Friday, July 30, 2004

Greek Revival

I’ve just read on the web some disappointing news about my House. The House I belonged to as an undergraduate: the organization seems to be the same as always, but it looks like our house needs a bazillion dollars worth of heart-breaking work to bring it up to code.

We started out as a fraternity. We were a chapter of Phi Kappa Psi (chartered in 1896), but we left the national in 1967 over issues of social and racial justice. When the College first admitted women, we were the first house to go co-ed. We've since left the Greek system. This long history means that we own our house. More recent houses (all sororities, for example) live in College-owned buildings which have had the character stripped out of them and replaced by industrial carpeting.

The Old Phi Psi House, photo stolen from the house's web pageThe “Old Phi Psi House” (as the locals call it) is Greek Revival in style; the original part of the house was built in 1835, and an addition was put on in the 1910s. It is full of amazing historic details. For example, in one of the living rooms there is part of the original painted-on wallpaper murals. During my senior year I was the House Manager and in charge of all issues dealing with the house: from room assignments, to fire inspections, to routine maintenance, to dealing with contractors. It was during that time that I truly fell in love with that house and learned so much of what I know about tending to old houses. It’s a major influence as to why I now own a home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among other things, they want to have the wood double-hung windows all taken out and replaced with commercial windows. The original windows are huge: the ones in my room were taller than me! And the fire code requires interior stairways to be enclosed. This will destroy the beautiful curved stairway leading from the second to the third floor. These, and other changes, make me so sad. I hope that the creative people on the alumni board will find amazing solutions to these problems and that we won't be forced to sell to the College.