January 22, 2003

DKE Makes History

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The City of Ithaca named the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity house a historical landmark last Wednesday.

As the last remaining fraternity house built in the Romanesque revival style, the building serves as a reminder of a past era, according to Don Weadon ’67, DKE alumni association chairperson.

Erected in 1893, the DKE building was designed by locally renowned architect William H. Miller, the first student of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

The building also functions as a historical memorial for Americans who fell in the Spanish-American War, Weadon said.

In 1899, Governor Theodore Roosevelt planted two Norway spruce trees on the grounds of the building in memory of his fallen comrade, Clifton Beckwith Brown 1900. Brown was the first Cornellian to die serving in war, according to Weadon.

“The spruce trees that stand today are the only memorial in Ithaca for Americans who fell in the Spanish-American War,” Weadon noted.

“The trees also serve as a memorial for Cornell students who went out to distinguish themselves in the government and military during the war,” he added.

“[The alumni association] is in favor of maintaining the building in the unique Victorian style to preserve the historical beauty of our community,” Weadon said.

Two years ago, Thomas Borthwick ’51 recreated the memorial library in 1920s fashion, according to DKE president Wesley Card ’03.

“Borthwick donated 20 pieces of handmade furniture that he crafted himself,” Card said.

The furniture included tables, lamps, chairs and carpets that complemented the building’s interior decor of stained-glass windows and paneled libraries, according to Card.

“We know how historically important our house is and we wanted the Ithaca community to acknowledge [the building] by recognizing the house as a local historical landmark,” said Kento Yasuhara ’04, DKE historian.

The DKE building had already been listed under both the state and national registers of historical places for several years when the official petition for local landmark designation was filed under the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Ordinance last October, according to Adam Schaye J.D. ’99, whose law firm represented DKE in the public hearings.

Shortly after the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously in favor of designating the DKE house a local landmark in December, the Planning and Development Board and the Common Council ratified the petition, according to Weadon.

“The federal recognition facilitated the application process because it was clear that the building was already qualified for historical recognition,” Schaye said.

Archived article by Janet Liao