Monday, October 22, 2007

Georgia Institute of Technology - Gamma Phi Chapter

{Photo Updates 4.1.2014}
Thanks, Chris :)

 The new house is finally complete!

*Click here to view weekly construction updates!

  • Gamma Phi has set up a website about their new campaign, "A House Surrounded by Sisterhood." Here is some housing history from their website:
  • In the past 35+ years, Gamma Phi has lived in 4 different locations and 5 different houses. Through the many moves and changes one thing remains constant and that is the sisterhood that surrounds us wherever we live.
  • Our first home…
    • When the chapter started in 1972, “home” was the basement room of an old church used by Drama Tech on the west side of campus. This was where the sisters were first able to come together as an organization and develop those bonds of sisterhood.
    • As fortune would have it Suzy Owens Green ’72 learned that Dean James E. Dull was vacating his house on the corner of Fifth and Atlantic for future Tech development. Suzy asked Dean Dull if the chapter could rent it until Tech was ready to develop the property. The Chapter worked it out with the school and moved into its first official home at 321 Fifth Street.
  • 321 Fifth Street…

    • Georgia Tech owned the house now and we rented it from the school for $200 a month. The house had 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It was located at the corner of Fifth and Atlantic up on a hill and across the street from the Physics building. The house was the center of chapter activities and the chapter enjoyed this sweet little house for many years.
    • There was lunch from 11:00 to 1:00 every Tuesday and Thursday because Tech did not hold classes during these times. Sisters were able to flex their “culinary muscle” by cooking quick and cheap meals for 40+ people twice a week. We ate buffet and often sat on the couches or the floor. It was real togetherness.
    • As the chapter grew so did our little house. The chapter took out a loan from Alpha Gamma Delta to build a deck. Melissa Watts ’78 designed the deck, Linda Podger ’77 engineered the deck and our wonderful Big Brothers built the two level deck. With the help of many Big Brothers and sisters the “entertainment area’ of our little house grew.
    • In Early 1982 we learned that Tech’s 20-year campus plan didn’t have our little house on it. Unfortunately “The Hill” did not have a warm spot for the Greek community and our inquires about the future of our home went unanswered. We turned to sisters with influence for help. Helen Avent Crawford ’72 (Gamma Phi alumna initiate) was the wife of Vernon Crawford a Vice President of Tech and at the time Chairman of the Board of Regents and Liisa Maki ‘83 who at the time was “the” babysitter for Dr. Joe Pettit’s grandchildren. Both sisters were able to get us a meeting with then Tech President, Joe Petit. President Petit and Dean Dull were able to get the information from Campus Planning and we learned that we didn’t have long.
    • At this time we started our first attempt to build Gamma Phi’s Dream House. In 1983 our plan became to remain at 321 Fifth Street as long as possible and raise money to buy the two lots at the corner of Fifth and Fowler (current site of ZTA). In winter quarter of 1985 we learned we would be leaving our house at 321 Fifth Street and move to another Tech property on Eight Street.
  • Eighth Street…

    • The house on Eight Street was formerly used by the Architecture school to carry out weird experiments with solar panels! It was a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house and smaller than our old one. Not to mention it was all the way across campus from the rest of the Greek community and classrooms.
    • When Alpha Gams move, we move everything! When Gamma Phi took out the loan with International there was a condition of the loan that the deck should be designed to be movable should we ever move. So that is what we did. Again with the tremendous help of our Big Brothers the deck was dismantled in to very large pieces and moved across campus and rebuilt on our new site. While the house was small the chapter was able to continue to hold lunch and the occasional party.
    • Our situation at this point was that we had passed up an opportunity to rent the old Alpha Xi house (next door to where we are now) to gain claim on one of the two lots at the corner of Fifth and Fowler owned by Tech. A private individual owned the second lot and we negotiated an agreement with him to purchase his lot. 
    • Meanwhile, we continued our fundraising to build our dream house. The urgency had grown with our evection from 321 Fifth Street. Our fund was growing through the generosity of alumnae and parents. The chapter was doing their part by working at corporate carnivals and donating the money to House Association.
    • Then in the spring of 1987, word came that a house at 177 Fifth Street might be available for us to rent. The daughters of Julian Hoke Harris who had passed away that January owned the home. We contacted them about renting the house from them, but they were not interested. They had plans to convert the house to a B&B and were trying to buy the lot next door owned by the private individual (our lot). On hearing this GA Tech Campus Planning stepped in and through much negotiating convinced the family that selling it to us was their best option.
    • At this point the Chapter and HA had to decide what was going to be best for the Chapter in the near and long term. We were concerned that continuing to live across campus until we could raise the money to buy the property could damage the chapter. Recruitment was very difficult and the house was so small that it could barely fit everyone indoors. Or we could buy the house at 177 Fifth Street and have a better location and a larger house now. At this point we had raised almost $60,000 from alumnae, parents and sisters. So in the spring of 1988 with Tom Kirby (TKE) from Campus Planning acting as our real estate agent, we negotiated to purchase the house for $175,000. We put $35,000 down and became homeowners for the first time.
  • 177 Fifth Street…

