Shant Essay - In 1871, the current students and alumni of...

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In 1871, the current students and alumni of the Omicron Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, led by then fraternity President White, decided that the fraternity needed a formal meeting place 1 . In response to this idea, the members and alumni founded The Omicron Literary Association, a group that, according to its Articles of Association, was “formed for the promotion of Literary and Scientific pursuits. 2 However, its first endeavor was more self-serving: It was to lead an effort to erect a new meeting place, the first and only fraternity meeting place of its kind on campus at the University of Michigan. Fundraising for the project began immediately after the founding of the association, and within three years, the members and alumni had enough money to begin construction. 3 They wanted a formal structure, one of elegance, wealth and mystery, a face the fraternity wished to project. To facilitate these wishes, the Omicron Literary Association sought the assistance of the renowned architect William LeBaron Jenny, the first architecture professor at the University of Michigan. 4 The Omicron Literary Association was pleased with the design and decided to go ahead with the $3000 project, hiring the local contractor, A.R. Hammond, to build the structure. 5 The fraternity laid the cornerstone in 1878 and finished the job in only a year, in time for commencement in 1879. 6 The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity used the Shant to enhance the secrecy and exclusiveness of the fraternity and its rituals 7 . Delta Kappa Epsilon has always held these values closely, and promotes “windowless structures in the spirit of the secret society 1 A century and a half of DKE 2 Omicron Literary Association, Articles of Association, February 15, 1873 3 A Century And A Half of DKE 4 William Le Baron Jenny: A Pioneer of Modern Architecture 5 The Michigan Argus, May, 1879 6 Michigan Daily, December 7, 1948 7 Ann Arbor Observer, November 1990 1
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meeting halls…” which is why they chose such a dark tomb-like design. 8 The DKE Shant, with its esoteric Gothic Victorian design, high brick wall, and grave marker was designed to symbolize these ideals, as well as the wealth, mystery and intrigue of the Omicron chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Fraternity. Of the few noticeable exterior modifications or renovations, the only major change not mandated by law or needed to maintain the structure was the imposing eight-foot brick wall and accompanying gate which were installed in 1901 9 . The wall was installed to “add to [The Shant’s] mysterious appearance,” which was a highly valued ideal to the fraternity. 10 This lack of exterior modification reflects the fraternity’s desire to retain its “secret society meeting hall” ambiance and the brooding feel that serves to remind non-members of the historic and wealthy nature of the members and their fraternity. This stagnant façade only furthered the eerie nature of the building, prompting Ann Arbor News columnist Jack Gillard to sarcastically describe the Shant: “The overriding motif [of the Shant] is Basic
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course UP 696 taught by Professor Winling during the Spring '07 term at University of Michigan.

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Shant Essay - In 1871, the current students and alumni of...

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