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1936 - 1937

The Beta Sigma Chapter of

Pi Kappa Alpha

Carnegie Mellon University

5010 Morewood Place

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Chapter History Report

Available (pending entry).

The Big Move

On the day after Christmas the previous year in 1935 our chapter house at 1445 Wightman Street was destroyed by fire. The chapter was fortunate to be able to temporarily occupy the old Sigma Nu house at 4921 Forbes Street. This was to be a temporary situation while the house at 1445 Wightman Street was rebuilt. The brothers in returning from the summer had fully expected to be moving back into a restored home at the original location but it was not to be. They had to remain in the same temporary quarters.

There seemed to be no new place in sight, but the boys did not cease their efforts. In the fall initiation 14 of the pledges were taken into the bonds. The spirit within the chapter was fine.

Things began to break. Negotiations were completed for the purchase of a new house. Beta Sigma had acquired one of the finest, largest, and most suitable houses of any of the Carnegie Tech fraternities. Located at 5010 Morewood Place the new home was in an ideal spot, 75 yards from the main entrance of the campus and no more than 200 yards from any of the college buildings. The house was within a stone's throw of five of Carnegie's 11 fraternities. The mansion stood on the near corner of Morewood Place and Morewood Avenue. Just across Morewood Place from Sigma Nu in their new mansion and across Morewood Avenue from Morewood Gardens.

Benjamin Thaw was the former owner of the property. The house was built in the very early first decade of the 1900's at a significant cost of $135,000 but acquired by the chapter at a very reasonable price. It was a three-and-one-half story building, of grey brick, erected at a time when houses were built to stay up; the exterior walls were two feet thick. There were 20 rooms and eight baths, affording accommodations for a large chapter, and a six-car garage in the basement.

On the first floor was the entrance hall, two lounging rooms, dining room, butler's pantry, kitchen, a servant's sitting room and a lavatory. All of the rooms were extra large. The walls of the first floor rooms were covered with tapestry, as were the walls of the hallways throughout the house. The second floor had six study rooms and five baths. The third floor had three study rooms, two sleeping rooms, two baths, a servant's suite of three rooms, and a game room. The game room took up the whole front part of the third floor and measured 50 by 20 feet. Its walls were covered with deep red tapestry. It was furnished with a pool table, a ping-pong table, a piano, a radio and several lounging chairs and sofas. Chapter meetings were held in this room.

Once the scene of some of the city's most glittering social affairs, the Thaw home was lavishly furnished with eighteenth-century French and English furniture, Goebin tapestries, priceless rugs and sculptures that were museum pieces. Most of the treasures had been distributed to the family following Benjamin Thaw's death in 1933. The walls of the drawing room were still covered with a deep green tapestry and there hung a lone portrait of Andrew Carnegie.

The stone and marble mantles, centuries old, the tapestry covered walls and rich dark woodwork was all that remained. This suggesting the elegant, more leisurely days when Pittsburgh's first families lived and entertained in huge dwellings, modeled after European palaces.

This new home was obtained just before the rushing season. At noon Saturday, November 26th, the furniture for the first floor had not been delivered, and rushing was to start on Monday. Nevertheless, the house was in shape when Monday came around. After two weeks of preparing the house for rushing the boys were not in any too good physical condition, but rush they did, and in a most convincing manner. On the Sunday set for pledging Beta Sigma had 25 neophytes and later a total of 29 - the largest pledge group in the history of Carnegie Tech fraternities.

By February Beta Sigma had 37 members and 32 pledges, making it the largest fraternity in the campus. Thirty-two of the brothers and pledges lived in the house. The chapter lead all the fraternities on the campus in activities and ranked fourth in scholarship.

This was a great day in the history of the Beta Sigma chapter. It remains important to acknowledge the invaluable work done by a few of the alumni and especially Brother Bartlett F. Carley (Class of '28). After the fire Brother Carley took the new house problem upon his shoulders, and spared no time or effort in trying to get a place for the chapter to live in. His efforts, almost alone, were responsible for getting the new house. His services to the chapter, both before and since the chapter moved, have been invaluable.

Regarding This New Location

Perhaps it is worthwhile to cover a little background regarding this new mansion and the location which it occupies. Even in the present day, far in the future past the turn of the century, our chapter resides in this same location although not in the same accommodations. We work even now to insure that we remain so situated for years to come.

In the mid-1700s the area known today as Point State Park downtown was extremely valuable. On this point the British and French erected the fortifications that protected their claims to the early West and the Indian trade. Only Fort Pitt, Fort Ligonier, and a handful of other outposts on the frontier successfully withstood the Native American attacks during the conflict know as Pontiac's War (c1763). Colonel Henry Boquet led British troops in a victory over Native American forces in the Battle of Bushy Run just 25 miles to our East, thereby lifting the siege on Fort Pitt. The supply road connecting these forts and outposts became known as Forbes Road. This passes through the area now occupied by the campus.

