It never occurred to me until now that a sorority house is also a sorority home, and many times an historic home contributes to a campus or town. Homes are historic because of their architectural value or the residents that inhabited them or both. Sorority houses like this one, SMU’s Alpha Xi of Gamma Phi Beta, are designed by important architects. Dallas’ most important historicist architect, Mark Lemmon, designed this sorority home for the Gamma Phi Betas of SMU. As a result, this sorority house has a great architectural lineage and has been the home for many prominent residents.
Mark Lemmon Designed Sorority Home
I have been very familiar with the historic and architectural significance of architect Mark Lemmon and always associated him with the sacred spaces he designed like the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, located on Oak Lawn Avenue, and Perkins Chapel at SMU and the academic buildings at SMU like Fondren Science, or the Fair Park buildings like the Cotton Bowl or Music Hall. I was also familiar with the home he designed for his family at 3211 Mockingbird Lane that I recently sold with deed restrictions preventing it from being torn down. However, I was not familiar with any other homes Mark Lemmon designed and was very pleased to learn that he designed the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority House at SMU. Not only is this historic structure with its elegant colonnade of Doric columns historic, but it was a structure that I have admired for decades. As an SMU student I rented a house on Rosedale Avenue in University Park, right behind the Gamma Phi Sorority Home at 3030 Daniel Avenue, which had me walking by this house every day. In subsequent years, on my frequent visits to SMU, I have continued to go by this house which I have always admired. To know that the Gamma Phi Sorority Home for the Gamma Phi sisters will be further renovated is very encouraging for many reasons.
Homebuyers Looking for a Historic Home Have Often Lived in a Historic Home
I have found that many homebuyers who are looking for a historic home once lived in a historic home earlier in their lives. As a result, they know the joys of living in a historic home that cannot be replicated in a new home. It is only occurring to me now how many thousands of SMU girls were introduced to historic architecture when they lived in or convened at the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority Home at SMU. As a result, I wonder how many historic homes have been lived in, enjoyed, and maybe saved as a result of Gamma Phis having lived in a historic Mark Lemmon-designed home at SMU.
Millions of Women Have Lived in Historic and Architecturally Significant Sorority Houses
How many millions of sorority girls across the country have been impacted by the historic and architecturally significant homes they might have lived in. Women have been instrumental in preservation across Dallas and across the country, however, until now when Rebecca Melde discovered her SMU sorority home, the Gamma Phi Beta House, was designed by Mark Lemmon and began bringing attention to it, I cannot recall there has been much attention given to historic sorority houses many of these women might have lived in on their collegiate campus. I see the opportunity for the Gamma Phi Sorority at SMU bringing national attention to sorority home preservation, not just for other Gamma Phi houses across the country, but other sorority houses across the country. The preservation of the Gamma Phi Beta House at SMU will bring attention to sorority home preservation and inspire other sororities to research and become aware of the architect of their historic sorority home. Preservation starts with awareness of the history and architecture of the home.
Dallas Chapter AIA 50 Significant Homes Project Brought Awareness to the Architects that Designed Dallas Homes
When I was chairing the Dallas Chapter AIA 50 Significant Homes project for their 50th anniversary, we asked homeowners across the city to try to find evidence of which architect designed their home. We encouraged them to look in their attics or archives to see if any blueprints existed. The homeowners’ response was enthusiastic and extensive. Dallas went from knowing very little of which architects might have designed homes in Dallas to knowing the architects of hundreds of architecturally significant homes.
Sororities Can Bring Attention to the Architect of Campus Buildings
Bringing attention to the architect of a sorority house can also bring attention to the other building the architect designed on campus like this one designed by architect Mark Lemmon at SMU.
SMU Chapter Can Lead Call for National Awareness of Sorority Home Architecture
This is an opportunity for a call of all the sorority chapters in the nation to research the architecture and historic importance of their chapter’s sorority home. Sororities are very good at keeping track of prominent alumnae. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if sororities kept track of the architectural lineage of their sorority houses? This would add another layer of meaning to the history of their chapter and the sorority home where they lived.
Prominent Architects Designed Sorority Homes Across the Country
Also, it is my guess that many architects who designed sorority houses were important architects much like Mark Lemmon, who are only known for their commercial work. This preservation of the Dallas Alpha Xi house should spur the research in architectural knowledge and preservation of other architecturally significant houses across the country. Dallas, in many ways, has been a leader in both architecture and preservation. It is exhilarating to see the SMU Gamma Phis become a leader in sorority house preservation.