The Story of Big Green
356 Greenwich Street

Some of us remember the old house at 356 Greenwich Street.
In 1946, when returning veterans from World War II formed Rho Lambda Tau
(the local fraternity which became Lambda Chi Alpha), 
they were able to make a down payment on a large building at 356 Greenwich Street  for their house.
The building had been built around 1910 and had served as a rooming house for students
of the Valparaiso University School of Law, then located across the street at 355 Greenwich Street.  
The 356 Greenwich Street address is now a vacant lot and the 355 Greenwich Street
is now the home of retired Professor John Strietelmeier, VU '42.

The 356 house was four stories tall (one story below street level) and accommodated
about 40 brothers.  The sub-story included the dining room, kitchen, chapter room, TV room,
and a large shower room and faced a large open backyard adjacent the backyard
of the Kappa Iota Pi (the local fraternity that became Phi Delta Theta) house on Brown Street. 
In the late 50s, the  backyard included a shed for Nicodemus, a loudly braying burro we kept as a mascot.

The house was, of course, already an old house when it was taken over by the fraternity,
and it needed many repairs.  Fortunately, many of the World War II veterans (later joined by
Korean War veterans) in the house were studying engineering, and they kept restoring
the building with great skill.  One feature enjoyed by many female students on the campus
was the building's "Silo", a four-story tube on the south side of the house
which contained a circular slide serving as the fire escape. 
At Christmas time, sorority carolers were escorted to the the fourth floor and
sent swirling out of the house on the slide--and kissed when they came out at the bottom.

The many engineering students in the house in the 50's and 60's garnered many
Homecoming house decoration prizes, the awards usually citing the complex lighting
and mechanical inventions of the decorations.  The 355 house had a wide porch running the
full width of the house facing Greenwich Street and served as a "launching pad"
for some pretty amazing house decorations and dazzling engineering feats.
(The house was not all engineers; arts and science students helped win so many
Songfests that each year it was almost assumed the Lambda Chi's would win first,
and the real competition focused on who would win second.)

Whatever its limitations (the upper floors did bow a bit),
the 355 house served the fraternity well for nearly twenty-five years. 
It was sold to a landlord who ran it as an apartment building until the mid-70s
when it perished in a fire accidentally set by a tenant's candle.
In 1968, the same donor who gave the University funds to build Christ College
also gave funds to help build six new fraternity houses on Mound Street. 
Lambda Chi Alpha somewhat reluctantly moved into one of those cookie-cutter buildings
at the corner of Mound and Greenwich Streets, where it enjoyed its more modern
and fireproof accommodations until the fraternity was disbanded. 
Eventually, as it turned out, that new Mound Street house was razed before it had
served the fraternity even as long as the old Greenwich Street house.

Yours in Z.A.X.
Richard Lee, VU '60

I can add a little to Brother Lee’s 356 Greenwich recollections.
That silo fire escape was also the house entrance for my pledge class (Spring ‘64),
at least for a while - maybe hell week.  On at least one occasion we had to climb it up to the 4th floor
while the actives had a water hose raining water down on us.
Our pledge class also provided the labor to re-model (under direction of engineering students)
the kitchen level to make a bar room and multi purpose chapter room.
The project included leveling the floor, paneling walls, built in stereo, and drop ceiling light fixtures
for choices of white, blue or red lighting at the flick of a switch.
It contributed mightily to the party ambiance.

Our pledge class of 26(?) had but one car between us that complicated our weekend skip.
Our solution was to arrange to be locked up in jail at the police station.
Most of us slipped the active shadows and congregated at the police station.
The last pledge to make it was running up the street pursued by a pick up truck
of actives and couple active car loads trying to grab him and foil our plan.
A huge wrestling match between pledges and actives ensued outside the police station.
No punches were thrown, but the brawling was very vigorous (and probably puzzling to curious onlookers)
until we succeeded in getting all of our class into the station and locked up.

A later pledge class, Fall of ‘65 I think, pulled the best stunt I’ve heard of.
During a bitterly cold winter week they took all the doors off the house in the middle of the night
and shut down the furnace. Most everything in the house that didn’t contain alcohol froze -
toothpaste, hair gel, etc. We tacked blankets over the doorways and required the pledges
to schedule a twenty-four hour guard at every door until the doors were returned.
The active engineers couldn’t figure out the furnace problem, and neither could the repairman
ultimately called. About four days later the doors were returned and the furnace “repaired.”
One of the old style electrical fuses had been removed and rigged to “look good”
even though the circuit was severed. Although the fuse was examined more than once,
the engineered defect was not discovered.


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