A fire destroyed half the building in the 1970s, and it was rebuilt. Over the years, many a resourceful engineering student has deployed do-it-yourself additions and fixes to the house.
Now the fraternity is set to replace the aging structure as part of a $1.3 million campaign.
“This is probably the 12th attempt at rebuilding the house over the years,” fundraising campaign chairman Stephen Raidbard said. “We are getting to a point now where the building is becoming so dilapidated, we don’t know how much longer it will stand. We are at the point where it’s time to start over.”
With a large group of alumni, Raidbard has helped raise $1 million toward the $2.5 million needed to construct a new center for Jewish Greek life at Georgia Tech. An architect for the project is being finalized, and construction is planned to start in the fall of 2016. Raidbard said the group hopes to raise $300,000 more before construction, with the remaining $1.2 million to be financed.
The new house will cover roughly the same footprint as the current one but will include a redesigned interior. Project highlights include a 20 percent increase in average student room size, traditional fraternity columns for the exterior, and a modern kosher kitchen and dining area. The building will house 34 AEPi members.
The location of the fraternity, directly across from Bobby Dodd Stadium on the corner of Techwood Drive and Bobby Dodd Way, is one of the most coveted plots of land on campus.
“In the fall thousands of people walk by it every Saturday,” Raidbard said. “The nature of the world today seems to be that there are more and more critics of Judaism and Israel. There’s always an Israeli flag flying at AEPi, so having the association that exists right now with this building as it looks does not exactly equate with the pride that we want our undergraduates and alumni to have as being part of a Jewish fraternity.”
The Zeta Chapter of AEPi at Georgia Tech was established in 1920 and has been at its current location since 1956. A fire in 1973 burned down half the house, which was underinsured. The resulting rebuilding effort left the Georgia Tech chapter deep in debt, and efforts to rebuild in subsequent years resulted in what Raidbard called “Band-Aid repairs.”
In addition to hosting AEPi events, the house is used by other Jewish campus organizations for events, including Hillel, Chabad and the Jewish student union. Raidbard said the new building will be much more hospitable for all Jewish organizations and the 900 Jewish students on campus.
A few Georgia Tech AEPi alumni offer their thoughts on their decaying fraternity house.
The AEPi fraternity house at Georgia Tech has housed students for six decades. Through it all, the fraternity has been a place where students have forged lasting friendships and learned valuable life lessons. Lessons like making sure to turn off the circuit breaker before cutting stray wires. …
I started at Tech in 1965. At that time we had what was referred to as the new wing and the old wing. The new wing was just a few years old, while the old wing was much older. I have to point out that really nothing has been done to the house in the 50 years since. For me, living in the house was fantastic, but it wasn’t actually the house — it was the time spent building friendships and relationships that took place in the house. I can still remember details of pledge pranks, meals, meetings, many, many hours of studying, meeting in front of the TV to watch “Mission: Impossible,” the long hours spent preparing the house for our jungle parties or psychedelic parties, and of course having our pledges conduct the nightly V-run (taking and filling brothers orders from the Varsity). It was being involved with all of these things in the house that made the memories, not actually the house itself. What I would like to see continued is for today’s Jewish students at Tech to have the opportunity to have the same type of experiences as I had. The current house’s days are numbered, and I will not be sad to see it go as long as it is replaced by a new house that can be a place where new memories will be made.
— Kerry Landis, Class of 1970
Living in a house populated by 20-year-old male engineers meant that everything was always in the process of being broken, fixed or “improved.” Since the place was so out of shape, no one cared if you ripped out the old bed to install a hammock or other equally irrational replacement. I almost killed myself once ripping out wiring without thinking to turn off the circuit breaker first; I randomly used insulated wire cutters that flew out of my hand and embedded themselves in the wall behind me. I covered the resulting hole with a poster. This freedom let us tinker and build with no limits or supervision, probably making us better engineers in the process. So I am sad that whatever new building is built will lose that, but probably overall better that the current fraternity members aren’t living in a house held together with duct tape and inappropriately gauged wiring designed and built in one night by a second-year electrical engineering major after two beers and before a midterm cram session.
— Dan Buckland, Class of 2004
Living in such small rooms seemed like a downgrade from student housing at first, but we were given so much freedom in designing our own rooms that we didn’t care. Every semester you were free to remove any bed frames and rebuild your own exactly how you liked it. In this way, rooms would become upgraded over time. The bars I installed into my closet were free to be used by the next tenant. What we lacked in stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, we made back with character.
— Elan Grossman, Class of 2013