Umaine Beta Eta House History
When Beta Theta Pi was still the Eternal Companions Society, their early meetings were held in the academic halls on campus. On March 4, 1876, a proposition was made at an E.C. meeting to purchase the hall in the Stillwater Bank Building, a brick building with a granite front, which stood on the east side of Mill Street. The proposition was adopted on March 25, and a deed was executed in the name of six members of the society.
At a meeting of Beta Theta Pi, April 23, 1881, upon motion of Charles S. Bickford, 1882, it was voted to start a chapter house fund. This grew to several hundred dollars. A committee was appointed to wait upon the trustees at the June, 1883, meeting in regard to a location upon the Campus, and their consent was given. A lot on the knoll below where the Phi Kappa Sigma house now stands was also offered by Eben C. Webster, 1882. Plans were prepared, but before work could begin the Orono Savings Bank, in which the funds were deposited, suspended, effectually blocking further progress for the time.
In the fall of 1884, a proposition was made at a Beta Theta Pi chapter meeting by James D. Lazell, 1887, that the chapter lease from the College the residence on the Campus then occupied by Professor A.E. Rogers. Later in the year the house was vacated and a ten-year lease arranged. The members of the chapter moved in during April, 1886. Upon the expiration of the lease, it was renewed with two conditions, of which one was that extensive repairs should be made by the chapter, and about $1,000 was expended for this purpose. The second condition provided that upon its expiration the Betas might, if desired, build a new house upon the site of the old one.
When the lease expired the Beta Chapter House Fund had the building known under several names including the Goddard House, Frost House, North Hall, and Old Crossland Hall was moved to its current site today a few lots over next to the current Sigma Nu House. Sigma Nu moved into the house in its new location. In 1915 it was converted into an all-girls dormitory. It is known as the Franco-American Center today.
A sum of about $5,000 was spent and construction of the new Beta House began in 1904. The Beta House was first occupied by the brothers on February 17, 1905.
Since then the Betas have lived in the house for over 100 years. Many improvements have been made to the house. A fire in the Chapter room in the early years of the house prompted repairs to that section of the house. The original fireplaces still remain throughout the house however steam currently heats the house. Electrical systems were installed also. In the 1970s the third floor had three bay windows installed, and since several skylights have been added to bring daylight to the third floor. The basement, originally bedrock, dirt and gravel has since had a foundation poured in half of the basement. In the 1990s alumni began to put a large amount of money back into the house. Fire systems, including sprinklers, fire doors and smoke alarms were added making the house one of the safest fraternity houses on campus. Structural improvements were made to support and repair the 100 year old structure and ensure it stands for many years to come.
In the mid-2000s the focus shifted to upgrading rooms in the house. A new state of the art kitchen was installed complete with a large walk-in refrigerator and industrial dishwasher. In 2008 a brand new bathroom was installed on the second floor with granite countertops, radiant floor heating, overhead showers, and a Bose speaker stereo system. Alumni renovated the third floor of the house in 2011 allowing the capacity of the house to be increased from 27 to 30.