In the early winter of 1968, Delta Sigma Phi - Epsilon Iota had 103 undergraduate brothers, and we were dominating the Greek scene. It became intuitively obvious that we needed to break away from the rest of the fraternities and stake our supremacy. The best way we concluded to do that was to have the first real "house" on campus.
As a result, brother Stephen Willett was assigned by President Randy Docauer to search for possibilities. Steve met with Hoeschler Realty and our brothers looked at a number of possibilities around the campus neighborhood. We chose a house on King Street, which was a little larger than our current house, and we negociated a price. While we were attempting to come up with the financing, the word spread around campus that we were about to successfully purchase this house. Another fraternity, Alpha Kappa Lambda, found our about it and made an offer that was $25,000 more than ours. As a result, the sellers took their offer. It was later revealed they lacked the funds, and only wanted to sabotage our efforts.
We reconnitered and began looking again. We found the house that is currently our fraternity house, by accident. It was in an estate and the family wanted $40,000 for it. In the Spring of 1968, that was equivilant to about $400,000 now. Across the street was the Johns family, next to them was the Eugene Murphy family (he was the President of the Board of Regents), next to the Murphy's was the Gunderson mansion, and on the corner, was the Train mansion. Also, next to us on Main Street was the President of the Wisconsin Senate. Needless to say, none of the neighbors wanted us moving in. Their problem was that the area was zoned to allow for multiple housing. The neighbors joined forces and approached the City Council trying to pass an ordinance prohibiting fraternity and sorority houses in R2 Zoning. This set up a race, for if we could purchase the house prior to the zoning change, we would be grandfathered in.
Stephen Willett, his committee and the then new President, Ron Pfaff, worked with the Alumni Control Board and we secured a loan from Coulee State Bank. Brother Robert Wingate and his wife Leslie provided a second morgage, and The National gauranteed our loan. As a result, we put a package together that allowed us to purchase and restructure the house. The basement was totally opened up, and the bar and recreation room were set up; the basement became the lower level. The loan allowed us to refurbish a dining area, an area for the house mother, and the kitchen and main reception area. The loan allowed us to put 32 beds in the next two floors; in the smut room (now called 3rd Front) we had six beds and we put showers and toilets on the third and fourth floors. We also put fire escapes and negociated parking with the church next door.
We accomplished all of this prior to the City Council meeting, so we were successful in sneaking in under the wire. We were the only fraternity grandfathered. It should be noted that every other fraternity that was attempting to develop housing, failed. From that point to today, we are the only fraternity house on the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse campus.
There are a great number of stories to tell about the summer of 1968 when we went through the process of refurbishing the house and obtained its occupancy permit, and passed all of the required codes prior to opening in the Fall of 1968. Brother Stephen Willett personally spent the entire summer working on the project, and because he was a member of the football team he was in camp the month of August, which made it difficult to complete the process. He recieved a great deal of help from his Delta Sig brothers and from the Alumni Control Board
What we have today is a result of a great deal of effort by the founders of this fraternity.