Iowa Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon
228 Gray Ave., Ames, Iowa
+42.02049, -93.6404442°01'14" N, 93°38'26" W
Iowa Beta originated on campus as the "Aristoclub" or the Greek letter society of Kappa Kappa Kappa. We were formally chartered from the Sigma Phi Epsilon National fraternity on April 20, 1916 making the fortieth local chapter of the fraternity which today has over 290. Soon afterwards we acquired our first house which was located on Welch Avenue in the present location of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. The number of SigEps on campus was fairly small for the first few years of our existence. Usually there weren't more than 15-20 active members until later years. In 1929 the house that we occupy today was designed by Amos Emory who also designed the Sigma Kappa sorority house. Our grand house was a fitting testament to our great fraternity. Then came the depression of the 30's. Our house as well as other houses on campus began to go into debt. At the outset of the depression, the Iowa Beta Alumni Board owned almost a whole block of woods around the house. These woods were known as nicotine woods. Smoking wasn't allowed in any of the sorority houses, so the girls would come over to the woods to smoke. To keep the banks from closing down Iowa Beta because we lacked sufficient funds, the Alumni Board had to give almost all of its land to the bank. There also wasn't any money for fuel oil bills the first few winters of the depression so the men lived in the living room only. Of all the pledge duties during this period, the most important was to acquire wood for the fireplace. New members are still asked to get the firewood to remember this event. In the fall of 1932 Sigma Phi Epsilon was only 20 strong. Funds were low at this time. But just as the building weathered the storm so to did its residents. The next few years brought hope for the struggling Sig Eps. In 1935 the house was nearly full with 30 men living in (the house at this time consisted of only two-man study rooms). The men of Iowa Beta started becoming more and more involved on campus. The house size continued to increase until World War II when there were about 75-80 men. During the fall of 1942, two-thirds of the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon left for World War II. There weren't enough Sig Eps left to keep the house going. To solve the problem the Alumni Board made rental arrangements with the college to provide housing for women. Adding to this burden, a fire broke out on the third floor of the house in the Spring of 1943, during finals week. During the war there were more women enrolled at Iowa State than it had room for. Women resided at 228 Gray until the end of the war. After the war, Iowa States enrollment reached a record high, Sigma Phi Epsilon quickly grew in size to about 100 men. Many SigEps, to their dissatisfaction, had to live in apartments. Arguments were constant over who was going to get to live in the fraternity house. During the summer of 1952, Sigma Phi Epsilon added on to its kitchen and expanded the housemothers quarters. During the late 50's carpenters began remodeling our study rooms from the original two man rooms to four man rooms. Rumor has it, although she denies it, that Mom McKone had the remodeling stopped because she saw that four man rooms would be overcrowded. The construction crew changed their plans and resumed remodeling the three man rooms that exist today. Between the years of 1957 and 1962 Sigma Phi Epsilon was very strong internally and externally. The house size grew to about 120 men. We controlled many campus activities and almost every member was involved. Diligence in the face of adversity had in the past, and did once again bring Sigma Phi Epsilon back to the standing it has always deserved. Throughout the seventies and eighties Sigma Phi Epsilon maintained and improved its role as a leader on the Iowa State campus. Today's SigEps, as has always been the case, are known as fine and diverse men who appreciated their differences and enjoy their unity. With your help as undergraduates and alumni the Iowa Beta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon will embark upon its next 75 years with diligence in its pursuit, virtue in its character, and brotherly love as its message.
Posted to the NRHP 2-5-2014
- August 18, 2014: Added by Dave King