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New web series flaunts Cornell frat houses

It’s the middle of February 1929, on the East Hill of Ithaca, NY. Residents of the town are gathered around the bright light, reflecting off the snow and ice-covered ground. Their faces, flickering orange, look on as 777 Stewart Avenue, the home of Cornell University’s Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, burns to the ground.

It wouldn’t be until two years later, in 1931, when the new chapter house for Alpha Delt would be built, according to A Comprehensive History of Alpha Delta Phi by 2004 Cornell graduate Marc B. Zawel.

And this time, they found a big name in architecture to do it: John Russell Pope. With a résumé that included the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland and Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., Pope along with 55 percent of Ithaca’s workforce brought his idea to life on the site’s original foundation.

Cornell Alpha Delta Phi Architecture

Now, the grandeur of Cornell frat houses such as Alpha Delt’s will appear on a web series titled IFC: Cribs. A spin-off of MTV’s hit series of the same name, the show allows frats the opportunity to show off their living spaces in the way a celebrity would show his or her mansion off in the original Cribs series. Slope Media Group, Cornell’s student-run media generator and aggregator, created the videos.

“We live in a dynamic time for the Greek system at Cornell,” said Tate Lavitt, a senior brother of Alpha Delta Phi. “Last year, the Cornell IFC made a four-quarter system where freshmen are not allowed in Greek houses until after fall break. So the executive board of the IFC, which I am a member of, decided to partner with Slope Media and create short video tours available to every house on campus.

Lizzie Brooks, a Cornell senior and the Content Head for Slope Media, said the series will also help freshman prepare for the “rush” process of joining a fraternity in the spring.

“They can’t rush all the houses; they really have to pick and choose where they go,” Brooks said. “I thought it was a really good way to show people all of what was out there, essentially.”

The original idea for the series came from Felix Tabary, the Vice President of University and Community Relations of Cornell’s Interfraternity Council. After collaborating with Brooks and establishing what should be shown, the two went to work. The series debuted on October 21 and since then, it’s been watched by over 10,000 times.

The Alpha Delta Phi house was built to look like a mansion. But the building, with its Grand Hall and portico overlooking Ithaca, was actually built for the sole purpose of housing fraternity brothers. According to Levitt, each room is single-occupancy, with some people enjoying the good fortune of having three rooms to themselves.

But it wasn’t only the structure of the house that was designed by Pope.  Levitt said that the architect designed a lot of the furniture in the house, such as the kitchen table and chairs, as well.

Other fraternities at Cornell weren’t initially built to house fraternities. According to Brian Crandall, a 2010 graduate of Cornell, Sigma Phi’s house was owned by Irene Castle, a silent film star in the twenties, before ending up as a fraternity home; something many freshman rushers may not know.

And this is exactly the point of the new series, according to Brooks. To give freshmen an inside look at some of the traditions and living spaces of the frats at Cornell, led by a member of that frat, and help to choose the right one for them.

“We have already seen great responses from freshman and others to the videos of all houses,” Lavitt said, “and there’s been an overall increase in interest in the IFC as a whole.”

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