Yet Another North Campus Photo Tour

27 07 2008

The house of Zeta Beta Tau. This fraternity wins my commendation for having the most difficult house to find.   Like seriously, it’s tucked away at the end of Edgecliff Road, which is hard enough to find at the end of Thurston near the Stewart Ave. bridge. The letters Z.B.T. hail from a ritual phrase of the fraternity (that was publicly revealed  on its one-hundreth anniversary): “Zion Bemishpat Tipadeh” [1], which translates means “Zion shall be redeemed with justice”. In case it hasn’t clicked in yet, the house was founded as a Jewish fraternity, and still has a strong Jewish presence in its membership. The house itself dates from the 1900s. (fun fact: ZBT absorbed four other fraternities over time: Phi Alpha, Kappa Nu, Phi Epsilon Pi, and Phi Sigma Delta. At some point (prior to 1959), all had houses at Cornell. Phi Alpha’s old house is now a rental house next door to my apartment).

Carl Sagan’s House, prior to his death in 1996. The property sits at 900 Stewart Avenue- the first photo is the entrance area from the street, and the second is from the other side of the gorge. Originally, one of Cornell’s two major secret societies, Sphinx Head, built a windowless meeting chamber on the site in 1926 [2]. Well, upkeep proved to be a hassle by the 1960s, so they sold it to their neighbor Professor Robert Wilson in 1969, who in turn sold the tomb to Professor Steven Mensch in 1979. Mensch built a house on the site in the style of the tomb, which he sold to Carl Sagan. Currently, the house is considered to be the property of the Sagan estate and its heirs.

The house of Sigma Chi Delta, a local co-ed fraternity founded in 1981 [3]. It has no letters on the outside, so this is how I confirmed it as their house:

Yes, the composite is purposely blurred so I don’t receive nasty e-mails. I’m sure I’ll be in enough heat for taking photos through their street-facing windows.

The two 7-unit houses that represent the retirement facility “Bridges at Cornell Heights” [4]. My jaw drops when I look at how lovely these houses are. I believe they were renovated in the late 1990s. In case anyone’s wondering, the price is about $7500/month. That’s actually more than I make in a year…

Similar in concept to Zeta Beta Tau is Alpha Epsilon Phi, a sorority with a strong Jewish background. The Cornell chapter was established in 1920. It amazes me how little information I can find about the chapter itself, apart from token facts like house color and flower. I’m not looking for that, I’m looking for the history. It is perfectly possible that the house, which dates from the 1900s, has always been their house. Looking through a copy of 1943 Cornellian suggests they have been in the house at least 65 years, so there’s some support to the idea. If an AEPhi could confirm that, it would be appreciated.

Formerly the house of merged fraternity Phi Sigma Epsilon, today this is the house of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. This is not to be confused with Chi Omega, which closed in 2003 and once lived at 10 Sisson Place. Alpha Chi Omega reestablished itself at Cornell in 1984 (Chi Omega did the same thing in 1987, but it appeared only one has managed to survive up to today). In 1985, another sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, tried to establish itself, but closed after 1990. They also lived at 722 University Avenue (what is that, the token Greek house?) [5]

The Africana Library. built in 2005. The original library was part of the Africana Center that was burned in 1970 (in response, enraged students stormed the new Cornell Store, ransacking and heavily damaging the facility. They burned many of the stolen items in a large bonfire a week later). The center (in the background, you can make it out on the left) was then relocated to 310 Triphammer Road, just off North Campus. The building was dedicated to John Henrik Clarke in 1985, the same year that the Africana Libe became a part of the university library system. The building was previously renovated in 1990 [6].









One response

1 08 2008

Hey! I’ve been looking through your blog, and I’ve really enjoyed it. One thing: Sigma Chi Delta has no letters on the outside of its house because it doesn’t own the house; it’s a rental. The fraternity has moved around several times over the few decades it has been in existence because of the lack of a fraternity house.

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