Historic Greek houses faced with renovation or demolition

The Delta Delta Delta annex is slated for demolition.

Brooke Burge / Graphic Designer

The Historic Preservation Commission debated the destruction of the Delta Delta Delta Annex on Tuesday in City Hall.

The sorority's annex, where many sisters reside, is located in Greektown at 500 Burnam Ave. Built in 1924, the annex is facing demolition because it is currently not up-to-date with all fire codes. It is missing an automatic fire sprinkler system required by Missouri law.

Delta Delta Delta made the decision to tear down the annex. The Historical Preservation Commission did not motion to preserve. Other houses not up to code have until December 2016 to either demolish or update buildings.

Sorority and fraternity houses and annexes housing 16 or more residents must have at least an automatic fire sprinkler system, according to the Fire Protection and Prevention Code in the Columbia Code of Ordinances.

The Delta Delta Delta annex is not the only historical house in Greektown with this problem.

“There are approximately 41 recognized Greek houses at Mizzou, and approximately 20 of them have fire sprinkler systems,” Columbia Fire Marshal Shawn McCollom said. “There are about seven standing annexes in Greektown and currently only four have sprinkler systems. One has already been torn down — the Alpha Gamma Sigma Annex.”

Greektown sits on a plot of land that was once a large plantation owned by James S. Rollins and his family. The fraternity Phi Kappa Psi now resides in the 116-year-old original plantation homestead of Rollins. Other homes in Greektown — such as the Pi Beta Phi sorority, built in 1930 — hold the same historic nostalgia.

Many of the houses face renovation costs to update their houses with an automated sprinkler system. Greek Life organizations face the question of whether to spend large amounts of money renovating these houses or demolishing the houses altogether and rebuilding from scratch.

Building new houses could lead to larger houses with additional rooms that could house more members. This could increase revenue for sororities and fraternities.

“It would cost a fortune to bring (Delta Delta Delta) up to code,” Historical Preservation Commission Chairman Brian Treece said.

Treece also said Greek Life houses are “trying to keep up with the Betas.” After the fraternity Beta Theta Pi rebuilt its house, it set a new standard for Greek Life houses, he said.

More rooms in the house means more revenue from the students living in-house. Other houses are looking to rebuild, although it would replace what Treece referred to as the houses' "historic collegiate feel."

“Last month, the Historic Preservation Commission recognized the Pi Beta Phi sorority as a Most Notable Historic Property,” Treece said. “Our recognition was in part due to Pi Beta Phi has renovated and updated its historic home in keeping with its 1930’s Georgian Revival style. That not only preserves the historic home of the sorority but also its legacy.  It also gives its members the same experience and traditions of their alumnae.”

Greektown holds many memories from past members of Greek Life and other MU graduates.

“These buildings are important," said John Konzal, Historical Society of Missouri manuscript specialist. "Many don’t know of the history and nostalgia they hold for Missouri. It would be preferred to have them preserved instead of torn down.”

The commission did not motion to preserve the Delta Delta Delta annex, but the members said they will reach out to the sorority to discuss salvaging the historic property.

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