Finish Line of Photo Tours: Eastern Cornell Heights

17 08 2008

This is the house of the sorority Pi Beta Phi, which is kinda far out on Triphammer Road. Pi Beta Phi started out as a local chapter called Beta Phi. By 1919, they had become the NY Delta chapter of Pi Beta Phi sorority, and they first met in Risley Hall, which was at the time an all-women’s dormitory. After moving around from Eddy Street and Wait Avenue, they settled at 425 Wyckoff Avenue in 1937. By 1955, they has sold this house to Alpha Chi Sigma, and they built the current house in 1955-56 [1]. At least one sorority has made it easy for me to dig up some historical information about them.

Token sculpture? Perhaps, but I’ll provide a little detail about it anyway. The sculpture is called “Richard Evans, 2nd, III”, and was created by Daniel Ben-Shmuel Barrett. It used to be located next to the art museum as part of an abstract art exhibit, but because they needed the space, it was moved to north campus in 2004 [2]. There are also sculptures next to Appel and near Akwewon.

Hurlburt House, or as it is more commonly known, EcoHouse. The building was originally constructed as a motel/travel lodge in 1953. Shortly afterwards (~1963) it was purchased by Cornell and renamed the Cornell Heights Residential Club. The building was used for graduate housing and for housing for students of an experimental accelerated PhD program [3]. On April 5, 1967, a devastating fire tore through one of the wings of the residence, killing eight students and a live-in faculty member [4]. Firemen said three bodies were found in the entrance lobby, one on the stairs between the first and second floors, one in a first floor room, and four in rooms on the second floor [5]. An investigation afterwards stated that inadequate fire safety (lack of fire escapes and alarms) combined with deadly toxic fumes released by the burning rubber-plastic furniture were the primarily factors in the devastating tragedy. In case you’re wondering, the PhD program was discontinued. As for the building, the wing where the fire took place was torn down, but several residents and visitors claim that the basement of the wing (which still exists) is haunted [6]. Haunted in this case means screaming, an oppressive heat, strange lights and the barking of a dog that dies in the fire. I’m going to stay skeptical on this one, and say it’s probably just some overactive imaginations. I’ve been inside only a couple of times, but I found the accomondations seemed luxurious compared to other dorms, and they were tightly-knit group.

This building is home to the Triphammer Co-Op. Built in 1912, the house originally housed a sorority known as Sigma Kappa. Around 1955, the sorority admitted an African-American woman, which was against their national’s rules and regulations (remember, this was at the beginning of the Civil Rights Era). The national ordered the women to get rid of her or risk being booted out of Sigma Kappa. Well, the Cornell chapter flipped their national the proverbial bird and became a ladies co-op. The co-op went co-ed in the early 1990s, and today houses 19 men and women in eleven singles and four doubles [7].

The co-op’s southern neighbor is the MGLC fraternity Pi Delta Psi (is this the only MGLC organization that maintains an official house right now?). The house itself dates from about 1915, but the house only came into the poession of the fraternity a few years ago, in 2003. Pi Delta Psi is an Asian-interest fraternity [8].

The house of Delta Delta Delta sorority, more commonly known as Tri-Delt. The Alpha Beta chapter here at Cornell began as the woman’s club “Sennightly” in 1895, taking their name from the fact that they held a meeting every seven days (heck, my fraternity barely manages to hold a meeting every two weeks without someone b*tching). The women petitioned a national sorority so they could stay in touch in later years as well as perpetuate their organization. By 1912 (yeah, missed the boat on that one), Tri-Delt national took interest, watched them as they threw a party, liked what they saw, and offered them a seat with their sorority. From 1912-1965, the house was on the 600 block of Thurston, in what is now the Alumni House; afterwards, they moved to this house on Triphammer with its Moorish influence [9]. The moorish house was home to Kappa Alpha Theta prior to their national disaffiliating them in 1965.

Right across the street from Tri-Delt is the sorority Delta Gamma. The sorority was established at Cornell in 1885 [10], but the current house dates from about the 1930s. My personal guess is that they were in the ladies’ dorms for a number of years and then lived in boarding houses until moving to their present location. The chapter was inactive from 1969 to 1975 (the Vietnam War era, when public interest in Greek life and other establishment groups waned significantly)

The house of Kappa Delta sorority. The Cornell Chapter was founded in 1916 by a transfer student who was a KD at her former institution. First based out of Sage and then out of a now-demolished house on Wait Avenue, the sorority purchased the land for their current house in 1923 and built on that property shortly thereafter, expanding several times over the years. [11]


[2] Q5 2/7/08





Q2 11/12/1992








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