History of the Omega Chapter House
The Omega chapter of Alpha Phi was chartered at the University of Texas in 1920 and held their first meetings in a variety of locations until renting their first Chapter House at 2208 Rio Grande. In 1932, the Chapter purchased the 80-foot wide lot at 2005 University Avenue for $5,000 from the estate of Mary Eliza Brown.
Not long after, the Chapter commissioned Bartlett Cocke Architects, whose wife Mildred was an early Alpha Phi initiate, to design a two-story ranch style house of approximately 6,000 square feet. This would become the first sorority house on the University of Texas campus constructed specifically for that purpose. The House was completed by January of 1935 at a cost of $21,500. The original house housed 22 women, but as the Chapter grew, more room was needed. In 1949, Page Southerland & Page Architects designed a two-story addition to the east side of the original building, taking in what were original vestibules and porch to the east of the parlor/living room. This created the game room or “downstairs TV room” and more bedrooms for the ever growing chapter. row
In 1952, Bartlett Cocke was again commissioned for another renovation for $125,000 to include the addition of a complete third floor over the entire original building as well as the addition of a two-story wing at the rear and parallel to the street. The additions provided additional bedrooms and baths, a new kitchen and dining room, a small chapter room, fire escapes and carport. The wrought iron gallery replaced the original balcony on the west facade, giving the Chapter House its present New Orleans flavor. A small one-story wood addition to the kitchen was completed in 1958 to serve as a scullery and service porch. There were a variety of changes to the House during the 1970’s that made the House more recognizable to the women who know and love the House today.
- Our famous “Big Room” appeared in 1971 when the inner courtyard was enclosed. Changes were also made to the waiting room (known as the Phone Room, the Guard Room and now the Legacy Library), Housemother’s apartment, second floor bath and bedrooms and the TV lounge. By the end of this renovation, the House slept 44 women, very close to our current total of 48 residents. Designs for this renovation were done by Pendley Architects, with construction completed by the Ed Padgett Co. and the Rathgeber Co. with Patti Riley, ASID, handling the interior design. The cost was approximately $80,000.
- In 1972, the front lawn was enclosed with a brick wall and a landscape plan implemented.
- In 1978, the Chapter Room, as we know it now, was greatly enlarged by extending the House out over the existing carport. It also allowed the addition of a sewing room (formerly the copy room and now a guest room) and the small bathroom. The firms involved were Suzanne Sandifer Designs, the Ed Padgett Co., the Rathgeber Co. and Patti Riley, ASID.
No history of the Omega Chapter House would be complete without the inclusion of the various House Mothers (now called House Directors) that have, over almost 100 years, made everyone’s experiences at the House so special. The list includes: (at some point, adding pictures of them would be WAY cool)
- Eva Prendergast, known to all as Mrs. Prendy, was Omega’s first House Mother, serving 28 years from 1923-1951
- Lela Finley served from 1952-1963
- Eloise Erwin served for 27 years, from 1963-1990
- Nancy Jones served from 1990-2005
- Nancy Bell served from 2005-2008
- Shyrl Hunt became our latest House Director in 2008
Our House Today
By the late 2000’s the wear and tear of so many years was becoming evident in our almost 80 year old home. Big changes were needed once again. Under the direction of the current House Corporation Board, a series of renovations have been happening annually, starting in 2009. The goals for all the improvements were to first address safety needs, then structural issues and finally provide for enhanced livability and updated design to provide a lovely “home away from home” for our members and potential members. The local Austin firm of Aday & Associates has been a great partner for the renovations in 2010 and beyond.
Today, the Omega chapter house is three stories tall, and houses 48 women. The women have a snack kitchen, spacious bathrooms, and multiple, comfortable spaces to study, relax and entertain guests. Details and photographs of these changes are on the Current Renovations page.
If you have not had a chance to come by the house since the major renovations have been done, we encourage you to stop by. Please send an e-mail to the House Corporation Board to set up a time for you to come by or just stop and ring the doorbell anytime.
Remember, it is YOUR House, too!