Delta Gamma alumni tour renovated chapter house


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With little attention paid to the Sept. 10 football game, University of Iowa alumni of all ages feverishly chatted about new furniture, pink decorations, and renovated rooms.

More than 150 alumni of Delta Gamma’s Tau Chapter gathered in Iowa City on Sept. 10 for the 125th anniversary of the chapter.

And the chapter wasn’t just celebrating 125 years of sisterhood. Current chapter members gave alumni tours of their newly renovated home, 305 S. Summit St.

The Delta Gamma house is located in a historical district of Iowa City. It was built in 1968 on what used to be the Swisher farm, owned by two of Delta Gamma’s oldest alums, Esther and Helen Swisher. One of their descendants later sold the property to Tau Chapter, to be sold to another chapter house, said Jan Riley, the House Corporation board president.

Riley said she was proud to have the house in the historic district.

“We are a part of that history,” she said.

The chapter’s previous building was located at the intersection of College and Summit Streets. The chapter moved to its current residence in 1966.

Over the last three years, particularly during the summertime, the House Corporation Board renovated most of the house’s rooms, including the formal living room, chapter room and dining room. Riley said the summer is an ideal time, when members are away.

Riley declined to disclose any renovation costs on Sunday.

Chapter President Melissa Anderson said the chapter changed color palettes, bought new furniture and framed historic pictures to make the house more modern and give it a “much needed facelift.”

Advisory Board Chairman Jackie Bergquist said the structure was fine but chapter leaders wanted to improve the building’s aesthetic appeal.

“The house was built pretty solid,” Bergquist said. “Things were dated. We wanted to make it more appealing for recruitment.”

Bergquist also said the house was one of the first UI sorority houses to install a sprinkler system, and one of the only ones that currently has air conditioning throughout the entire house.

In addition to the additional decor, house members received a technological upgrade including phone and Internet connection.

Regional Director for Delta Gamma Donna Lacy, was the regional housing specialist when she stayed in the house three years ago to help with renovations and work. Lacy said she remembered the poor phone connection.

“I couldn’t get reception in the house,” Lacy said. “I’d have to go outside. The walls are like concrete.”

There are 146 Delta Gamma chapters nationwide, and International Delta Gamma President Beth Searcy spoke about how particularly proud she was of the Tau chapter.

“There’s a whole structure in place now to support [guests and members],” Searcy said. “It’s really special to get to be here to celebrate [125 years].”

Riley said Delta Gamma is the largest sorority on campus with 127 members, but only 47 women live in the house.

“With that many women utilizing the house, it can be a lot of wear and tear on a facility,” Riley said. “The project we would start with is the parking lot and the bathrooms, because the kitchen is in pretty good shape.”

Berquist said updating the bathrooms, kitchen and parking lot would be a five- to ten-year project.

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