From Church to Fraternity
The move was happier for SigEp, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary on campus in its new chapter house. Established here in 1912, the fraternity has gone through some hard times in recent years. Sanctioned after a hazing incident, the chapter was disbanded in 1994. Its house at State and Hill was sold to the university, but before the transaction was finalized, squatters got into the building and it burned down. The site is now occupied by Weill Hall, home of the Ford School of Public Policy.
Since the national fraternity "re-colonized" the chapter in 1997, the SigEps have rented four different buildings. But "it's difficult to grow and improve chapter operations and performance when trying to find a new place every few years, plus we wanted to build equity," says Jerry Mangona, president of the fraternity's local alumni group.
When the church came on the market, Mangona petitioned the fraternity headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, to send staff architect Jonathan Kucera to do a study. Once Kucera established that the conversion was feasible, the local alumni volunteer board hired Hobbs and Black to plan the conversion. It was a perfect choice, Mangona explains, both because the architects' own offices are in a former church (the 1882 First Unitarian Church at the corner of Huron and State), and because owner Bill Hobbs "is a well-known and well-respected alumnus from our fraternity."