This New House
By Dave Clark '76
On a sunny day in June 2010 Brother Sandy Fitchet '76 watched history being made at 11 Webster Avenue. The house which was built in 1896 and expanded in 1962 was undergoing demolition. As the wrecking ball delivered its final punch, a keg burst from the skeletal interior and rolled defiantly across what remained of the front lawn. The ghost of Sig Ep’s past had been liberated. The use of modular construction made it possible for 26 undergrads to move in to the new Sig Ep chapter house a mere nine months later.
It’s hard to know where to start describing how the new house differs from the old. One major difference is the bedrooms. Where the old house had room for 13 brothers to live in, the new house sleeps 26 in a combination of 18 single rooms and 4 doubles. All but one of these rooms is on the second and third floors which are dedicated bedroom floors. Access to these upper floor bedrooms can be restricted from the first floor “living space” during social events. In theory these bedrooms are sound-proofed from the floors below.* Summer terms residents sleep easier as the new rooms are air conditioned!
The sole exception to the upstairs bedrooms is one bedroom constructed on the ground floor. This handicap accessible room helps bring the house into compliance with current building codes. Next to this ground floor bedroom is a handicap accessible bathroom including shower stall. If Sig Ep admits a member who uses a wheelchair, that member will not have to miss out on the fun in the basement. An elevator stands ready to provide transportation between floors.
The new basement sports four beer pong tables and side benches for spectators to view the competition. Brothers requiring “fresh air” can exit through a door straight into the backyard as the new basement is not built below ground. Convenience is paramount as the basement includes two bathrooms, one for men and one for women.
The Haldeman Lounge in the basement has a gigantic flat screen TV where brothers can assemble to play video games or watch sporting events. Across the hall is a laundry room a pair of state-of-the-art washers/driers with no place to insert quarters. It’s free!
Back on the main floor the small “Qua” room has been replaced with a Chapter room that’s nearly one thousand square feet. Wednesday night chapter meetings can easily accommodate the entire membership in folding chairs. Officers don’t have to shout as built-in speakers carry their voices to the whole room. A smaller library room nicely accommodates smaller meetings, including those of the Alumni Volunteer Corporation’s quarterly gatherings.
Across from the library is a kitchen. This is used predominately for food preparation when the fraternity is entertaining. The college insists that all students have a meal plan so the kitchen is used less extensively than in the days when many brothers in residence cooked for themselves.
Perhaps the best comparison between the old and new house came from Ian Engler ’12. “After living in the old house for two terms, I truly understood the need for a new house. Not only was the old house too dirty to clean well, the structural integrity was ever-worsening. As a result, any new house would have been an improvement. Yet our current house is not just "any new house" - it's a beautiful, highly functional space that the brothers have quickly come to love and for which we are incredibly appreciative.”
The old house lasted 104 years. Although we likely won’t be around to check, the hope is that the new house will last 200 years!
If you want to know more about what’s going on Sig Ep, please visit www.dartmouthsigep.com.
*Soundproofed? During Reunion weekend in June 2012 this writer had the opportunity to stay in one of the second floor bedrooms. The merriment of the ’07 reunion celebrants in the basement was perfectly audible until 3:00 in the morning.