303chase

Address: 303 Chase Avenue
Architectural Style: Neo-Classical
Year Built: 1928
Architect/Builder: Unknown
Original Owner: Unknown

This fraternity lodge was constructed in 1928, toward the end of one of Kenyon College's most prosperous decades, and is commonly known as the Beta Theta Pi Temple in the Woods.  There is only one other fraternity temple like this in the United States, but this is the only one that maintains an active chapter.  It has been the site of numerous activities associated with the Beta Theta Pi, one of the college's Greek fraternities.  Construction of a new fraternity lodge for Beta Theta Pi had been discussed as early as the 1890s, but financial obstacles delayed the project.  When construction finally got underway under the leadership of Walter Brown, plans were drawn up by a professional architect who broke ground in March 1928.  The cornerstone of the lodge as laid with an elaborate ceremony on April 18 of that year, and the first initiation in the new lodge was held on February 9, 1929.

The building is an excellent example of Classical Revival architecture commonly found in early fraternal lodges and temples.  Although it has many Greek architectural elements, it is most similar to temples found in ancient Rome.  The large pediment rests on top of a shallowly recessed entrance.  On either side of the entrance stands a large fluted Doric column supporting a plain entablature.  The stone above the door is inscribed with the fraternity's Greek letters, and above this is carved the Beta Theta Pi coat of arms.  At the peak of the pediment, as well as its outer edges, is a Classical acroterion, which is a decorative three dimensional sculpted ornament very similar to a finial.  Acroteria are only found in Classical architecture.  Two small rectangular windows are located high off the ground on either side of the entrance to prevent prying eyes from observing the rituals held inside the temple.  Similar windows can be found on the side elevations of the building.  These windows originally had decorative bronze grates, but have since been removed.  The rear of the building is very plain, with a simple, undecorated door and a small ocular window at the top of the pediment.

The original interior plans for this building indicate that it was designed with a small vestibule and a series of coat rooms on the eastern side, a large chapter room in the middle with benches lining all four walls, and a small storeroom and prep room on the western side, with a series of stairs leading down to a basement level.

 


 

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