Recently completed renovations expand and upgrade three Ole Miss Sorority houses.
Written by Abbey Edmonson
Home is a feeling. It’s a warm embrace or an out-stretched hand. It’s the comfort of belonging. Many collegiate women at the University of Mississippi have found home on Sorority Row and Rebel Drive.
These historic buildings have housed generations of women, some as early as the 1920s. The opulent spaces are not simply meeting areas or photo-ops — they’re communities.
Inside, women congregate for meals, study sessions or late-night movie marathons. Each house provides women a refuge from navigating the ups and downs of college life. With ever-growing incoming freshman classes, many of the sorority houses have adjusted to accommodate their blossoming numbers. A few recently completed their mid-COVID-19 renovation projects that have been years in the making.
The Chi Omega house, built in 1962, has undergone five total renovations throughout its life, the latest of which officially wrapped up January 2023. What once was built to accommodate a 100-member chapter, the house now needs to serve 500. When some structural and mechanical concerns arose in 2018, the Chi Omega House Corp. decided a major renovation was necessary for the safety and well-being of its members. The project added a large meeting room, five designated study spaces, a library, an expanded chapter room and an expanded kitchen and dining room. The number of bedrooms remains at 90, but each room is reinforced with underbed storage, closets and desks for each member, multiple storage cabinets and a bulletin board for personal decoration. After completion, the house stands at about 40,000 square feet.
“Providing this house for the women lets them know that many alumnae, advisors and House Corp. board members care about their collegiate experience and want it to be the best it can be for them,” House Corp. member Beth Doty said.
Inside, you’ll find an expansive retreat flooded with natural light. Of the five study rooms, one is lovingly called “The Nest” due to its multiple windows facing out into the trees. Pages featuring illustrations from a rediscovered 1947 Chi Omega scrapbook ornament the walls. Interior designer Ann Carter and her assistant Ann Ferrell transformed the space into an updated oasis that still nods toward the generations of women who lived there before. Architect Roger Pryor of PryorMorrow and contractor Hugh Mallette of WAR Construction Company also worked on the project. As for future renovations, Doty said that there are no current plans other than finishing the brick in the courtyard.
“[The renovation] allows the women in the chapter to have physical space to do things together, to spend time building friendships or studying or working on philanthropic projects,” said House Corp. member Mary Ann Frugé. “Because they can get together in this special place, friendships will be enjoyed throughout their lives.”
Photography: Babble House | Architect: PryorMorrow PC | Interior Design: Ann Carter Inc. | Contractor: WAR Construction
Originally built in 1958, the Phi Mu house also underwent major renovations over the past few years. Rather than starting another small project, their House Corp. decided it was time to make big adjustments. They added two 20-foot wings to the front of the house and completed the third floor. Included in these 15,000-square-foot additions is an alumni reception room, four single rooms, four double rooms, a meeting room, multiple study rooms, more bathrooms and three large storage rooms. Most of the preserved areas were touched up or updated as well. Overall, 92%-95% of the house underwent a retouch or renovation.
Construction finished around October 2022, and the final elements nearing completion are a lift to the third floor and a second front patio to mirror the original one on the right side. Contributors to this nearly 40,000-square-foot house are White Leopard Designs, architect Edye Conkerton, and Spring Construction.
Both House Director Kim Warner and House Corp. President Ann Devoe agree that the alumni reception room is their favorite part of the renovation. Adorned with marble flooring and pink velvet accents, this whimsical room also features a commissioned abstract painting from Alicia Hobbs, a Phi Mu Alpha Delta chapter alumna. The models for the painting are all Phi Mu sisters as well. Devoe said they lovingly call them their “Phi Mu ladies.”
As for the characteristic pink brick, the chapter opted to say goodbye, noting that the pink was redder than they’d hoped. Despite efforts to lighten up the brick, the House Corp. listened to the requests of its active members and added a fresh coat of white paint to the exterior over the summer. But don’t worry, the pink won’t be completely gone. Pink and white azaleas will embellish the front once the second patio is finished.
“It’s just nice to have a history with this building that we all feel very strongly about,” Devoe said. “It’s been nice for everyone. We see how happy they are with it, and I think that makes the whole chapter a little more cohesive.”
Photography: Dabney Photography | Architect: Edye Conkerton | Interior Design: White Leopard Designs | Contractor: Spring Construction
Pi Beta Phi
The Pi Beta Phi house is another 1960s treasure. Built in 1964, the historic house simply couldn’t accommodate the 450-member chapter. With help from architect William Mills and interior designer Courtney Peters, the Pi Beta Phi House Corp. elevated the space into a modern, cohesive home. Initial planning for the renovation began December 2019, and the project officially wrapped in May 2023. Despite facing prolonged wait times for materials and furniture — some pieces took over a year to be delivered — the team created a beautiful final project offering plenty of space to the growing Pi Beta Phi chapter.
Adding on about 19,576 square feet, the house is now almost 38,000 square feet. The back of the house received the most changes, including an expanded dining room, a larger chapter room, about 15 additional bedrooms, more bathrooms, a house director’s suite, more storage rooms and meeting rooms.
“We waited for this for a long time, and it took a lot of planning,” said House Corp. member Gail Collins. “I think in retrospect [the active women] are so glad that we took our time and really thought about it.”
The additional square footage isn’t the only update. Active members asked that each room flow from one room to the next, making the space feel more open. Hearing their requests, Peters delivered a cohesive space that answered their wishes. Starting with a piece of floral fabric that had elements of Pi Beta Phi’s signature colors, she used the pattern to draw inspiration for each room, making sure they spoke to one another. That fabric now accentuates chairs in the formal living room. Throughout the house are small elements tying back to the sorority. Arrows, the official Pi Beta Phi symbol, are scattered throughout, the most notable of which is on the customized main staircase banister. Angels, the unofficial mascot of the sorority, make appearances as well.
“Everyone I worked with was wonder-ful; I really enjoyed our team,” Peters said. “I think due to COVID-19, things were slowed down, but the end result was what we all were really working for, and it looks great.”
Photography: Beck Photography | Architect: William Mills | Interior Design: Courtney Peters | Contractor: KT Builders