This FAQ was originally compiled by Jason J. Cho '98 O-1512 in February 1997. Please send elucidations, corrections, or additions to the Heritage Committee.
- How did the tradition of naming rooms begin?
- Who names the rooms?
- What are the officially designated common rooms?
- How are the rooms on the second floor arranged?
- What are the names of the second floor private rooms?
- How are the rooms on the third floor arranged?
- What are the names of the third floor private rooms?
- What colloquialisms are used for other areas?
How did the tradition of naming rooms begin?
Before the advent of antibiotics, tuberculosis was common among universitarians. When one of the original members of Mug and Jug, Frederick K. “Freaky” Pearce '08, succumbed to consumption in 1924, the other Mug and Jug members dedicated the Pearce Memorial Library in his honor. However, they did not establish a physical memorial and the usage was never popularized, and by the Second World War the name was used only by the elder alumni. So it must be said that the practice of naming common rooms began in earnest in 1963 with the [Milburn A.] Hollengreen [Jr.] Room.
The first recorded reference to a private room by name is in the chapter minutes of 6 February 1956, when “Brother Carson announced… that all brothers are responsible for the material on the rushing board in the South 40.” It is not certain whether the reference is to that wing of the house or to the room now known as The Forty, but in either case it was the exception. Most brothers slept in the third floor dorm (“dormer”) and were assigned a “study room”; no other nicknames endured until the 1970s and The Zoo, and as late as the early 1990s room pick lists referred simply to “Bennett’s old room” or “corner room.”
The general naming of private rooms did not begin until the 1980s, by which time dormer life had completed a sharp decline. Since brothers might spend two or three years living in a room, they began to build increasingly impressive lofts, bars, and other amenities, each generation trying to outdo the last. The rooms became an expression of its inhabitants’ personalities, then took on personalities themselves. By the mid-1990s, when the dorm system was officially discontinued due to changes in city code, room names were the most common way to reference living quarters, and most of the remaining unnamed rooms were given one.
Who names the rooms?
Officially designated common rooms are named by joint agreement and dedication by the alumni board of directors and by the undergraduate chapter.
There is no official procedure for assigning nicknames to private rooms. Although it is presently accepted that such action would require a vote of the actives, accepted usage is the most important factor, and a sense of tradition has discouraged changes in names.
What are the officially designated common rooms?
Ronald K. Bartholomay Library
The house library was dedicated to Ronald K. Bartholomay, who was killed in an automobile accident, in 1972. A plaque to his memory hangs in the trophy case above the charter.
Milburn A. Hollengreen, Jr. Room
The west sitting room on the first floor was dedicated in memory of the wild and much-beloved Milburn A. Hollengreen, Jr. Mil was killed in an automobile accident shortly after flying a group of brothers to Grand Bahama Island for Spring Break in 1963. His father, Bro. Milburn Hollengreen, Sr. donated funds to aid in the room’s refurbishment.
Claude E. Mitchell Room
The east sitting room, at the purchase of the house the Music Room and occasionally the Smoking Room, was dedicated to Claude E. Mitchell '12 O-1, the first Lambda Chi Alpha to be initiated at Cornell and among our most active alumni until his death in 1966. Brother Mitchell's widow contributed to the plaque which now hangs on the west wall (moved from its spot across the wall during the 1997 renovation).
The refectory, usually called simply "the dining room," was built in 1958 as an addition to the house. Being located on the same level as and adjacent to the kitchen greatly simplified the serving of meals, which previously had to be sent up by dumbwaiter.
The chapter erected a plaque in the dining room to recognize Ernst J.C. Fischer '10 O-34 at Homecoming in 1977, in a ceremony presided over by former Grand High Alpha “Doc” Dirghalli. The plaque recognized Fischer's unparalleled service to Lambda Chi Alpha as a 14-year member of the Grand High Zeta and 64-year paid and volunteer worker for the General Fraternity.
How are the rooms on the second floor arranged?
Rooms are numbered starting in the southwestern corner of the main corridor and proceeding clockwise. Thus the Zoo is room 20 and the Forty is room 29.
What are the names of the second floor private rooms?
Room 20, “The Zoo” became such in 1980–1981 when inhabited by Mark “Mef” Fernau '82 O-1262, Mike Lennon '81 O-1245, and Stephen “Keegs” Keegan '81 O-1227. They cut the door in half, providing for a cage-like feel. Dutch door aside, it also had a reputation for raucous room parties. Previously, it had been the habitation of many a president, and was often referred to as the Executive Suite.
The Bada-bing (né Paus M)
The Bada-bing was named in 2005 in honor of resident Steven DiNardo '04, referencing his Italian-American extraction.
