Alpha Tau Omega

The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house was built in 1929 on a hill overlooking University Terrace in Reno's West University neighborhood, where a number of other fraternities and sororities are located. It was the first fraternity-built house at the University of Nevada. The large red-brick, Colonial Revival house was designed by the Reno architect Lehman "Monk" Ferris, himself a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

The ATO fraternity was founded in 1865 at the Virginia Military Institute, and by the late nineteenth century it had expanded nationally. ATO's predecessor organization at the University of Nevada was Phi Delta Tau, founded in 1912. The new fraternity occupied a house at the corner of Ninth and Sierra streets.

Over the course of its first few years, Phi Delta Tau established itself as a full-fledged local fraternal organization, and set its sights on a national charter from Alpha Tau Omega. The petition for charter was accepted in 1921 and Phi Delta Tau became the Delta Iota Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega. That same year, the fraternity established the Delta Iota Building Association and purchased a two-story house on University Avenue. By 1928, ATO had grown to 150 members, far exceeding the capacity of the house. The organization decided to build a house with all of the amenities and space required to serve the active membership and to be a source of pride for the alumni members. The ATOs had an advantage in planning their new house. They had a track record of sound and determined financial management and a local architect as an alumni member. By the fall of 1929, the new fraternity house had been completed at the cost of $32,000, including furnishings.

The ATO fraternity house has served the organization and the University for nearly 75 years. Many of Nevada's prominent men in politics and business have been ATO alumni, including state Senator William Raggio, former Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer, former Nevada Governor and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, former Nevada Gaming Commission chairman Paul Bible, former U.S. Representative Jim Santini, and numerous attorneys, doctors, educators, and businessmen. The ATO House, located at 205 University Terrace, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Images

Covered in vines, 1941

Covered in vines, 1941

Lush vines covered the exterior of the ATO house in the 1940s. Image courtesy of University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Monk Ferris, 1914

Monk Ferris, 1914

The architect, Lehman A. Ferris, as a student at the University of Nevada in 1914. He was a member of the Phi Delta Tau fraternity, precursor to Alpha Tau Omega. At the university he was a Mechanical Engineering major, a member of the Glee Club, and the pitcher on the baseball team. Image courtesy of University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

A porch with a view

A porch with a view

Five unidentified students in front of the house, most likely in the 1950s. Image courtesy of University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Coat of Arms, 1980

Coat of Arms, 1980

The Alpha Tau Omega coat of arms, which features a tower above the crest, appears at the entrance to the house. Image courtesy of University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Boarded-up windows, 1985

Boarded-up windows, 1985

Solemn-faced Alpha Tau Omega members stand in front of their house, which had recently been closed by the city for repairs. Image courtesy of University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries View File Details Page

Top of the hill

Top of the hill

An outstanding example of Colonial Revival architecture, the Alpha Tau Omega house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Image courtesy Alpha Tau Omega View File Details Page

Street Address:

205 University Terrace, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Alpha Tau Omega,” Reno Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/64.

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