Author: Janell Wiseley
I have worked at Penn, more specifically the E. Craig Sweeten Alumni House for over 10 years, and every day I’m thankful that I do not work in your typical nine to five office building. Sure, we have desks and a conference room, but we also have a fire place in the living room and comfy couches in the lounge. It’s also been a part of the Penn campus for a long time…
In 1897 two events took place at the University of Pennsylvania which would culminate 85 years later in this building.
During that year the General Alumni Society filed its papers of incorporation with the County of Philadelphia, and the Delta Tau Delta fraternity established its Delta chapter at the University of Pennsylvania in a row house at 3533 Locust Street.
In 1914, Delta Tau Delta decided to rebuild its premises and acquired the two adjacent houses, 3535 and 3537, the latter having been briefly the home of the Lenape Club. The three structures were thrown together. The firm of two young architectural alumni was retained for the new commission: Bissell, Sinkler &Tilden (E. Perot Bissell 1893 and John D.E. Sinkler 1898): the cost was $24,000. The house was occupied in May 1915.
The campus neighborhood in which the fraternity house stood was improved by the University’s post-World War II development programs. The most dramatic change came in the mid 1950’s when the College Hall Green was created with the closing of Woodland Avenue and the construction of a subway system to carry the trolley cars that once crisscrossed the campus.
Further demolition in the area left the Delta Tau Delta House with a clear view of the Green, which was dramatically landscaped in 1979 as part of the Blanche Levy Park project. In 1972 the office of the Dean of Students moved into the house when the fraternity closed its local chapter.
Nine years later the house was designated to be the new home of the alumni program. The architectural firm of Dagit, Saylor, (Peter Saylor, AR’63) was commissioned to plan the renovations and refurbishing.
All of the funds for the renovation and refurbishing were contributed by Trustees, alumni, friends, classes and associations of the University.
On June 19, 1981, the Trustees approved a resolution naming the new Center in honor of Senior Vice President for Development and University Relations, E. Craig Sweeten a member of the Class of 1937. On May 14, 1982, at the opening of the Class of 1937 45th reunion program, Mr. Sweeten raised the flag, officially opening the new Alumni Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
The alumni office had been one of the most peripatetic of the University departments. Originally located in offices in downtown Philadelphia, the General Alumni Society moved to Irvine Auditorium on campus prior to World War II. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a series of five moves that ended with the General Alumni Society and the Department of Alumni Relations in Eisenlohr Hall.
The new Sweeten Alumni House brings together under one roof the offices of Penn Alumni, the Regional Alumni Clubs, Multicultural Outreach, Classes and Reunions, the Alumni Interview Program and many other alumni programs. It also provides facilities for alumni and student meetings and a reception area for returning alumni.
Text and pictures courtesy of University Archives.