Previously it was known as Paus M, after a small metal plaque reading “PAUS M” hung above the door. Brother Paul S. Komor '82 O-1265 had made the plaque in metal shop in the days of his youth; it was a nickname of his of uncertain origin. Whether the plaque is “properly” hung upside-down or not is disputed, but it was lost around 2002, and so the question is moot.
No-Name (The Room With No Name)
Amidst the room naming rush of the late 1980s and early 1990s, room pick sheets labeled this room "No Name" and room 27 as "No Name II." The name of Room With No Name stuck, though, one form of protest to the room-naming rush of the era.
The Mess owes its name more or less entirely to the state in which its inhabitant left it after the 1993–1994 school year.
The Saloon took its name from the dim lighting and shelves that formerly ran along each of the walls, filled with every imaginable form of (mostly empty) liquor bottle. The name has been retained even though the room has been radically redesigned in order to come into compliance with fire codes.
The Ritz originally held one of the most impressive lofts in the house, one which occupied two-thirds of its floor space. The beds were accessed from ladders behind a facade with two “windows,” on the lower level was a bar. This was thought to give the room the feel of an old hotel. The loft was removed in 1994 to come into compliance with fire codes. It acquired a second meaning in 1995 with a resident's investment of considerable personal funds into its improvement.
Unlike most room names, which were based on their inside arrangement or occupants, The Bank got its original name from required repairs to its exterior. A brother trying to break into the room to rouse its occupant destroyed the door jamb, and the hurried repairs necessary for fire inspection included a liberal application of steel wire and staples. This was felt to give it the doorway the appearance of a vault or jailhouse. In the end, the double entendre with sperm bank proved irresistible, given the proclivities of some of its residents.
By the early 2000s, many names had been proposed for room 27, and none stuck; it was labeled "No Name II" on room pick sheets. Proposals had included “The Playground” and “Dead End”— on account of those signs being readily available— and “The Penthouse,” in honor of a magazine, but none of these caught on. Ultimately, it became The Toolshed on account of being the home of brother who, by his own admission, could be something of tool.
The original sense of “Home on the Range,” after an herb garden, was lost when it ceased that role in the 1990s. Around the same time, however, a broken radiator often sent temperatures into the stovetop range during winter. On its ceiling was the psychedelic mural “The Ear That Speaks” painted by Tom Boorady '92 O-1461 and Paul “Skip” Dailey '90 O-1414, which persisted until 2007, long after the chapter’s shift from hippie to preppie had been completed.
In surveying, a “forty” is 40 acres, or a fourth of a fourth of a “section” or square mile. In the house meeting minutes of 6 February 1956, the High Delta makes a reference to “material on the rushing board in the South 40” which may have referred to the southeast corridor on the second floor, but the room at the end of the hall was also known as the South 40, with the “South” falling out of use over the decades. The name does not appear to be linked to demolishing forty ryes or to its inhabitants’ patronage of the North Forty, a now defunct townie tavern.
How are the rooms on the third floor arranged?
Rooms are numbered starting in the southwestern corner of the main corridor and proceeding clockwise, the Stoop being room 30 and the Dormer room 37.
What are the names of the third floor private rooms?
The Stoop was named in opposition to the Steppe across the hallway, around 1992. It helped, of course, to stoop before getting into or out of the awkwardly lofted beds.
The Pit most likely earned its appellation from the state of disarray it was left in by various inhabitants, particularly since it is the largest room on the third floor. It had taken this name at least as early as fall semester 1979.
The Shlop (né The Steppe)
The Shlop was named in protest to the decision to rename Paus-M, and is intertwined with the historic 3rd floor-2nd floor rivalry. Fed up with, as they put it, the “cult of personality” of Stephen DiNardo ’04 “and his 2nd floor minions,” third floor stalwarts Christopher Corona ’05 and Jason Milligan ’05 spearheaded an initiative to rename this Steppe after the least active brother in all of Omicron Zeta: Ben Rosen ’05, commonly referred to as Shlopo. In typical fashion, Shlopo did not even show up for the house meeting where the motion was debate, but it still passed, with one dissenting vote from House Amateur Linguist Chad Rekasie ’05, who believed the name would be more aptly spelled “Schlop.”
The previous name, The Steppe, was derived from its most prominent feature: a room-sized platform which served as a waterbed frame, requiring one to literally take a step up upon entering the room. A smaller physical step remained when which was emphasized when Art Holmes '95 O-1485 and Adam Borah '94 O-1477 installed a hardwood floor the 1992–1993 school year. Both the floor and step in question were removed by the Steppe’s subsequent inhabitant, Jeff “Door” Goldberg '94 O-1483, but the name was retained for several more generations.
