Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Major renovations to several sorority homes usher in a new era for Greek life on the Ole Miss campus.
Written by Abbey Edmonson | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Of the many beautiful and historical features on the University of Mississippi’s campus, the expansive sorority houses dotting Sorority Row and Rebel Drive are some of the most iconic.
These homes not only serve as a meeting space for various women’s organizations, but they also provide housing and meals. Most of the chapters have experienced membership growth in recent years. Houses that were originally built to accommodate numbers reflective of the 1900s struggled to properly service the number of women joining in the 2010s and 2020s. Today, most chapters at UM have more than 400 active members, and each typically houses 70 to 90 of them. Five sororities on campus either have recently undergone or will undergo major construction projects and updates in order to accommodate their members’ needs. Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Delta, Phi Mu, Pi Beta Phi and Chi Omega are all in varying stages of renovations.
Kappa Kappa Gamma
The Kappa Kappa Gamma house, originally built in 1947, was newly renovated in July 2020. Previously, the entire chapter could not fit in the chapter room. Beginning June 2019, they added 26,000 square feet including a new chapter room, dining room, house director suite, kitchen, dorm spaces and showers. It is more energy-efficient, featuring TVs that can broadcast messages across the house. The total square footage is about 33,000 square feet including the existing wing that was already there. Their architect was Weir Boerner Allin from Jackson, and their interior designer was Betsey Mosby, also from Jackson. Montgomery Martin Contractors from Memphis completed the construction. During construction, Kappa Kappa Gamma leased the house previously occupied by Kappa Alpha Theta. Girls moved into the completed Kappa house in August 2020.
“We’re just thrilled to be in there and have more girls in the house to be able to sleep, but also just to be in the house and for it to be a home,” house corporation president Lindy Graham said. “We want it to be a home; and I think that’s what we’ve made it, a home.”
Kappa Delta completely rebuilt their house that was originally built around 1927. Reconstruction discussions began in 2018, and the house corporation planned to begin the project in 2020. However, the house suffered major flood damage in February 2019. The house corporation determined that it was not financially responsible to fix the damage when they had already planned to tear the house down the following year. So, they demolished the house in May 2019 and began construction a year early in fall 2019. The 45,000-square-foot house, featuring seven study rooms, an elevator, three laundry rooms, three TV rooms, an outdoor patio and a courtyard with a fireplace and fountain and a housewide audiovisual system, was completed in March 2021. The interior designer was Annelle Primos from Jackson, and the architect was Pryor Morrow from Columbus. WAR Construction from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, oversaw construction.
“I believe this new chapter house provides ample space for meetings, studying, dining and socializing, and it’s a great place for our members to make special college memories,” house corporation president Whitney Byars said.
Images provided by Roger Pryor
The current Chi Omega house, designed for a membership of 100, was built in the 1960s. The sorority’s house corporation began renovation plans in 2018 when structural concerns surfaced. The new construction will retain some bedrooms, a large meeting room and the courtyard in the back, and it will add designated study spaces, a library, an expanded chapter room, expanded kitchen and dining room and 36 bedrooms. Construction began in July 2021, and the 40,000-square-foot house will be completed in October 2022. Members will begin living in and using the house in January 2023. Chi Omega will be leasing the old Kappa Alpha Theta house during construction. The architect is Roger Pryor from Columbus, and the interior decorator is Ann Carter from Jackson. WAR Construction of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is overseeing construction.
“Without support, this project would be impossible,” house corporation member Mary Ann Fruge said. “Providing a safe, comfortable ‘home away from home’ that will augment the members’ experiences at Ole Miss for years to come is unquestionably the goal.”
Illustration provided by Debbie Smith Myers
The Phi Mu house is currently being renovated. Originally built in 1958, the house has undergone several small projects in recent years, but this project is larger. It includes two 20-by-20-foot wings in front of the house, an expanded chapter room, an alumni reception room, four single rooms, four double rooms, a large meeting room, a small study room and a completed third floor. The third floor will function as a study wing to include two individual study rooms, a TV room, a beverage area, a banquette seating area, a bathroom and three large storage rooms. This 15,000-square-foot expansion brings the house’s total square footage to around 43,000 square feet. They are adding new hardwood flooring; however, the upper deck, pink brick exterior and part of the front porch will all remain. Interior design is by White Leopard Designs/Joy Fratesi; the architect is Edye Conkerton; and the contractor is Spring Construction. The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2022.
“Bigger facilities make people less frustrated for meetings and projects and fellowship,” house corporation president Ann DeVoe said. “We hope that it’s going to be beautiful and happy and bright, and everybody feels the closeness that embodies what we have all joined a sorority to be. Our space needed to be more purposeful.”
Pi Beta Phi
Image provided by Mills and Mills Architects, PC
Interior collage provided by Courtney Peters Interior Design
The Pi Beta Phi house was built in 1964. Plans to expand and renovate the house began around 2019. This 19,000-square-foot renovation, scheduled for completion in September 2022, will include a larger dining room, larger chapter room, rooms for around 15 more people, a new house director’s suite and additional storage and meeting rooms. The completed house will be almost 40,000 square feet. Because the majority of the updates are in the back of the house, girls will still be able to live and eat in the house during construction. Courtney Peters of Jackson is the interior designer, and she is working closely with architect William Mills. Peters said she looks forward to making the house both feminine and timeless.
“We’re just excited to have the house warm and inviting for them, and they’ll love coming,” house corporation member Gail Collins said.