One hundred years later in the 1870's much of the area was partitioned into homesteads and farms. The Western edge of a 40+ acre farm owned by Alex Chambers bordered a smaller homestead owned by the Force family. The property boundary roughly follows the angled path of Morewood Avenue today although no road was present at that time. It is on this Western edge of the property that our Chapter House will one day be located. Pi Kappa Alpha, however, had just come into existence being founded in 1868. The Chambers' farm included property on the other side of Forbes Road as well.

By 1886, Alex Chambers had sold-off one half of the farm to a gentleman named Ferguson who had an interest in developing the property. Roads were cut from Fifth Avenue halfway into the property at both the East and Western edges of the parcel that Ferguson obtained. One of these would eventually become an extension of Morewood Avenue which had existed on the other side of Fifth Avenue. The new road came up to what is now the bend in Morewood just before Sigma Nu and Morewood Gardens.

Ferguson subdivided the property and by 1900 the Morewood Avenue extension would be cut through to Forbes Road. In addition a small road called Morewood Place would be cut extending to the East just some 300+ feet before Forbes. The Southeastern corner of Morewood Avenue and Morewood Place would be sold to Benjamin Thaw. The mansion was constructed sometime around 1900. Some reports are that it was built a couple of years into the century. The City Register, however, records an address at the site a couple of years prior in the late 1890's. By 1904 the Thaw Mansion was clearly depicted along with other homes on segments of property in the area. The Thaw family enjoyed their home for some 30 years.

It was roughly this same time frame in 1900 that Carnegie Technical Schools was founded. The school began to acquire property on the far side of Forbes. The population of students grew and eventually interest in fraternity life also grew.

Just 20 or so years later in 1921, the Beta Sigma Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was chartered and took up residence on Baum Boulevard and later on Wightman Street. Once Benjamin Thaw had passed away in 1933 the family held onto the mansion for a couple of years and then had to part with it. It was a that point that our astute alumni negotiated its purchase.

Who Was Benjamin Thaw Anyway?

While Mr. Thaw had little to do with Pi Kappa Alpha and, in fact, might not have been aware of the fraternity at all, he did build a wonderful mansion. In this mansion he included a number of marvelous Italian marble fireplaces and other amazing pieces of art. Upon Benjamin's death his family divided up many of these items but some were sold with the mansion. Today, those fire places are present on the second chapter house building on the property and are enjoyed by our members. What history then did these works of art witness prior to the halls of Pi Kappa Alpha?

Benjamin Thaw belonged to one of Pittsburgh's great steel families. He was a son of William Thaw and Eliza Burd Blair Thaw. There was great wealth in the family and after public school Ben attended WUP (Pitt) and later studied at Yale. In 1886 he married Elma E. Dows and had five children who enjoyed growing up in the mansion. Note that the property in the city records show the owner as being "E. D. Thaw". The property was indeed placed in his wife's name as was the custom at the time for many businessmen. Actually, Mr. Thaw fancied himself as a "capitalist" as that is how he was listed in the 1930 census.

The mansion was constructed for $135,000 in c1900 with some $15,000 alone going into just one of the carved marble fireplaces imported from Italy and dated from the year 1500. This work of art resides today in the finished basement of our chapter house. When William Thaw died, Ben was left as executor of his father's fortune.

On June 25, 1906 a group of wealthy travelers gathered on the roof of the old Madison Square Garden in New York City to watch the premiere of a mediocre musical review. From beneath an overcoat one man produced a pistol and fired three close range shots directly into the face of another. Harry Thaw had just murdered architect Stanford White1 in a building that White had designed. This was done in jealous rage over an affair between White and Harry's wife, Evelyn Nesbit.

The case became the century's biggest and has been rivaled only in recent times by the O. J. Simpson trial.

Benjamin Thaw was Harry Thaw's half-brother and was quite influential in the family. He no doubt had to be intimately involved with the family in these proceedings. Harry Thaw eventually avoided conviction, much like O. J. Simpson. It isn't at all far fetched to assume that at some point both Harry Thaw and his gorgeous wife Evelyn had visited the mansion, perhaps spent nights there, and even partied (as we do) in front of the Italian fireplaces.

These marble fireplaces are indeed linked to the past and perhaps of even greater value because of it. They are cherished by the Pike brothers and in the case of the large carved mantle, one can only wonder where it had been, and what it lay witness to, for the 400 years prior to the Thaw mansion.


