The Massachusetts Alpha Chapter of Sigma Phi was the second fraternity chapter to reach Williams College in the 19th century. It first met in the rooms of a private house in Williamstown, but in 1857 the society built a house on Spring Street. According to Sig history, this structure was the first chapter house erected by an American Greek letter fraternity for use solely by one of its chapters. Part of this house still stands, providing the north face of the Walden building, home of Images Cinema. In 1871, the fraternity moved its headquarters to a house on the site of the current Morgan Hall. When Morgan Hall was constructed in 1882, the house was moved across the street to the site where the Freshman Quad buildings now stand.
The ensuing years brought Sigma Phi greater respect and increased membership, allowing them, in 1884, to build the largest of their four houses at Williams. The exterior consisted of red brick trimmed with red terra cotta, a red tile roof, and three piazzas, while the interior included rooms for seven undergraduates, large studies, a club room, a dining room, and a lodge room. Only nine years after it was built, the house burned to the ground. The Sig historian, Louis H. Palmer, recounts the devastating fire in his “History of the Alpha of Mass.” Shortly thereafter, Marcus T. Reynolds (Williams Class of 1890) devised his plan for Sigma Phi’s most famous house at Williams.
By Matthew Jeffers (Williams Class of 1998)
“Weekly Editorial.” The Williams Weekly . 12 January 1893.
Palmer, Louis H. “History of the Alpha of Mass.” May 1934. Sigma Phi papers. Williams College Archives.
Sigma Phi places file. Photograph Collection. Williams College Archives.