    • This house was 3000 square feet with 4 bedrooms, and 4 bathrooms, a large living room with a vaulted ceiling, a TV room, small kitchen and huge storage room off the living room. It also had a 1000 square foot studio with an office and garage. This house would be able to house 13 sisters and would put us as the second largest sorority house. The house was is terrible shape, so the remainder of the $25,000 went to plumbing repair, electrical upgrades (hair dryers) and paint…lots and lots of paint. The summer of 1988 we were painting some part of the house each weekend. Sisters were asked to paint their rooms; alumnae and those ever-reliable Big Brothers were even pitching in. And when we moved, yes we even moved part of the old deck to rebuild a piece of fencing at the new house.
    • A few years passed and we were getting our feet under us again financially. Since we bought the house we had to give up claim to the 2 lots because Tech wouldn’t allow us to control that much property and we wouldn’t have the money to buy them any time soon. A couple of years later ZTA bought the two lots and built their current house and became our neighbors.
  • The Olympic Expansion…

    • In 1991, news came about the Olympics coming to Atlanta and that the Georgia Tech campus would be the Olympic Village. When it became official that Atlanta had the Olympics a whirlwind of meetings and negations began with Tech, ACOG, and the Greek houses. Many fraternity houses were not in great shape and Tech and ACOG were concerned. There were specific accommodation requirements for the housing and many fell short. With all the flurry of plans for major renovations and new construction, we began looking at where we would be. While there would be considerable rent from the Olympic games it would not pay for the renovations. But the Village became a catalyst to the Greek community to improve housing and the overall appearance of their facilities. At this time HA and the Chapter decided to take the opportunity to raise the roof!

    • In 1992 we hired architect David Wimmer to design our renovation. We decided to add another floor to the house and try to stay inside our current footprint as much as possible. We also added parking to the house by tearing down the studio on the back of the lot. The renovation would increase the house size to 5600 square feet and increase the number of residents to 23. The cost of the renovation would be $495,000. Once again we went to our supportive alumnae and parents to help fund this huge project.
    • The plan was to close the house at the end of winter quarter in1995 and the construction would take 6 months and be ready for Recruitment at the end of August of 1995. Let’s just say it was close…Atlanta was under the biggest boom of building since the end of World War II. Materials were scarce and everybody was building something. The Tech campus looked like one huge building site. We got our certificate of occupancy the Friday before Rush Retreat. Sisters worked on the house from top to bottom trying to get things ready for Recruitment. While not everything was finished, the chapter was still able to have a successful recruitment.
    • In spring of 1996, the campus closed down to make way for the Olympians. The team from Crete stayed in our house and took good care of it. They did leave us one small reminder of their occupancy which was a small sea horse drawn on the living room windowsill. Because we had such a large roomy house, ACOG put additional people in our house and we received $27,000 in rent from the Games.
  • The Tree Incident…
    • The Chapter continued to grow and live happily at 177 Fifth Street until Atlanta suffered a horrible storm early one morning in May of 1999. A tree from next door came crashing against the house at the window in an upstairs bedroom. As it came down it broke sprinkler lines in the attic and caused them to begin to gush. Fortunately no one was hurt from the falling tree, but the house filled with water. The balcony in the living room looked like a waterfall! Other Greeks from nearby houses began helping sisters move furniture and belongings out of the house until the water and gas could be turned off. Thank goodness for insurance. The chapter was unable to live in the house due the extent of the water and structural damage. Tech was quick to find rooms and parking passes to accommodate the displaced sisters. The house was closed all summer while repairs were made. In the fall of 1999, the chapter could return and enjoy their house at 177 Fifth Street.
  • What is next?
    • Once again the chapter grew and so did the house. Since the chapter size was now in the 100-120 range fitting everyone plus 50 or so potential new members was tricky. In the summer of 2004, a larger deck was added to the back of the house. Tents were put up over the deck and parking lot in case of rain and to provide shade from the sun in Atlanta in August.
    • Around this time both Alpha Xi Delta and Phi Mu were completing new houses. In January of 2005, House Association did a survey of the chapter to see how our house compared to others on campus. While the house is much loved for the “homey” feel, the lack of space is a huge problem. In fall of 2005 House Association surveyed the alumnae to see what type of changes they would be willing to support. The majority of the feedback supported a tear down rebuild of the house on the current location. In the spring of 2006, House Association hired the firm of Richards, Wittschiebe & Hand to design the new Gamma Phi Chapter house. Finally the Dream House will be a reality.
  • After banner recruitments in the fall of 2006 and 2007 the chapter size is around 150 sisters. Instead of lunch on Tuesday and Thursday the chapter has dinner 3 nights a week that is catered in. As in the beginning, they are still sitting on couches and the floor surrounded by sisterhood.

  • Chapter Installed 4/8/1972
  • 177 5th Street NW
  • Atlanta, GA 30313
  • Chapter Active

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