Future of ATO house uncertain in wake of evictions

House owners ‘exploring all options’

By Alexia Tsagaris
On November 17, 2011

On Monday, Nov. 7, UNH's chapter of Alpha Tau Omega had its charter revoked by its national fraternity leaders as a result of a drug raid that took place early Sunday morning on Nov. 6. That process was accelerated after the raid and was completed that Monday afternoon.

As a result of their national unrecognizing, the members of the fraternity house, located at 66 Main St., had been asked to move out immediately. The house was considered uninhabitable, according to the police statement. It was immediately closed for fire, health, electrical, building, and life safety code violations.

According to the town of Durham's Friday updates, the town was notified by the Gamma Theta Corporation (the ATO alumni organization that holds the property) that all tenants have been evicted and the house is empty. The house has a security officer on site 24/7. The residents had been removing their possessions and on Friday, Nov. 11, had moved out entirely. The building will have the first floor and any easy access windows boarded up, along with boarded-up doors re-secured with padlocks. The leases for the parking spaces in the ATO lot have been terminated, and all vehicles have been removed.

Since the early 1990s, six fraternities at the University of New Hampshire have lost recognition for violations or issues related to drugs, alcohol, hazing, and prostitution.

The Delta Delta Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity has been at the University of New Hampshire since 1917. Before then, it was the Gamma Theta Fraternity. The house is under the name of UNH alumnus Joe Berwanger.

"We're exploring all options as to what to do with the house," Berwanger said. "At this point we've had a million people call us and I can only say one thing, that we're talking to everybody about our options."

The options could include making it into off-campus housing for students, a hotel for the town, or selling it to another corporation or fraternity. Berwanger chose not to comment any further about the building's future.

Matt Arnold, chief alumni officer of the national Alpha Tau Omega headquarters, said, "The closure of ATO happened very quickly so I'm sure the housing group is working through their options about what the next steps are for the property."

The house itself is a monumental part of the town of Durham and Main Street. Some feel demolishing it would be unethical. "It's a huge part of this town," said UNH sophomore Chris Agresti.

Before it housed a fraternity, the property was a farmhouse predating the university. Otis Allan Glazebrook at the Virginia Military Institute founded the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity during the Civil War in 1864. The fraternity has more than 250 active and inactive chapters, more than 200,000 initiates and over 7,000 active undergraduate members.

The 16th annual "Light Up Durham" lighting contest will begin in the coming weeks and judging will take place on Dec. 1. The contest is open to all Durham businesses and recognized Greek fraternities and sororities. This year, ATO will not be able to participate because of the circumstances. Decisions on what the corporation will do with the house will not be decided until a later time.

 


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