It’s not very often that one gets a chance to buy a genuine, big piece of Georgetown history — and a fraternity house, no less, owned by Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Fraternity.
“It’s time to sell,” said Terrence Boyle, general secretary of Delta Phi Epsilon, who will retire next year. “It’s the end of an era.”
Built circa 1870 by William Seymour, a haberdasher and an organizer of the Georgetown Gas Light Company, the building at 3401 Prospect St. NW joined two historic homes already there: Halcyon House, at 3400 Prospect, built by Benjamin Stoddert in 1787, and Quality Hill, at 3425 Prospect, built by John Thomson Mason in 1798. Today, Halcyon House is the home of innovation-focused nonprofit Halcyon and Quality Hill is the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation’s D.C. outpost.
The house, at the corner of Prospect and 34th Streets, was purchased by Delta Phi Epsilon in 1940. Recalled the fraternity: “In October 1940, Delta Phi Epsilon’s founding chapter again moved, this time not to another rented property, but to a house actually owned by Delta Phi Epsilon. The momentous step was made possible when the Alpha alumni, for $26,500, purchased from the recently widowed Robert P. Woolley his family’s home at 3401 Prospect Avenue, NW. The title to the property was given to ‘Delta Phi Epsilon,’ the corporation that the fraternity’s founding brothers had created in April 1920. (Woolley’s daughter had been married in 1936 in the great room of this house, and soon after she gave birth to Charles Robb, later to become a son-in-law to President Lyndon B. Johnson and, later still, a senator from Virginia.)”
The frat house would go on to serve generations of DPE brothers and Georgetown University students as the Alpha chapter. The fraternity has no official connection to the university. DPE is “for men interested in international affairs or in careers in the foreign service or U.S. government.” A few years ago, fraternity members stopped residing in the house, which can hold up to 15 individuals. It serves more as a boarding house these days. Many Georgetown alumni and a few neighbors may recall visiting the frat house for parties or receptions. Today, the place is in rough shape, a shadow of its former self.
Delta Phi Epsilon is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2020. Some DPE alumni are disappointed to learn that their house is for sale. One told The Georgetowner: “That house ties us together. It would be shame for it to be sold.” A few would like to make it a showcase for the frat.
Still, the house has been on the market for almost a month. Listed by Nancy Itteilag of Washington Fine Properties, the building boasts “7 Beds – 4 Baths – 0 Half Baths – 6,017 Sq. Ft. – 0.07 Acres.”
Thanks to recommendations from three GU professors, Itteilag, a Georgetown grad, was selected by Boyle to be the real estate agent in charge of the sale. She sees the frat house as “an incredible development opportunity.”
Here’s what the listing says: “As-is sale. Great opportunity to renovate, restore, or develop. First time on the market in over 80 years! This was formerly the Delta Phi Epsilon House for the Foreign Service School at Georgetown University … Seller reserves the right to reject any and all offers. Floor plans are approximate. For contracts legal entity is Delta Phi Epsilon, LLC as seller. Built in 1869 — D.C. tax record is incorrect.”
Who will claim this sunny perch at 34th and Prospect and bring it back to life? More to come on this story, as well as a chat with DPE alums.