Row Show - Part Two

Part Two: Greek 'Main Street' Emerges

Doorknob from Sigma Nu chapter house.

Once the Addition was available, the Greeks recognized its opportunities. They were led by Kappa Sigma, which made the move in 1909 from its Brooklyn and 46th Street address, landing just above 50th on 18th Avenue N.E. This distance would prove in the long run to be wide of the mark, but the direction was prescient of the future.

In the following year the Kappa Sigs were joined by Gamma Phi Beta and Pi Beta Phi, both on 17th Avenue N.E., which was to become the "main street" of Greek Row. Each successive move by others reinforced the trend. By the teens, the evidence was overwhelming that the place for the Greeks to be was in these new blocks north of the UW campus—and as close to it as possible.

The initial site selection and construction of the emerging Greek Row was phased. Their initial locations proved, in some cases, to be not necessarily permanent. The early years of the Row saw a considerable amount of settling in before the pattern of ownership became fixed. The first houses built were usually wood-frame, multi-storied, gable-roofed, generously porched—and big! But the houses that, in large part, have established the present character of the UW's Greek Row were not these.

Today's generation of Greek Row houses began when the Sigma Nus made their rather late move in 1917 from their original 15th Avenue site to a new address on the corner of 17th Avenue and 47th Street. With considerable panache, they had Seattle architect Ellsworth Storey design for them what would prove to be the first of the notable present-day houses of the UW's Greek Row. Storey's conception was an early modern work made of brick, influenced by the Chicago school of architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright.

What followed was a flood of new construction, often requiring the destruction of the earlier wood houses to make way for the new brick edifices. In 1920, six Greek chapters were occupying houses that we still find there today, and by 1931 there were 41 such houses (25 fraternities, 16 sororities) of a total number of 59 UW active chapters, not infrequently on a site different from their original Greek Row location.

During this building boom, the houses followed two basic architectural styles. Many chose the campus standard-variations on Collegiate Gothic. Others harkened back to Georgian architecture common to our nation's colonial period and nationally popular in those years. The '20s was a decade when there wasn't much choice about architecture—and not much pressure to innovate. Greek alumni, who financed and oversaw the new construction, were inclined to the more traditional, formal kind of design. They were not adventurous about their architecture and they were careful about their budgets.

A Tour of Greek Row

Click the house locations on the map, or select a house from the list below, to read a description and view photos of the house.
Pi Beta Phi Pi Beta Phi Theta Chi Theta Chi Pi Kappa Phi Pi Kappa Phi Gamma Phi Beta Gamma Phi Beta Phi Gamma Delta Phi Gamma Delta Sigma Alpha Epsilon Sigma Alpha Epsilon Sigma Chi Sigma Chi Kappa Kappa Gamma Kappa Kappa Gamma Delta Upsilon Delta Upsilon Sigma Kappa Sigma Kappa Phi Delta Theta Phi Delta Theta Theta Xi Theta Xi Delta Chi Delta Chi Delta Kappa Epsilon Delta Kappa Epsilon Sigma Nu Sigma Nu

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