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Posted on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

Fraternity plays waiting game as historic Hill Street house nears completion

By Ben Freed


Ben Freed for

The members of the University of Michigan chapter of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity have been displaced since a major fire destroyed most of their house on Hill Street in May 2008. They were supposed to be able to move back into the house in June 2009 and are now hoping that the October date given to them is the real deal.

“Every year the house has been ‘near completion,’” said Gregory Seraydarian, the fraternity’s president. “We’ve literally told the last three pledge classes, ‘you’ll be the first ones living in this house.’”

A major part of the problem was that the house that burned down was no ordinary fraternity house. According to Seraydarian, the house, built in 1903, is a national historic landmark.

“It was the first house ever built solely for fraternity residential use,” he said. “It was the first true fraternity house in the country.”


According to Jeffery Scott, the goal of the restoration is to return the house to its original look and feel, with a few upgrades to the wiring and air conditioning systems.

Photo Courtesy Marsha Butkovich

The house, designed by architect Albert Kahn, is listed in both the state and national registries of historic places. In the state registry it is listed as “the oldest residential fraternity/sorority house built at the University of Michigan still occupied by the organization which constructed it.”

Seraydarian said that means both the interior and exterior must be restored to their original states.

Despite some money coming in from the city of Ann Arbor and from the national historic registry, architect Jeffery Scott said the insurance company covering the house does not want to pay for those full renovations.

“They just want us to put in a modern residential building,” said Scott, a Delta Upsilon alumnus. “They don’t want to fill the claim based on the replacement coverage of a historical home. And that’s what’s caused about 80 percent of the frustration with this renovation.”

Seraydarian said that since the fire, the fraternity has signed temporary leases on smaller residential houses in neighborhoods near campus. He feels that not having a central house has affected every aspect of the fraternity.


The current brothers and alumni hope to have the downstairs completed by Oct. 1 to show it off to students rushing the fraternity.

Ben Freed for

“We’ve been split into at least two houses ever year that we’ve been out,” he said. “So it’s been difficult to have social functions or even to just hang out as brothers. Our rush numbers have stayed somewhat steady, but we would definitely be getting more guys if we had a house to show them.”

Scott said even with the delays from the insurance company, the house was scheduled for completion before the fall 2011 semester. But routine construction delays moved the completion estimate to October.

“The kids should really be able to move back into this house,” he said. “They weren’t there when it burned down, no one was in the house, it was during the summer. They’ve waited a long time for it to be done.”

Scott took me on a tour of the house while it's still under construction, you can follow along:

Ben Freed is a summer intern at You can reach him by email at or by phone at (734)-623-4674. Follow him on Twitter @BFreedInA2.


Huron 74

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

P.S. you should have included the name of the insurance comapny. But then I'm sure they've got a lot more lawyers than the A2 News does.

Huron 74

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 11 p.m.

Insurance companies... always a problem when something like this happens. They collect tons of money, but when it's time to pay up they get cheap. I was thinking maybe we should just nationalize insurance (the gov't could sure use all that money!), but then they couldn't run the post office (you know, the business with 300M built-in daily customers).


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Interesting article, but I would do some fact checking about it being the oldest Fraternity house build for a fraternity residence in the entire country. I know that the Psi Upsilon house at the University of Pennsylvania (known as the Castle) was designed by two alumni (Hewitt and Hewitt) for the chapter and was completed in 1899. It was not the oldest house on that campus built for residential fraternity use. The D.U. house may not be the oldest in the USA, but Michigan perhaps.

Mr Blue

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

The new work will be trashed before the end of football season by drunken parties.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

ohh, I don't care.


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

Thanks for the interesting article. I appreciate having the video along with the text -- it really added to the story.

Jeff Renner

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

At 1:22, Scott says that they thought the tiles above the fireplace were Pewabic tiles, and then says, "Actually ..." but the rest has been edited out by a cut. What are they? It looks like an awfully lot of work left. Hard to imagine it will be done in two months.

Susan Montgomery

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

Ben - I really appreciate your interesting article, just one little fix - "... the first house ever built ever built..."

Tony Dearing

Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Thanks. That's been fixed.


Thu, Aug 11, 2011 : 11:42 a.m.

Looking good! Dikaia