs.illinois.edu/organizations/fraternities/SigmaAlphaEpsilon/. Accessed September 13, 2018.