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Posted on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Fraternity moves back to historic house 4 years after fire

By Ben Freed


This iconic fireplace has been restored and re-stained, making it a centerpiece of the newly finished house

Ben Freed |

For four years, ever since their historic house burned down in May 2008, members of the Delta Upsilon chapter at Michigan have been telling freshman rushing their fraternity that they would be the first to live a brand new remodeled house at 1331 Hill St. Today, they finally are able to make good on that promise, at least to the current sophomores.

“It’s been a long, long time coming,” chapter president Kevin Lass said. Lass pledged the fraternity as a freshman in the fall of 2009, a year after the house was torn down, and he has been looking forward to this day ever since.

“It’s taken a lot of patience from the undergraduate end. It’s been really frustrating, but now we’re finally moving in.”

There is one last delay that caused some brothers to spend last night at a Days Inn. The last hurdle left to clear is connecting the fire alarm system with the built-in sprinklers, which should happen in the next day or two.


Chapter president Kevin Lass talks fraternity history with Jim Hridal who graduated in 1969.

Ben Freed |

The architect for the renovation, Jeffery Scott, said most of the delays throughout the process happened because the insurance carrier, RSUI, did not want to pay for the house to be renovated as a historical building. The full cost of re-building much of the house reached $5.9 million.

“Every time we would finish a stage in the process we would have to stop,” he said.

“With the insurance not having been settled, it was difficult for us to proceed to the next step in the renovation.”

A spokesman for RSUI said that the company does not comment on claims that have not been settled.

The insurance details have not been worked out yet, but that hasn’t dampened the excitement of the undergraduates who will be moving in within the next two days.

“People are just mesmerized by the house,” chapter public relations officer Jack Barch said.

“The attention to detail everywhere is amazing. If it’s going to take four years, they made sure that everything came out perfect.”

After touring the house, Laura Blake Jones, Dean of Students at the University of Michigan,, referred to it as a "gem."

“It’s great for the students to have a place to come together to live the values of their chapter. It can be a really important part of a college student’s experience.”

The house was built by well-known Detroit architect Albert Kahn in 1903 and is listed on state and national registries of historic places. John Markiewicz, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1965, said walking into the new house was like taking a step back in time.

“You go from the front porch, and you walk in, and it’s like you're walking back into 1903,” he said.


Sean Carney plays with Emma, the new house pet.

Ben Freed |

The historic nature of the house is indeed felt as soon as you walk in the front door. A fireplace with intricate wooden relief sculptures surrounding it commands attention as the centerpiece of the chapter room just to the left of the entrance. That room, Markiewicz’s favorite, will not be used for partying.

“That room is definitely going to be closed off a lot of the time,” Lass said.

“It’s for chapter business, meetings, and brothers to enjoy themselves, but it won’t be a really wild room.”

There will be parties held at the house, and the fraternity plans to use it to continue to expand. The chapter doubled in size in the last year, initiating 26 of the 50 current members.

“This house was one of the main reasons I joined,” incoming house manager Chris Heyer said.

“And we are expecting our pledge classes to continue to grow over the next couple of semesters when they see what a great new building we have.”

It was a bittersweet celebration for Mischa Veenhuysen. He was a freshman in 2007 and was excited to live in the house as a sophomore in the fall of 2008.

“They’re just now opening the house and I’m leaving for grad school in China in two days, it’s pretty ironic,” he said.

“We thought it was going to be done every year… I guess they finally got it now.”

Markiewicz, who has served as alumni president since 1992, said he wants to remind the brothers that while the house is a major accomplishment, there’s more to being in a fraternity.

“I told the men who are currently in the chapter, a fraternity is not a house, it’s a group of men interacting and growing over their four years here,” he said.

“They’ve proven that with how well they’ve done the last four years even without a house. They can’t just take this building for granted now that they have it, this is something special that needs to be maintained.”

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Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

A www! How sweet! A house pet. A living, breathing toy. Wonder how long before Emma is caught in traffic on Washtenaw? And is she UTD on vetting? How about a license? Oh, and obediebNce training for her responsible owners? Who is here owner anyway? A house? A dog is neither a cute and comforting accessory nor is it a party toy. Please care for this dog like the adults you aren't.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

iPad w own brain. Sorry for typos.

Wystan Stevens

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

A c.1920 postcard photo of the house, on my Flickr page:

Bryan Ellinger

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

That's an engrossing photostream you've put together, Wystan. Bravo.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

Wow, that fireplace looks amazing.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Since I live around the corner from this house I have watched it slowly be brought back to life after it burned. It would be awesome if they would do an open house there. I would really like a little tour to see the finished product. It looks really nice from the outside and as has been mentioned if the rest of the house was done as well as that fireplace was restored I bet it's a grand place.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Wait until the next beer bash, Steve, and walk in. Remember to bring an empty plastic cup and a bong.

Dog Guy

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

Let your imagination of chapter house goings-on rum amok, jns131. You may even at your convenience invade any chapter house of my own CO-ED fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Can we say hazing run amok?


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

It will be a dump again by midterms. Sad that such beautiful houses go to the students least likely to take care of them.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

Cannot agree more with this statement.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

Angry Moderate - If the state of most of the houses I've visited is representative of the overall situation, then most members are not paying enough.

Angry Moderate

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

It doesn't "go to" them, they pay for it.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Congratulations to the Delta Upsilon brothers for their patience during the rebuilding of their house. May you have many years of enjoyment in the house as you continue fostering brotherhood and developing lifelong friendships.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

If the fireplace is but an example of the rest of the work that was done, it'll be pretty sweet!


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Sounds like finally time to Par-Tay! Where's Bluto?


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Animal House comes to mind. Maybe not.

Ben Freed

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

All, the house is at 1331 Hill St. That has been added to the article. Thanks for reading and pointing out the omission. Ben

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Well, it looks swell. Let's see how long it lasts. I bet that new house dog will add its own flavors to the interior.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I bet that the "house pet" ends up for adoption at the HVHS in a year or two.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

An address and/or a picture of the outside of the house would be nice.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

It's at 1331 Hill St, 2 houses east of S. Forest.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 10:48 a.m.

Author, what the heck? I've lived in this city for years and I have no idea where this house is. I especially do not know where that fireplace is, so it's a poor reference point. Perhaps a picture of the old house vs. the new house, etc? Perhaps the location of the house to boot?


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

And the location of the house is ???????????

Andy Price

Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 5:12 p.m. the first sentence of the article.


Wed, Aug 29, 2012 : 11:04 a.m.

On Hill St, 2 houses east of S. Forest.