A central element of our re-founding effort at Epsilon will include a series of long-planned upgrades and improvements to the Lodge, designed to carry it forward into the modern era. While many of our alumni who have visited recently have commented on how well the Lodge has been maintained over the last several years, the fact is that our well-preserved and gracefully furnished main floor belies an underlying physical infrastructure in need of significant repairs and upgrades. In addition to the main floor improvements, thanks to the generosity of our alumni and careful management of finances over the last 20 years, the Epsilon Trustee Corporation has been able to invest in needed exterior maintenance as well as upgrades to bathrooms, sleeping rooms, and the kitchen. However, as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, the facility continues to operate off of essentially the same heating, plumbing, and electrical system originally installed in 1915. Furthermore, while the Lodge’s main floor common spaces are in excellent condition, the Lodge entirely lacks the sort of study, relaxation, and amenity spaces that students increasingly find as common-place in the best living environments at the University of Michigan.
As we set out to ensure that the re-founding of Alpha Epsilon is built on our traditional values of a Lodge-centered, four-year experience for our undergraduate Brothers, it is critical that the Lodge itself meets the highest standards of housing and amenities for the young men who will live there – just as it did for the men whom Brother John Wendall Anderson entrusted it to over a century ago. To that end, several long-overdue building system replacements and upgrades are planned for the coming year, including:
- The complete replacement of the Lodge’s current steam heating infrastructure with a modern forced-air system to provide both heating and cooling to the building;
- Replacement and repairs to the plumbing and electrical systems including upgrades to electrical power, safety systems, storm and sanitary sewer systems;
- Further enhancements to the sleeping rooms including updated furnishings, closet storage systems, and lighting;
- Repairs to structural elements, including the front porch, chimneys and foundation.
While these improvements will enhance the basic functionality of the Lodge for our undergraduate Brothers, perhaps the most exciting plans for the future of 620 South State Street lie beneath the surface – literally. For years, the basement of the Lodge has been a hodge-podge of hallways, storage spaces, and under-utilized common areas. The removal of the overhead piping that serves the current radiator steam system is making possible a dramatic re-imagining of this space to create a modern grouping of study, social, and gathering rooms, which will provide our Brothers the opportunity to come together on a daily basis. The centerpiece of this plan, pictured above, is the “Founders Room.” This flexible gathering space is designed as an homage to “David’s Cottage,” Chi Psi’s storied first Lodge located at today’s Forest Hills Cemetery.
In addition to a comfortable place to watch the Game or simply hang out, the Founders Room will provide a suitable location within the building for social and alumni events, and will be connected directly to our historic Tap Room, which will feature a fully restored Pretzel Bell bar. Immediately adjacent to the Founders Room will be two, large study areas, one designed for group study and another laid out for individual work. All of these areas will take advantage of the ample natural light and high ceilings that are currently hidden beneath the dropped ceilings and walls of the lower level. In addition, improvements will include modern restrooms and laundry facilities.
These exciting plans are being developed by Ann Arbor architect and Brother Dwight Herdrich E’84, with the enthusiastic input of our Re-Founding Class of undergraduates. Subject to achieving our fundraising goals, the Corporation plans to begin the foregoing projects with the installation of the new heating and cooling system in time for the re-activation of Alpha Epsilon and the move in of our newly initiated Brothers in the Fall of ’22.