Going down: Apartments felled for new frat house
The first new fraternity house to be built at UVA in over 50 years got a big pre-groundbreaking ceremony of sorts Tuesday, September 22–- as heavy machinery minced a 1950's era apartment building near UVA's famed Mad Bowl grassy field.
"It's coming down good," says Ralph Law, the site superintendent for Parham Construction, as the crew took a short afternoon break after a hydraulic hose burst while razing the 12-unit apartment building at 135 Madison Lane.
Delta Upsilon, now located next to Beta Bridge on Rugby Road, will build a new building on the site of demolished apartments: a red-brick, neoclassical structure of 6,825 square feet–- complete with a two-story classical portico featuring large white doric columns.
Inside, over three floors including an English basement, the architectural firm of Daggett & Grigg has designed 15 single bedrooms (including two handicap-accessible) and several large common areas for the men of DU. The building will feature central air-conditioning as well as wiring for cable and Internet, and it will also be safety equipped with sprinklers.
DU, now celebrating its 175th anniversary, is the nation’s sixth oldest fraternity; and the new house in Charlottesville serves as a fresh place for a chapter founded in 1922, the first chapter south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Since at least the 1970s, there's been a tradition that anyone painting Beta Bridge would paint "THX DU," for "thanks, Delta Upsilon" to ensure that the men of DU wouldn't paint over the main message.
"I don't know if there was ever any truth to that," says unofficial UVA historian Coy Barefoot. "That's just a paint-the-bridge tradition."
Appropriately enough, as part of a complex house swap-and-purchase, the fraternity that gave its name to the Bridge is coming back home.
Beta Theta Pi–- best known simply as "Beta"– is the fraternity that sold its historic location at 180 Rugby to DU in the early 1970s and later spent many years at what was originally called the Compton House on Maury Avenue (a building later razed to great community upset by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation) before decolonizing.
Now recolonizing, Beta will have a rebirth in its old digs which next to the famous paint-covered bridge. We'll have to see if "THX BETA" becomes the new mantra.
"By tomorrow," says Parham's Law, "we should have the majority of it out of here."