The Preservation League of New York State added a historic Cornell fraternity house to the league’s biannual “Seven to Save” list of historical places in deteriorating condition on Wednesday.
The Dennis-Newton House — located by the Commons at 421 North Albany Street — is the original home of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first African-American fraternity in the United States. Charles Cardoza Poindexter started a literary social group in the house that would eventually become Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in 1906, according to The Ithaca Voice.
The Preservation League’s list is meant to raise the profile of “endangered” historic places so that they can be appreciated and revitalized, according to The Ithaca Journal.
“We want to move forward in the next year or so to make sure that next year, these buildings are in a much better place than they are now,” Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League, told The Journal.
Alpha Phi Alpha is also interested in protecting its historic house, according to DiLorenzo.
“Now, unfortunately, the Dennis-Newton House is condemned and in disrepair, but Alpha Phi Alpha wants to claim, restore and revive this building that was essential to their founding,” DiLorenzo told The Journal.
The City of Ithaca recognized the property as a historic landmark in April 2015, according to The Voice.
The landmark status requires the house’s owner to maintain the property or face penalties or fines, according to the Ithaca Voice.
The house was built by African American mason Norman Dennis in 1868 and inherited by Dennis’s daughter Lula and her husband Edward Newton, according to a Preservation League press release.
The Newtons rented the space to a group of African American students that included Poindexter. These students used the house as a social space for African American students before developing into Alpha Phi Alpha, the release said.
The property is currently privately owned and unoccupied, according to The Voice.