real buildings half curves

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      i love this building, stuck right in the heart of our bustling and modern downtown. each and every time i walk by, i am drawn in once again, as i encounter its beauty, and especially its ‘and a half’ address. each time, i feel as mesmerized by it as i felt the first time i ever laid eyes on it. 

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     a historic house known as ‘the shant’, (officially called “the hall of omicron”), it now serves as a meeting place for the university of michigan chapter of the delta kappa epsilon (DKE) fraternity, as well as the headquarters for the international fraternal organization and the gerald ford library.  

     architect william lebaron jenney, later known as the ‘father of the american skyscraper,’ designed the building. jenney came to ann arbor as a professor to found the architecture program at the university of michigan. the library is named after gerald ford, one of five presidents who were members of DKE. it houses books that were written by or about DKE brothers as well as memorabilia.

     according to A Century and a Half of DKE, a history of the fraternity, (founded in 1855, 10 years after the first frats came to the university of michigan), the building was used only for fraternity ritual in its early years. the cornerstone was laid in 1878 and construction was completed the following year. an exterior eight-foot high brick wall was added in 1901, increasing the building’s mysterious appearance. it was used only for late night meetings, the gas-lit interior enhancing the building’s eeriness. today, the building still sticks out as somewhat eerie, especially in comparison with its new surroundings. 

     i like to imagine the secret late-night meetings, the rituals, the ghosts of times past, that still inhabit this special ‘half’ place, caught somewhere in between the past and the present.  

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 ‘my address is like my shoes. it travels with me.’ –  mary harris jones

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26 responses »

  1. There’s nothing as beautiful, architecturally speaking, as a well-built brick building. I don’t think you could find half a dozen brickmasons in the US today who could build the archway over the entrance of the building you’ve written about. It’s a lost art, sadly. And I like how you’ve got the similarly designed gate showing in the foreground.

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  2. This is a wonderful posting, and with the added history
    as a point of reference it really is a wicked read, actually
    I wouldn’t mind venturing deeper, perhaps take a closer
    look into those late evening meetings, it could be fun 🙂 😉

    Nostalgia mixed with a twist
    of fantasy is always exquisite 🙂
    Well I only said 😉 lol

    Have a lovely rest of Friday morning my sweet friend 🙂

    Andro xxxx

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  3. This post holds all kinds of special and unique details! loved it! Such wonderful images of “ghosts from the past” in the basement and the whispers that may have had mystery in them… this building would get me carried away, too! Very awesome writing today and the perfect way to end my time on the computer, with this in my mind and back to work… i was on break room computer that usually is hoarded by a Solitaire player!

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  4. I love the old historic homes. And many with some great stories to go with them. Our downtown Charleston has many an old building, some with the 1/2 addresses too. Like you I enjoy walking by and pauseing.

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    • oh i imagine, charleston must be filled with interesting places and i’d love to see it all firsthand one day ) being on foot gives us such an interesting and more detailed perspective i think. than anything we can get from a drive-by –

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  5. Beth, I love coming into your blog. I miss living in Ann Arbor so badly. I can remember walking past this house. All of Ann Arbor is wonderful! I miss football..the pubs…the street art…the University. Thank you for keeping my memories alive. Wonderful blog!

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  6. guess we should be thankful that the gate number isn’t 666, it does have a sense of foreboding – that’s why I love old buildings. Thank you for sharing some more of the beautiful place where you live Beth 🙂 x

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