Early History

The Colonnades: The beginning of Delta Upsilon at Iowa State University

The university early in its history adopted the dormitory system of housing its students, and between 1869 and 1902, almost the entire student body was thus accommodated. In the latter year, however, the largest of the dormitories, the Old Main, was destroyed by fire. This was not replaced, and three years later the last of the four men’s dormitories were removed to make room for other buildings. During these years the enrollment of students increased rapidly and in 1905 the policy of student dormitories for men was abandoned. These years thus marked the transition from the old dormitory to the club and fraternity life, and numerous student organizations, many of them local fraternities, were formed. The college hierarchy prior to this time did not favor secret societies and fraternities. The change in policy may also be attributed in part to President Storms, who became the head of the college at this time and who had a decidedly more favorable opinion of clubs and fraternities than did his predecessor, President Beardshear.

Old Main, Iowa State College

It was in the spring of 1905 that a group of upperclassmen banded themselves together as a club – The Colonnades. They had in mind several distinct objectives. Primarily, they wished to provide a college home for themselves, and as men soon to leave college they appreciated the values of an organization that would enable them to keep in touch with the college and its activities along with a home for them when they returned as alumni. Hardly secondary was the “desire to demonstrate that a student fraternity could combine a high standard of scholarship with prominence in various college activities.” Furthermore, they wanted to “bind themselves more closely together to work for certain college reforms, among them a change in student sentiment relative to fraternities.”

In the words of Thomas R. Truax, ‘12, “Lack of understanding among the students and the tolerance of low standards within the fraternities had resulted in an unfortunate condition of hostility between the fraternity and non-fraternity men. As a result, the society specified in its constitution that the organization would be anti-secret. This was changed later but the democratic ideals of the society have always been recognized by both the faculty and the student body.”

As in the case of college reforms, their other objectives were not hollow goals. Adherence to a strict grade requirement for membership produced a uniformly high standard of scholarship in the local society and examination of their alumni roster printed in their 1909 petition for membership in Delta Upsilon reveals that they were indeed very prominent in college activities. Also of note is when the national (now international) was investigating the local society they found that Colonnades had done much to improve the fraternity situation in Ames.

The Colonnades Club had derived their name from the large colonial house they had obtained near campus. Their badge was a blue-enameled circle with C in gold, placed on a gold patte of three arms. All had gone smoothly at first but, in time disagreements developed among the members. Part of the group wanted to petition a national fraternity; another faction wanted to remain as a local society. There proved to be no compromise. After an all night meeting early in 1908, the society split.

On March 17, 1908, the larger faction, which wanted to petition a national fraternity, was incorporated under the laws of the state of Iowa as the Colonnades. This group sued the other faction, which wanted to remain local, to stop it from using the name Colonnades. The latter group then adopted the name Colonials and later built a new colonial house on Ash. The Colonnades Club obtained a smaller club house for the following school year (1908-09). During this year plans for a new home were completed and arrangements were made for the building and leasing of a house in accordance with them. The house at 209 Hyland Ave was completed and occupied the following year. As already stated, the Colonnades wished affiliation with a national fraternity. The first mention of Delta Upsilon occurs in the minutes of the October 29, 1908 meeting of Colonnades. It can only be assumed that the parallelism of the ideals of the two organizations was the cause of the selection of Delta Upsilon. A petition was drafted and forwarded to the secretary of Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

The Colonnades petition was presented to the 1909 Convention. The delegated reacted by placing the petition on the table for a year. A result somewhat similar took place in 1910, though this time the Convention voted to have the society investigated. Accordingly the Executive Council appointed a committee to visit Ames and report their findings. Information respective to the Colonnades was placed before the 1911 Convention both by the investigating committee and Harry Tyson, delegate of the local society. After some discussion, the Convention voted to refer the petitioner to the next Convention. Although disappointed, the Colonnades left to present their claims at the Madison Convention of 1912. In the meantime two members of the Executive Council of Delta Upsilon visited Ames and rendered a report of their findings. The attitude of the Executive Council was revealed in its report to the Convention. In this the Council asked the Fraternity to consider seriously the wisdom of entering a college that had no department of liberal arts. A chapter, to be sure, had been established at the Institute of Technology (MIT), but whether Delta Upsilon wanted to depart from past practices was a matter the Council would not advise. Possibly it was this factor that led some of the chapters to oppose a motion granting a charter to Colonnades. The effect of this negative vote all but convinced the local society to look elsewhere. Under the stimulus of the alumni, however, the Colonnades were determined to try again. Accordingly, a fifth petition was drafted and presented to the 1913 Convention and this time the delegated unanimously voted to extend a charter to the Colonnades. Installation took place December 6, 1913 at Alumni Hall and 56 members were pledge to the newest colony of Delta Upsilon.

Iowa State College Campus, 1913

Even though the Colonials had split away from Colonnades, not everything has gone as well as expected. In 1910, before the charter was extended, another faction split away from the Colonnades. This group established a sizable house near the west gate of the college. This house had a large porch supported by white columns and the new factions adopted the name The Palisades Club.

In 1920, The Palisades became the Phi Chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi. During the Depression, this chapter built the house now owned by Delta Zeta. After a series of financial setbacks, Alpha Sigma Phi lost its house, found a new one, lost it, and when World War II started, Phi Chapter became inactive. The Phi Chapter was revived in 1996. In 1998, the Chapter moved in to their current home Thurston Manor, located next door to the Fraternity’s old house.

In 1911, five members of Palisades left the organization and started up a club of their own. This new club, called El Paso, after a brand of cigars became the Iowa State Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi in 1949. The Beta Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi became inactive in 2003 before returning to campus in 2014.

Although the Colonials definitely never became affiliated with a national fraternity, during 1914-15, it became evident that sentiment among the Colonials was changing. The members came to appreciate what an affiliation with a strong national fraternity would mean. Some declared ”they would sever all relations with the organization” if the contemplated action were taken, but most of the alumni approved the idea, or said they would go along with the decisions of the actives. Eventually, Beta Deuteron of Theta Delta Chi was installed at Iowa State University on December 13, 1919. Thus the group that left Colonnades because it did not want to go national did itself become a chapter of a national fraternity.

Though it may seem that the Colonnades Club was torn apart internally, it is important to remember that the same core of outstanding young men remained true to the main body of the organization up to, and after, its affiliation with Delta Upsilon. Two buildings on campus are named after original members of the Colonnades Club. These men were: H.H. Kildee, 1904, who became Dean of the Agriculture College, and Robert E. Buchannan, 1904, Bacteriologist, author and editor of the “Iowa State Journal of Science,” Dean of the Graduate College, and who for many years was an officer of the Colonnades Corporation.

In Summary, the Colonnades Club was recognized during the spring of 1905, and was affiliated with Delta Upsilon on December 6, 1913. Branches of the club became chapters of Delta Sigma Phi, Theta Delta Chi, and Alpha Sigma Phi. All four fraternities on the Iowa State University campus share their origins in the Colonnades.


“The Colonnades: The beginning of Delta Upsilon at Iowa State University” Originally written by Brother Gregory Pforr ’67; Updated by Brother Kyle Solberg ’10