Situated on East William Street just west of State is the building which once was the Chapter meeting house of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity – the Dekes. People have passed by and wondered about this gothic structure for years and years. Sitting behind six foot high twelve inch thick brick walls with iron gates, the building has a mysterious almost spooky air about it.
Built in 1878, it was designed by architect William LeBaron Jenney, who taught the first courses in architecture at Michigan, Jenney went on to become the “father of the American skyscraper”, having designed several tall buildings in Chicago.
The DKE fraternity has a storied history, having been the fraternity of several U.S. presidents – Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald R. Ford, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Gerald Ford was actually a member of this chapter, the Omicron Chapter – Class of 1934.
So, what happens to a building that has outlived its useful purpose as a chapter meeting house next to a college campus? Because of the historic significance of the structure it would be a crime to tear it down, but with some serious maintenance issues and code violations, the task of bringing it into modern times was daunting. Then along comes a fledgling Christian congregation – Redeemer of Ann Arbor. Meeting and holding services in leased space for the past few years, they were looking for a building of their own – walking distance to the main campus.
When pastors Bart Bryant and Jim Mong discovered that the building was for sale they acted quickly. Now the building is Redeemer’s new home, and once renovated it will contain worship space on the second floor, fellowship space on the first, and activity space in the basement. New stairs will be built, an elevator installed, new bathrooms that meet ADA requirements, new heating and air conditioning, and fresh finishes throughout. A wheelchair lift will be added to the courtyard, and the exterior masonry will be restored.Share