UMD123: 14

Fourteen represents the number of houses on Fraternity Row

bluto-animal-houseGreek life! It’s one of the most frequently stereotyped facets of undergraduate existence, and also one of the more enjoyable (provided you don’t end up on Double Secret Probation). From raucous parties and pledging hi-jinx to community service and school spirit, fraternities and sororities have been an integral part of student life at the University of Maryland since 1913. Greek organizations have also long served the university in a somewhat less obvious way: by helping to ameliorate the chronic shortage of housing.

Hand Drawn Map of Greek Houses, from 1952 book

As strange as it might seem now, fraternity houses were once scattered throughout the area: in Old Town College Park, west of Route 1 in the area between Knox Road and modern-day South Campus Commons, and even on the main portion of campus itself, intermingled with the academic buildings and residence halls.

In the years following World War II, the university was flooded with former soldiers and their families, arriving in College Park to make good on the promise of the G.I. Bill. Temporary barracks and dormitories were built to house the new students, but it was clear that more needed to be done, thus the Board of Regents and President Byrd ushered in the greatest period of construction and expansion in the history of the university. One of the many new additions was the current football stadium, which freed up a large plot of land across Baltimore-Washington Boulevard next to Ritchie Coliseum, on the site of the old Byrd Stadium, dedicated in 1923. Plans were made to build ten Colonial-style houses in a ring around a central field to house 400 Greeks.

Preview of a finished house from the 1953 Terrapin yearbook

The 1953 Terrapin yearbook advertised the princely features of the new fraternity houses, including “a kitchen, dining room, chapter room, and maid’s room on the basement floor; the first floor will contain a living room, two lounges, a library, and the housemother’s suite; the second and third floors will be devoted to rooms for the men.” Ten houses inaugurated Fraternity Row the following year, with an additional two built in 1958, and the final two completed by 1963.

Phi Sigma Kappa men moving into their new house at 7 Fraternity Row, from the 1954 Terrapin yearbook

Despite gendered language in the name “Fraternity Row”, and the phrase “rooms for the men” in the yearbook, Fraternity Row was co-ed from the beginning, when move-ins commenced during the 1954 school year, and evenly split between fraternities and sororities (something that would change with the later construction of the Graham Cracker houses in the early 1960s).

Fraternity Row has been a jewel on the College Park landscape since it was first constructed, and this beauty was recognized by Hollywood when it made a cameo appearance as a backdrop in the 1985 Brat Pack classic, St. Elmo’s Fire.

Fraternity Row in St. Elmo’s Fire (Columbia Pictures, 1985), image from the Diamondback website

So as we take some time today to celebrate our fourteen Fraternity Row houses, let’s look back at the history of this venerable area of campus:

House No. Year Built Original Occupant Current Occupant
1 1958 Kappa Alpha Order Kappa Alpha Order
2 1958 Sigma Alpha Mu Phi Sigma Kappa
3 1954 Delta Tau Delta Tau Kappa Epsilon
4 1954 Sigma Alpha Epsilon Alpha Epsilon Pi
5 1954 Phi Kappa Sigma Phi Kappa Tau
6 1954 Lambda Chi Alpha Delta Chi
7 1954 Phi Sigma Kappa Lambda Chi Alpha
8 1954 Kappa Alpha Theta Sigma Phi Epsilon
9 1954 Gamma Phi Beta Alpha Sigma Phi
10 1954 Sigma Kappa Sigma Kappa
11 1954 Alpha Epsilon Phi Alpha Epsilon Phi
12 1954 Pi Beta Phi Zeta Tau Alpha
13 1962 Alpha Epsilon Pi Zeta Psi
14 1963 Phi Sigma Delta Sigma Chi

This is a post in our new series on Terrapin Tales called UMD123! Similar to our “ABC’s of UMD” series in fall 2015, posts in this series will take a look at the university’s history “by the numbers.” New posts will come out twice a month throughout the summer; on the Terrapin Tales blog search “UMD123” or use the UMD123 tag. You can also check out Twitter#UMD123. If you want to learn more about campus history, you can also visit our encyclopedia University of Maryland A to Z: MAC to Millennium for more UMD facts.

(The featured image in this post is from the inside cover of the 1954 Terrapin yearbook and shows Fraternity Row under construction behind old Byrd Stadium.)


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