ITHACA, N.Y. — Were it not for the chain-link fence, passersby might not even know it’s gone.

What once stood behind that fence was an old though decaying house. Formally, it was known by its address, 722 University Avenue. But for some Cornell alumni, it was their fraternity house, or sorority house, or just the proverbial home away from home.

The house was about 5,738 square feet and built around 1900, according to university records. County records calculate the building at a slightly smaller size of 5,043 square feet, and indicate that 722 University Avenue had been owned by Cornell since at least the 1960s. Stylistically, it was an eclectic hodge-podge – shingle-style overall, but with Colonial Revival and medieval motifs; the unusual arcing roof over the porch and third floor window is called a “serliana” roof.

The building had a long and winding history during its nearly 120 years of existence. It shows up on a 1928 map of the university; from 1949 to 1985, it was home to the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi, which moved to Cornell’s North Campus. Following them, another fraternity, Alpha Chi Rho, occupied the house, and then a sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, which closed in 1996. Most recently, in the 2000s it was home to a Latino-based fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Lambda. However, the house had been vacant for almost a decade.

In some cases, the Cornell-owned Greek houses, once vacated, are renovated into small group student housing open to upperclassmen of any stripe. For example, 112 Edgemoor Lane and 122 McGraw Place. According to Cornell Senior Director of Real Estate Jeremy Thomas, “[t]he cost of rehabilitating this site {722 University Avenue} was prohibitively high. Adaptive reuse of a site is always carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.”

Unlike most of Cornell’s North Campus fraternities, which fall into the city’s Cornell Heights Historic District and require city review before demolition can commence, most of the homes and properties near Cornell’s West Campus are not considered historic and are not protected.

An online search indicates that the request for demolition bids were issued in October. “There are currently no long-term plans for redevelopment of the site, which will be graded and seeded,” said Thomas.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.