Located at 21 North Albany Street, the Dennis-Newton House was the home of the nation's first African-American fraternity.

Michaela Brew / Sun Sports Photography Editor

Located at 21 North Albany Street, the Dennis-Newton House was the home of the nation's first African-American fraternity.

March 3, 2016

Former Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity House Named Historic Site

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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.

13 thoughts on “Former Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity House Named Historic Site

  1. The fraternity was not founded by Charles Cardoza Poindexter. The Ithaca Voice is incorrect. He did live there though, and the house being the first location for social gatherings for Poindexter and the founders of the Fraternity is also true.

  2. Alumni and current members of Alpha Chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, extend our thanks to the Cornell Sun for it’s coverage. I would also like to extend my personal appreciation to Eric Elmore, current president of Alpha Chapter Alumni Association, for his hard work in making this happen. Dean Burrell, Cornell ’79, Immediate Past President, Alpha Chapter Alumni Association, Alpha Chapter Spring ’75

  3. The sentence says: 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. As past chapter Historian, this statement is correct. Poindexter was the founder of the literary group/society, and it did evolve into a fraternity. The sentence does not say he is the founder of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. If anyone wishes to discuss Alpha History, further please feel free to contact me.

    • Great response!! ’06!
      C. C. Poindexter’s relationship to Alpha Phi Alpha is still a burning question within APhiA, and I’ve been hoping someone like the Historian of Alpha Chapter write a brief History of the formation of the Chapter from 1906 up to 1914 (First issue of The Sphinx Magazine).
      I am an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member, initiated @ Epsilon Iota Chapter, University of Texas @ Austin.

  4. The house being named a ” Historic Site,” is the most important thing in the article!

    Christopher Drayton
    Alpha Phi Alpha
    Omicron Eta Lambda Chapter

  5. The staement in the article is indeed correct. Poindexter was against the idea of a fraternity & eventually resigned from the group after Alpha Phi Alpha was founded.

  6. The statement in the article is indeed correct. Poindexter was against the idea of a fraternity & eventually resigned from the group after Alpha Phi Alpha was founded.

  7. Brian,

    Thank you for writing your article. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to pen an article that relates to such an important piece of our Fraternity’s history.

    A few points of clarity:

    1. 421 North Albany Street is not the home of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. It was the first meeting place of our Social Study Club and of the Alpha Phi Alpha literary society.

    2. Dr. C.C. Poindexter started a Social Study Club. This is a small, but significant, point of distinction. The true significance of this house was that it represented a place where members exchanged cordial greetings, discussed how best to provide lasting academic support systems, and departed friends.

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