The first local sorority to receive a charter from a national organization adapted to U District growth, and a few new houses.
THE DESIGNERS and/or carpenters of this slender house might have taken care to give its front porch a stairway both wide and high enough to pose a large group portrait, perhaps of Delta Gamma sorority’s charter membership. It was the first local sorority to receive a charter from a national organization. The lobbying, which began in 1900, was rewarded on May 15, 1903, the last day of Delta Gamma’s annual convention, held that year in Wisconsin. One year later, the coeds were living at 4730 University Way N.E.
The Greek letters Delta and Gamma are displayed on the tower, which seems otherwise useless, as there is neither room nor light for a crow’s-nest study or a bed chamber.
The photograph’s source, the Museum of History & Industry, dates this University District scene to 1904. The neighborhood then was still more likely referred to as Brooklyn or University Station. The latter was named after, or for, the all-important trolley that carried students and faculty to the new university from their remote residences in spread-out Seattle. The former was the name first given to the neighborhood by James Moore, Seattle’s super-developer, in 1890, the year the future University District was first successfully platted.
There was then no knowledge of the coming surprise: the University of Washington (it relocated from downtown to its current campus in 1895). The name Brooklyn was embraced as a cachet pointing to another suburb that also looked across water (the East River) to another metropolis (New York).
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Columbus Avenue was the name Moore gave to the future University Way. This was soon dropped for 14th Avenue until 1919, when the University Commercial Club joined the neighborhood’s newspaper, the University Herald, to run a contest for a new name. University Way easily won.
Brooklyn and 14th avenues were Seattle’s first fraternity/sorority rows. In early December 1904, The Seattle Times reported, “The Beta Chapter of the Delta Gamma Sorority of the state university gave a dancing party at its new clubhouse on Fourteenth Ave. N.E. Friday.”
University Way, especially, was a sign of the city’s, and its university’s, then-manic growth. Other Greeks soon joined Delta Gamma at addresses north of Northeast 45th Street in Moore’s then-new and only two-block-wide University Heights Addition, which had been platted in 1899. Seven years later, and directly to the east of University Heights, Moore opened his much larger University Park Addition.
In this 1904 look east from The Ave, we can see that University Park is still a forest. After 1906, it was increasingly stocked with homes for the University of Washington’s growing faculty and Greek community. Many of the students’ “secret societies” got their start in University Heights, often in mansion-size houses larger than Delta Gamma’s, which were profitably let go for the developing businesses along University Way. Typically, the Greek houses eventually moved to nearby University Park.
After several moves, Delta Gamma reached its present location in 1916, at the corner of Northeast 45th Street and 21st Avenue Northeast. Twenty years later, it “moved” again while staying put: In 1936, the sorority’s house was sold and rolled across 21st Avenue from the northwest corner with Northeast 45th Street to the northeast corner, to become the house for the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. It was later named the Russian House, for its popular Russian studies and “Russian Only” rule.
Across 21st Avenue Northeast, at the recently vacated northwest corner, the sorority built again, this time the grand Arthur Loveless-designed, now-80-year-old Delta Gamma house. In sum, the sorority has held to this corner for a century.