Our Story

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Our Neighbors and Other Ties That Bind

In Cornell's first year, three Ohio Buckeyes--transfers from Ohio Wesleyan University--arrived via Cayuga steamer to found Phi Kappa Psi east of the Ohio and north of the Susquehanna rivers. In late July 1868, their organizer--John Andrew Rea (Ohio Alpha '66)('69)--met with Andrew Dickson White to finalize plans for the Irving Literary Society, a student society through which New York Alpha was created. Raising New York Alpha in January 1869, these men built what is the longest continuously student-run activity at the university. New York Alpha and Cornell forged a relationship shaping the lives of more than 2,000 men. The university provided a reason to exist. Our fraternity provided some of Cornell's greatest leaders, finest supporters, and most exemplary graduates. And just as important, our alumni have been strong "Housemen," making sure that quality of Cornell life for Cornell students is of the highest priority in University discourse.

During New York Alpha's earliest years, the founders met in brother Foraker and Buchwalter's rooms on Court Street (across from the County jail!), on Aurora Street, and later at the Wilgus and Finch Blocks on State and South Cayuga Streets. The chapter collapsed (1877) when renegade members founded the Chi Colony of Psi Upsilon. New York Alpha returned in 1885 with a new class of pledges, the Phoenix Riders. Building the Gargoyle House on the site of what became Collegetown's Dino's Bar and Grill and the Nine's Restaurant, New York Alpha finished the century with lawn tennis, porch parties, and its own pitching mound in the side alley. In 1895, Phi Psi moved to the Piano Box at 103 McGraw Place, home for the next 20 years.

In 1915, New York Alpha exchanged the Piano Box for the mansion of Edward G. Wyckoff in Cornell Heights, which many alumni still remember as home--312 Thurston Avenue. Old Three Twelve served as our seat for forty-eight marvelous years. By the late 1950s, Old Three Twelve was in need of costly repairs. Offered the opportunity to sell the property and gain the support of the university, the alumni association leaders joined in partnership with Cornell to construct a new house on West Campus through an agreement known as the Cornell University Residence Plan of 1966.

In the fall of 1964, the chapter moved to 525 Stewart Avenue. Hundreds of Phi Psi alumni helped make the new "Hi-Tech House" a reality through gifts to Cornell. Although 525's Brutalist design represented a dramatic change in architectural style, the structure has served us well. It has been home to over 750 New York Alphans. Thirty-five years later, the alumni came together again to expand 525 and to fortify the House for the stormy reorganization of Cornell life between 1992 and 2002. Raising $4.0 million to build the Great Hall and renovate the 1964 structure, Phi Kappa Psi broke all existing fundraising efforts for American college fraternities. In 2013, the Chapter House will surpass Old Three Twelve's record of 48 years, becoming our longest occupied seat. Named THE GABLES in honor of Washington Irving's knickerbocker streets of New Amsterdam and Fort Orange, New York Alpha’s home is "second to none" at Cornell.

Those invited to join Phi Kappa Psi at Cornell are assigned to a 'lineage.' All active lines trace their origins to the Founding. In addition, the Phoenix Riders adopted the practice of selecting a parallel intellectual line, one which extends past the Founding. Here are some of the intellectual lines of Phi Kappa Psi at Cornell:

Intellectual Lines