The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College is located at historic 157 North Washington St, which once housed General and future President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his family during the summer months of 1918 while Eisenhower served at nearby Camp Colt. Although most notably known as the former residence of the Eisenhowers, the house has also played a key role in the history of Gettysburg College as the home of Alpha Upsilon, the Gettysburg Chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity from 1904-1955. From its dedication as one of Gettysburg's first fraternity chapter houses to ATO's move to fraternity row in 1955 the house served as a home base for ATO as it expanded its membership and helped create a distinctive fraternity culture at Gettysburg College.
ATO was the sixth fraternity at Gettysburg College chartered in 1882, and Alpha Upsilon was one of the first northern charters of the national ATO fraternity. Mostly southern-based, Alpha Upsilon served as a symbol of the reuniting of north and south located at one of the bloodiest and most tragic of all Civil War locations. Although first encountering resistance from the College, ATO and four other fraternities on campus received permission to construct chapter houses complete with meeting rooms for social gatherings and dormitory-style rooms for members to reside in. ATO purchased land and constructed their chapter house at 157 North Washington St. in 1904 and following a devastating fire in 1914 completed the current structure on April 15, 1915.
In the summer of 1918, ATO's chapter house served as residence for Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower while Dwight was stationed at Camp Colt. Provided by Gettysburg College, the house attracted the Eisenhowers who admired its elegance and comfort. Following the Eisenhower's short stay, 157 North Washington Street continued to serve as the chapter house for ATO as it expanded in notoriety and membership across campus. The house was the scene of numerous social events and dances as fraternity life grew to dominate the social scene at Gettysburg College.
However, in the 1950s ATO began to outgrow the small confines of 157 North Washington St. and after considering expansion at the current chapter house, decided to move to a new house on fraternity row. Following ATO's departure, 157 North Washington St. would house the College's Alumni, Development and Public Relations until 1962 when it was sold to the Gettysburg Youth Center to use for children's programs. The building was then sold to Mr. Sebastian Hafer, who would reside there with his wife until 1996 when the building was bought by Gettysburg College. The building now is the home of the Eisenhower Institute and also houses students on the second floor.
Information compiled from "IKE in ATO: A Gettysburg Legacy" by Brett Jackson, Class of '08, Historical Studies No. 1, Gettysburg College May 2007.
For more information about Alpha Upsilon, the Gettysburg Chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega, please visit their website.