Halls, Tombs and Houses: Student Society Architecture at Dartmouth
VI. Greek-Letter Societies 1920-1940 | The brick second generation
The new houses were of brick, whether replacing a wooden ex-family homes that represent the first efforts of fraternities or starting anew on vacant lots. With the exception of the brick-ended Alpha Theta and the white-painted brick of Gamma Delta Chi, the new buildings were uniformly red brick with white trim and all could be called Georgian or Colonial in style. The first time a fraternity replaced its old house seems to be when Alpha Delta Phi (Alpha Delta) replaced its 1872 hall with an utterly dissimilar Georgian mansion facing west in the early 1920s. (The date is not clear, but a 1919 aerial photo shows that the old building has been demolished, and Barrett dates the new building to 1921.) Soon societies with houses they had once found entirely suitable were replacing the aging wooden buildings with brick ones at a great rate. Most of the old houses, as one-time family dwellings, had cramped staircases and too-small meeting rooms, and probably uneven foundations as well. The flurry of replacements came between 1925 and c.1931.
A list of houses that replaced their old buildings with new in this period would include Phi Sigma Kappa (Phi Tau), designed by D.W. Redfield; Theta Delta Chi, designed by Putnam & Chandler of Boston;146 Chi Phi (Heorot) (Fig. 31); Phi Gamma Delta (now occupied by Sigma Delta sorority) (Fig. 32); Sigma Chi (Tabard) (Fig. 33); Sigma Alpha Epsilon (Fig. 34); and Gamma Delta Chi. The last houses to follow this pattern were Gamma Delta Chi, Phi Gamma Delta, and Kappa Sigma (Chi Gamma Epsilon) (Fig. 35) in 1937.147 These houses mark the end of the red-brick revolution.
The few replacement buildings that were not of brick are worth mentioning: Theta Chi (now Alpha Theta) built a brick-ended clapboard house, and Sig Ep's remodeling of the Sherman House has already been described. Nor did all organizations replace their buildings, of course: Of the organizations in existence by 1920, those that continued to occupy their old wooden houses were Delta Kappa Epsilon, Phi Delta Theta, Alpha Kappa Kappa (medical), Delta Upsilon, and the Phi Psi (now Panarchy).
Webster Avenue exerted a powerful draw to the house-builders, as it was the closest and most prominent Hanover street with land still available. The shift that had begun slowly in 1896 accelerated rapidly in the 1920s when the College sold off the south side of the street, and this is when the "Fraternity Row" gained its current appearance (Fig. 36). A number of organizations convinced their memberships to relocate to this site, near similar institutions, and the administration seems to have approved. Sigma Nu, Delta Tau Delta (Bones Gate), Zeta Psi and the President's House all went up between 1925 and 1928. Only a small wooden house had occupied the south side of the street before this time. Kappa Kappa Kappa, as the first brick house on the row in 1925, took the last unoccupied lot on the north, a site the College had owned and never decided what to do with. Tri-Kap got the lot when the College acquired the fraternity's house tn order to build Silsby Hall on its site. Beta Theta Pi completed the south side of the street as it appears today (1931) and made visible the shift northward by selling its old house on Sanborn Lane, the final organization to arrive on Webster Avenue. Sites for perhaps three more buildings past the President's House remain on Webster Avenue.
Though national IFC architect Oswald Hering argued that the fraternity house should unmistakably appear as a "dwelling and meeting place of members of secret and fraternal order,"148 the exteriors of Dartmouth's buildings appeal instead to the image of the mansion. They use style, scale, and siting to claim a level of grandeur unavailable in their previous homes. Hering thought that Greek revival architecture was the most suited to fraternities, but the houses at Dartmouth use a neo-Georgian red brick with white trim almost exclusively. The buildings are notable for their homogenaeity, and neighbors Beta and Zete are even confusingly similar in their front facades and interior plans. The buildings are generally simple in decoration, concentrating their details at the entrance doorway or portico. Some draw on old Southern plantation architecture as Sigma Nu did in its 1925 Larson & Wells building (Fig. 37), borrowing from Virginia's c.1725 Stratford Hall149 as filtered through the 1896 Robert W. Cumming Residence in Newark, N.J. by McKim, Mead & White150 (Fig. 38). Some, such as the Kappa Kappa Kappa house, are even simpler. That building has an entrance pavilion off-center at its west end; three windows illuminate its main room.; the Corinthian order of the pair of columns supporting the entrance portico shows a degree of pretense unmatched by the rest of the house. Like most of the new buildings, this one stands back from the street behind a lawn, allowing it to command more territory and be approached from a greater distance.