Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sorority Row

The crescent of five sororities at W&L, seen from Woods Creek trail.

In 1985, Washington and Lee admitted its first female undergraduate degree candidates. Fraternities had long been a center of social life on campus, so it was inevitable that "Greek" life would soon expand to include women. These five houses were completed in 2000 on a hillside southwest of the playing fields, for the members of the University's sororities.

I recently heard that a 6th sorority house is planned soon for the far left side of this group. If true, I think W&L should revisit the decision (even though a 6th may have been planned for from the start). This group of five different, but closely related, Greek/Roman Revival structures is a spectacularly successful architectural achievement for a modern institution. In scale, siting, and harmony with pre-existing buildings, it has turned out unusually well. The addition of a 6th house would cause the center of the group to fall at a void, however, rather than on the central portico, eliminating much of the power of the composition. (As I understand it, there is no room for a corresponding 7th structure on either side; if there was, 7 would work too -- though five seems just right.)

I hope the University preserves the strength of what it has in Sorority Row, and lights on an equally inspired way to incorporate additional houses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is indeed true. Currently, the five houses in order from left to right are: Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Delta, Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Chi Omega. This past January, a sixth sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, was colonized. The girls opting to join the sorority will live together in a specific area in one of the dorms until the sixth house is built (in the empty space to the far left of the photo), hopefully by 2012. As a Pi Phi alum, I'm glad to see the expansion of Greek life for women, but a tiny part of me is sad to see my old sorority house lose its place at center stage in the lineup. ;)