Although one of the smaller rooms in the house, The Niche was as recently as 1991-1992 a triple. This was made possible by means of a high and complex loft which held three single beds, the area below being carved into a closet, three desks, a bookshelf, and a bar. Each occupant had his own niche, though this left the navigable floor space of the room to a mere sliver. The loft was removed over the summer of 1995 to come into compliance with fire codes, and the room has since been a single. Alterations to the sign on the door led the room to become known as The Sniche by the mid-2000s.
Our chapter house until 1920 was 614 Stewart Avenue. When that building was under renovation in 1992, Stuart F. “Tripp” Miniman '95 O-1487 retrieved the discarded 614 sign and nailed it to the door of the third floor room which now bears its name. In spring of 1997 its then-inhabitant, Douglas J. West '98 O-1534, transferred the sign to the bar and attached a new one of his own design.
The Cave suffers from being on northeastern corner of the house; what little light it receives is filtered further through its small third floor window. Furthermore, the main section of the room is separated from the rest of the floor by a hallway. Notably, Bennett H. Myers '94 O-1468 and Andrew I. Rosenberg '93 O-1470 built a loft against the eastern wall. Writes Bro. Rosenberg, “the room survived fire-coding, the room contained a loft positioned at the eastern end wall of the room. Bennett, who slept on a mattress on the floor below the loft, placed a sheet to obscure any ongoings below the loft, and his bed-area was designated as the ‘Cave.’ True to the description in the webpage, the long hallway leading to the main room resembled the entrance to a cavern, and thus the room’s name followed suit.”
The Lounge was formerly home to the vintage entertainment center of the third floor, complete with analog cable box, Betamax VCR, and 15-inch television. Moreover, it was a favorite room for brothers to smoke in.
What colloquialisms are used for other areas?
The Dormer (weight room)
The capacious— and unheated Dorm on the third floor originally held bunks where the entire brotherhood was housed; the other upstairs rooms were used for studying only. The dorm system gradually fell out of favor starting in the 1970s, as brothers turned their study rooms into bedrooms. As it emptied of residents, it became guest and overflow accommodation, and in the last year it was available as a a room pick, 1993–1994, it was also serving as furniture storage, party space, and free lodging for recent alumni sticking around Ithaca. The dorm by that time was firmly known as the dormer, for reasons unclear; it may have been a corruption of dorm room, or brothers may have conflated the room with the name of the architectural feature that allowed it so many windows.
In 1994, the City of Ithaca declared, without irony, that the room which once house 80 brothers was not fit for human habitation, as it was an unheated space. To comply with the Certificate of Occupancy, and to make better use of what was becoming a garbage magnet and squirrel graveyard, the actives converted it into a gym in the fall of 1995. The terms dormer and weight room were used interchangeably until around 2000, when it was dubbed the Dormer Gym.
The Tappe Roome (tap room, bar)
For a considerable period, the rathskeller was referred to as the tap room, alternatively the “Tappe Roome.” The origin is simple enough, for actual beer taps existed until banned in the mid-1990s due to changes in the alcoholic beverage code. It is unclear when the term fell into disuse.
The Kegerator Room (coal room)
This room, which originally held coal bins for the furnace, is located directly east of the bar, and was used as a storage area for alcoholic beverages until changes in campus and fraternal alcohol policies ended it in the mid-1990s. It is now the control room for the house fire sprinkler system.
The Steward Closet
The house’s food is stored in the pantry and refrigerators in the Steward Closet. It became the Stewart Closet somewhat accidentally; a new refrigerator delivered would not fit through any other doors in the house; the room was formerly the cook's room (the last cook to live there was Ray Melton).
The Tool Room (Sigma Closet) and Social Closet (Epsilon Closet)
Adjacent to the bar was the Epsilon Closet, which stored decorations, stereo equipment, and other supplies for the social chairman. On the other side was the Tool Room (not to be confused with the Mu Closet) which formerly contained the chapter’s archive of exams, papers, and other academic files. Brothers preparing to “tool” would visit and leave exasperated messages on the bricks on the north wall. The house files obsolesced by the Internet, the partition separating the Tool Room and Social Closet was removed in 2004. These two rooms are now a passageway connecting the bar with the boiler area.
The Mu Closet (House Manager Closet)
Omicron’s house manager is nicknamed the “Mu”; the Mu Closet contains tools and hardware for his use.
The Jock Closet
Since at least the Second World War, the athletic manager of Omicron Zeta has been called the “High Jock.” Athletic equipment is stored in the front closet of the Hollengreen Room.
The File Closet (Gamma Closet)
House records are stored in the ground floor closet underneath the stairwell.
Please send your corrections, clarifications, or additional information to the Heritage Committee.