Omega's New Home
by John A. Irwin '16 and Norman C. Horner '16
As written for the March 1933 The Rattle - Vol. XXI, No. 6
On March 1st, 1930, Omega Chapter took possession of it’s new home. Thus was brought to a successful conclusion a building program (see photos below), which had been worked on for more than ten years.
Although a new house had been talked of for a number of years and a lot purchased in 1920, definite steps towards building were not taken until early in 1929. At this time the Board of Directors of Theta Chi of Penn State Inc. voted to have plans and specifications prepared for the new house. Approval of the members of the corporation was secured and the problem was then to determine the type of house to be built and the manner of financing.
The committee appointed to prepare the plans decided to save the added expense to retaining an architect and decided to prepare the plans themselves for the approval of the Corporation. They proceeded to make the floor plans and elevations and asked for criticism from various members of the Corporation whose training and work since graduation had made them familiar with construction and architectural details. In the preparation of the plans the usual abuse of properties by student bodies in general was recognized and all the materials were selected with a view of their ruggedness and ability to stand this hard usage, coupled with the aesthetic qualities required to make a first class job. As a result of this policy there are many cases where more costly materials are used to accomplish the purpose, but consider the future maintenance cost the initial expenditures is fully justified.
After a survey of the building lot and considering the adjacent Phi Sigma Kappa property it was determined that by keeping the first floor of the new house on the same level with the first floor of the Phi Sigma Kappa house, that we would still have a normal story height above ground in the rear of the building and it was deemed advisable to use this ground floor of dining room, chapter room and kitchen. By using the ground floor in this manner the maximum amount of floor space was available for the clubrooms on the first floor. This method of fraternity house construction was something new to State College.
Omega’s new home is on Allen Street at the corner of Prospect Avenue, five blocks from the campus. The lot is 125’ on the front and runs back along Prospect Avenue 167’ to an alley. By agreement with the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity the building line was established 75’ from the street, leaving a spacious lawn in the front and ample space in the rear for parking and service entrance. The house is built on a lot that slopes towards the mountains and because of this grade future building on the side towards the mountains will not obstruct the view.
The house has been designed with a Colonial feeling and is approximately 36’ by 75’, three stories above ground in the front and four stories above ground in the rear. It is built of red brick with cream-colored windows divided into small pain of glass, typical of the Colonial architecture and with green shutters giving the necessary contrast. On the Prospect Avenue end of the house are two elevations of porches, one leading from the dining room and the other leading from the clubroom. From both porches an excellent view of the mountains and valley to the south can be had. The trimming of the exterior, both windows sills and keystones, is Indiana limestone and the cornices and central pediment feature is of galvanized iron painted and sanded to match the limestone. The Foundation walls to grade are built of stone masonry and are built of stone take from “Old Main” building when it was demolished to be replaced by the new “Old Main” building.
The structural features of the house are somewhat new to State College inasmuch as the building is supported on the interior by means of structural steel columns and girders so designed and arranged as to make any and all partitions on any floor removable with necessitating shoring or bracing, which in the event of remodeling would make it possible to make the alterations without involving the additional expense of reframing and shoring the building. The exterior walls are all load bearing walls and carry the floor beams. In compliance with the law the building had been provided with a fireproof fire tower with steel stairs and cement treads connecting each floor. This is also used as a student entrance, thus saving wear and tear on the more finished portions of the house.
On the ground floor (floor plan) is a large dining room, approximately 24’ by 32’ with a terrazzo floor, plasters walls and ceiling with exposed wood beams. From this room four pair of casement doors lend to the terrace and lawn and two windows to areaway. At the south end of the room is a large red brick fireplace. Access to the kitchen form the dining room is through a passageway with double doors at each end. The kitchen is approximately 17’ by 18’, fitted with a gas range, electric refrigerator and ample cupboard space. Off the kitchen is a maid’s room and bath. The remainder of the ground floor is taken up the pantry, trunk room and boiler room. Off the dining room is a porch 11’ by 32’.
The main entrance to the house is on the first floor (floor plan). As one enters they pass through a small vestibule into the reception room, which is 15’ by 25’. On the right is the main club room 23.5’ by 32’ and to the right is a music room 19’ by 24’. Straight ahead is the library or card room 14’ by 15’. Opening from this is a lavatory and toilet room. To the right of the entrance door is a large phone booth and to the left is a large coatroom. The entire first floor is finished with first quality white oak flooring; walls and ceilings are finished with sand finish plaster. At the end of the clubroom is a large fireplace and mantle trimmed with a natural finish knotty pine.
The second (floor plan) and third floors (floor plan) are similar, each having ten 11’ by 14’ rooms with two closets. Each floor has a toilet and washroom equipped with shower baths. Bedrooms are furnished with double deck beds and oak furniture.
Omega’s new home was made possibly only through carefully worked out financing. In ten years that the new house was talked about many varied plans for raising the necessary money were suggested. Some plans where even put into effect and attempts were made to sell bonds. The only plan that actually was of any help was a Building and Loan Fund which was started by the Active Chapter and which they turned over to the Alumni Corporation when the building was started, This fund amounted to $2778.00 and was a big help.
The total valuation of the house, lot and furnishings is $65,000.00. The People National Bank of State College took a first mortgage in the amount of $30,000. A bond issue of $100 bonds bearing 6 1/2% interest covered the second mortgage in the amount of $20,000. Alumni, Actives and friends of the fraternity purchased many of these bonds. The National Board of Trustees of Theta Chi Fraternity took the last $5,000 worth of these bonds. The lot, which is valued at $7,000, was purchased some years ago, a small additional strip being added at the time the house was built.
Payments on the first mortgage started ten years after the house was started. It is anticipated that the second mortgage will be paid off in less than ten years.
Just prior to the start of the building the Alumni group started a building and Loan program. The plan was for each alumnus to pay one dollar per month to this fund the shares to be held by the Alumni Association. This plan met with great success and a total of 66 men paid monthly. This is the only contribution of any nature that was solicited in the building of the house. This B&L fund has since been withdrawn and the money used to reduce the debt on the house. Payments from the men have limited to a maximum of $40. Walter P. Shaw is the person responsible for the evolution and success of this plan and is to be congratulated and thanked for his efforts.
The title to the house lot and furniture is held by the Alumni Association under the name of Theta Chi of Penn State, a corporation of the first class under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania. The furniture and furnishings will be turned over to the Active Chapter at a later date, but the title to the house and lot will continue to be held by the Corporation.
The house is run by the Active Chapter, which rents the house from the Corporation. This rent is set at such a figure as to permit all interest charges being taken care of in addition building up a sink fund to pay of the mortgage and take care of the upkeep. As the mortgages are paid off the rent will be reduced so that the active chapter can consist of about thirty members instead of the forty or more now required to meet the present high rent and operating costs.
We can safely say that without the untiring efforts of John Irwin and Norman Horner Omega’s new house would not have been possible. Both men gave freely of their time to carry the program to a successful finish, John handling the design and building and Norman the financing. We know that the Active and Alumni members of Omega Chapter appreciate their efforts. They have more than extended the helping hand.