Pitt Celebrating Renovations to Chapter House
On November 13, the Pitt chapter will celebrate the successful renovation of its historic chapter house. For nearly 100 years, PA Gamma Sigma brothers called 225 North Dithridge Street home, including entrepreneur Mark Cuban ’81 and Senator Ben Cardin ’64. Thanks to the dedication and support of alumni, the chapter is experiencing a revitalization, much like the city of Pittsburgh itself.
The Pitt chapter is expecting expecting over 100 attendees of all generations at the dedication ceremony. The ceremony will honor Joel Smalley, recipient of Diamond Chip Council Key, Edward Goldman Alumnus Achievement Award, Big Pi, and the Inaugural Adviser Award.
The house, the years, and the mileage
The Pitt chapter was chartered in 1912, and ten years later obtained the House at 225 North Dithridge Street. The three-story house was last Renovated in 1949. Over the years, the house fell into disrepair. Fraternity living puts a lot of mileage on a place.
The architects of change
These groundbreaking milestones don’t happen overnight, and they can’t happen at all without alumni who live “Not Four Years, but a Lifetime.” There have been other renovation efforts for 20 years, but it finally became a reality thanks to Mike “Mabes” Mabunay ’77, and an investment group of Pilam alumni. Mabes engineered the efforts, gaining key support from alumni including former long-time chapter advisor Joel Smalley. Mabes is on the Chapter Advisory Board, and also serves as Educational Foundation VP and Trustee.
The hidden treasures of 225 Dithridge
During the process of gutting the house for renovation, a number of artifacts providing glimpses of Pilam past were unearthed. Murals and messages written on the walls were uncovered. Dozens of composites, trophies, and paddles were also rescued. Cheers to the brothers who left a time capsule from 1991 in an empty vodka bottle!
The new house
The restoration plan was based upon architectural plans drawn up 10 years ago. The redesign will include 11 single bedrooms and one double, and bathrooms on every floor. The first floor will include a common area and a full kitchen. The basement will be refinished as a “hangout area.” And of course, there will be exterior renovations, safety features like a sprinkler system, fire-rated doors, and other “up-to-code” stuff. The renovation plans struck a balance of maintaining some historical parts of the house while modernizing.
Similarly, the environment of the house is changing a bit too. What remains the same is the “home away from home” feeling to be instilled with those living there. What’s different is how the house is used socially. As per university policy, students can only use third party vendors for social and recruitment functions. Additionally, the alumni decided that with such a substantial investment in renovation, they wanted to establish policies that would protect the physical structure. The house will be substance free.
While the house won’t be the social center it once was, it will serve as a place the Chapter Brothers can opt to live comfortably and build memories of time spent together. When asked about how the alumni came to such a big change, Mabes noted, “we respect the university’s policies and want our student members to follow those policies. The alumni also really valued the residential living experience. We felt we could do this while also complying with university policies. We recognize the fraternity scene has changed over time and had to adapt to remain relevant. Additionally, we began meeting with the community to ensure they know we’re going to be good neighbors.”
For good measure, the current chapter will leave a time capsule in the wall for the next generation of Pilams. Hopefully it will be in a bottle, and opened in 100 years.
Support the chapter with a commemorative brick
Supporters can purchase a commemorative brick for the indoor legacy wall or a brick to decorate the paver path in the backyard. Bricks are inscribed with a custom message and are a great way to celebrate initiation, graduation, and show your appreciation to your brothers. Bricks can be purchased for as little as $100.00.
Article written by Shawn Mahoney (Temple University ’92)