In 1914, the brothers of Sigma Alpha, our predecessor organization, occupied the historic Fisk residence on West Kendrick Avenue. This was the brothers’ third home since the founding of the original Owl Club in 1907. While the Fisk house served their needs for shelter, the brothers wanted to build a new home, one they could truly call their own. With this in mind, they included the first plans for the construction of a new chapter house within their original petition for membership in Phi Delta Theta.
The brothers of Sigma Alpha were ambitious, and their plan described the creation of a $28,000 home. According to the brothers, the proposed house was to be entirely fireproof, using steel construction throughout, and was to be architecturally based on the model of an Italian villa. The original plan shows outside walls made of pure white stucco containing a large percent of feldspar. This grand design, sadly, was not to be realized, and plans for its construction were soon put aside. However, the desire for a new home remained strong within the brotherhood.
During the spring of 1914, brothers Charles Hetherington and Lynn Pickard stood on Whitnall Field contemplating Sigma Alpha’s housing situation. It was at this time that they began to think that Dr. Maynard’s home would make an attractive residence for the members of Sigma Alpha. "Dr. Maynard’s home, the site of the present house, looked very desirable to us," Brother Hetherington said when recalling this moment. "He was an elderly man, retired from the faculty and seemed settled in his home. However, we took a chance. We hustled over and suggested that he trade his home to us for our wreck on Kendrick Avenue. After many consultations, an agreement was reached. Lynn and I had bonds issued, and the marvel to me now is that we were able to sell them, and we moved into the new quarters in the fall, rushing the new delegation through paint and paper and shavings."
In Dr. Maynard’s old home the brothers of Sigma Alpha had finally found a place to their liking, but it must have been less than perfect, as it was soon nicknamed "the ice palace." Nevertheless, the brothers from this period often recalled fond memories of the home, including tales of flooded bathrooms and food fights during Christmas parties when the cider was too hard. Yet, despite the brothers’ enjoyment of their house, they were always concerned with making Sigma Alpha the best fraternity at Colgate. The dream of building a new house for the brotherhood remained.
On December 8, 1923, the New York Zeta Alumni Club of New York was founded in part to address this desire. The members of this club had been early brothers of Sigma Alpha and were still resolved to make their fraternity the best and most visible house at Colgate. By this time Sigma Alpha had become Phi Delta Theta and the alumni lent the undergraduate brotherhood a great deal of support in paying off debts and raising funds. However, while plans were in the works for construction, fire claimed the old Dr. Maynard home on July 31, 1926. The fire resulted in an emergency meeting of the alumni board of directors, who passed a vote to build a "Colonial House of brick or stone, to cost approximately $40,000, on the present location." This house was to become the present chapter house, and it was finally completed in the fall of 1927. During the interim period, the brothers were forced to rent rooms near the post office from the local Masonic chapter, but through the resolve of the undergraduates and financial support of the alumni, our home came into being.
In February 1948 a fire seriously threatened the complete destruction of the house and caused enough damage to require a major restoration. As part of the reconstruction some remodeling was done including the addition of a library and the extensive landscaping of the lot behind the house. The addition of a new wing to the back of the house in 1965 increased its housing capacity from 28 to 47 members at a cost of about $142,000.
The 114 Broad Street property was owned and operated as a chapter house by the New York Zeta of Phi Delta Theta Corporation until May 2005, when it was sold to Colgate University for $670,000 and the housing capacity was reset to 30 members. Despite the transfer of ownership to Colgate, the brothers of New York Zeta continue to enjoy the exclusive use of this property as their chapter house and the alumni corporation continues to operate an independent kitchen for the chapter on the premises. This house has served us well for many years and living in-house has been one of the common experiences that bind us together. In these halls, sacred to friendship, we meet as brothers. We look forward to carrying this tradition into the future.