A Simple Meeting Between Two Old Friends
Acacia began with a simple meeting between two old friends in a Michigan library in 1903. This meeting between William J. Marshall and Charles A. Sink started off with Marshall lamenting the death of the Masonic Club and ended with the agreement to start a new one organized on a "fraternity basis."
This was the humble beginning of what would eventually become the Aleph Chapter of the Acacia Fraternity when the papers were officially drawn up on May 12, 1904. Officers were elected on May 11, and the first official meeting took place on May 14. After the initial meeting, more followed and the Ritual, Constitution, colors and pin was adopted in succession.
It is of interest to note the original colors of Acacia were dark blue and gold and that the original pin was never designated as a 3-4-5 right triangle. As stated in the original Constitution Acacia only approached Master Masons and then only the ones whose "characters were above reproach." Most members who fit this description were either graduate students or members of the faculty, making it hard for some early to chapters to find enough men to fill the ranks as existing members moved on.
The first "house" was no more than a room at 236 South Thayer Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan supplied by Founder Edward E. Gallup. Many of the first Masonic meetings took place here. The original constitution and ritual of Acacia were drawn up here as well.
The first house of Acacia was rented at 1103 East Huron Street in Ann Arbor in September 1904. The first Grand Conclave of Acacia would be held at this house in June 1905, only 13 months after the inception of Acacia.
In less than a year's time, the Michigan house would be moved to the heart of the "fraternity district" to 603 South State Street. This moved strengthened Acacia in the eyes of other Greek-letter fraternities, many who had eyed this property themselves, and strengthened their reputation on campus. The chapter continued to enjoy success, socially and educationally until the night of December 31, 1910. Sometime during the night a fire broke out and destroyed the house. No one was injured, but the damage was severe with nine members losing all their belongings.
Despite this loss, the chapter quickly leased a new house, vacated by another fraternity, at 1001 East Huron Street. If nothing else, the fire served to draw the brothers together and to start anew the discussion of building a new chapter house that Acacia could call its own. Acacia moved out of this temporary house and signed a two-year lease at another house on Packard Street.
The Michigan Chapter then began a vigorous approach to court alumni to help in their endeavor for a new house. Edward E. Gallup, Founder and President of the Alumni Association, was instrumental in working out the deal and by 1912, plans for the new house were well underway.
By 1913 the plans were finalized, bids were drawn up and construction began. The site of Michigan's first chapter house to be built from the ground up was back at State Street, where their house had burnt down. The following letter appears in the Acacia Journal, vol. IX February 1914:
"...We now have a home of which Acacia may be proud, and one which compares favorably with the other fraternity lodges, if not surpassing them. There are accommodations for 35 men, the suite system being used exclusively. In addition we have a dormitory on the fourth floor, which will comfortably house 25 men and serve as an overflow in time of house parties, big games, etc.
The architecture is old English. The lower half of the house is constructed of a velvet faced red brick, with the upper half stucco. The roof is covered with red asphalt shingles. The first floor is given over to parlors and the big living room together with the alumni suite and steward's suite. In the basement, which is partially submerged, are the chapter room, dining room, kitchen and servant's quarters. A fireproof vault has also been constructed which may be used for the National Archives. The second and third floors are given over to suites of a bed room and study, for two men. New furnishings have been provided throughout."
Michigan's first chapter house was built at a cost of $20,000, and was dedicated during Homecoming in March 1914. Founders Charles A. Sink and Edward E. Gallup gave dedication addresses. At the time it was described as "the best Acacia chapter house" and "one of the best fraternity houses at Ann Arbor."
The house was built just in time to celebrate Acacia's 10th Anniversary Conclave that was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thus is the evolution of the first chapter house of Acacia, from humble beginnings in a single room, to its Phoenix-like rise out of the destruction of one house, to the building of a grand one.