    1. There is a lot of information on-line on the Internet regarding this historical murder. It is of great interest to many even today. A number of movies have depicted these events. Most notable is the movie Ragtime.


Harry Thaw (1906)

Roll No. 192 Mr. Ralph Wayne Atwell (Wayne)

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Pushmobile: Pusher

A.S.M.E., S.A.M.E., Secretary - Carnegie Management Engineering Association, Puppet, R.O.T.C.; Track

Roll No. 193

Col. Walter L. Coss USAF Ret.

Initiated: February 7, 1937

A.I.E.E., Amateur Transmitters Club; Swimming

Roll No. 194

Mr. Henry Ross Strohecker

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Pi Tau Sigma, Honor Roll

Roll No. 195 Mr. Carl Theodore Haller Jr.

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Tau Beta Pi, Dragons, Delta Skull, Scimitar

Student Council, R.O.T.C., College of Engineering Sophomore Class President, Golf

Roll No. 196 Mr. John W. Logan Jr.

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Legacy (Brother): William G. Logan Sr.

Legacy (Nephew): William G. Logan Jr.

R.O.T.C., Manager - Rifle Team

Roll No. 197

Mr. Arthur M. McGuire

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Scimitar


Roll No. 198 Mr. Walter B. Herrod

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Christian Association; R.O.T.C.

Roll No. 199 Mr. Paul S. Lewis

Initiated: February 7, 1937

"Tartan" Reporter

Roll No. 200

Lt. Col. William S. Bean III

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu, Scabbard and Blade, Honor Roll

Student Council, R.O.T.C.

Roll No. 201 Mr. John K. Shear

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Dragon, Pi Delta Epsilon, Honor Roll, Tau Sigma Delta, Phi Kappa Phi

"Tartan" Junior Editor 1935-36; Senior Editor (1936-37); Student Council; College of Fine Arts Senate President

Roll No. 202 Mr. Robert L. Long Jr.

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Amateur Transmitters Club; R.O.T.C.

Roll No. 203

Mr. Harry W. Fryer

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Honoraries: Dragon

Football, Boxing, Student Council, Senior Class President

Roll No. 204 Mr. William L. Hulslander

Initiated: February 7, 1937

R.O.T.C.; Swimming

Roll No. 205 Mr. Charles E. Loughney Jr.

Initiated: February 7, 1937

Pushmobile: Assistant

Honoraries: Scabbard and Blade, Honor Roll

A.S.M.E., S.A.M.E., Rifle Team, R.O.T.C.

Roll No. 206 Mr. James C. Armstrong Jr.

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 207 Mr. Walter B. Ellis (Walt)

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 208 Capt. George L. Fieldson

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Honoraries: Scabbard and Blade

Kiltie Band, I. A. S., S. A. M. E.

Roll No. 209 Col. J. Riley Fowler (Jay)

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 210

Mr. Donald G. Havlish

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Positions/Offices: SC

Roll No. 211 Mr. Albert Manuel Hele

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 212

Mr. Russell E. McLean

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Honoraries: Scimitar, Delta Skull

Advertising Manager - Scottie, Business Manager - Scottie, Manager - Varsity Swimming, Student Council

Roll No. 213

Mr. Richard C. Olson

Initiated: April 11, 1937

A.I.Ch.E., A.S.M.E., Kiltie Band, Tartan, Scottie

Roll No. 214 Mr. Charles F. Patterson

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 215 Mr. Richard G. Patterson

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Legacy (Brother): Bob Patterson


Roll No. 216

Mr. Robert Cheney Patterson (Bob)

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Honoraries: Dragon

Soccer, Student Council

Legacy (Brother): Richard Patterson

Roll No. 217

Col. Glenn F. Perry

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 218

Mr. William H. Redden (Billy)

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 219

Mr. Roy L. Smith

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Honoraries: Pi Tau Sigma

President - A.S.H.V.E., Treasurer - Freshman Class, Freshman Swimming

Roll No. 220

Mr. John A. Stankey

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Track, Cross Country, Tartan, Scottie


Roll No. 221

Mr. William H. Statler (Bill)

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Positions/Offices: IMC

Honoraries: Dragon, Scimitar

Track, Student Council, Editor - Scottie, President - Sophomore Class

Roll No. 222 Mr. Richard J. Sweeney

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Roll No. 223 Mr. James S. Wolff

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Positions/Offices: ThC

A.I.Ch.E., S.A.M.E, Kiltie Band, Track, Gamma-Cabinet, Scottie

Roll No. 224 Mr. Robert Edward Wood III

Initiated: April 11, 1937

Honoraries: Delta Skull