19 - Headquarters Through the Years

In 2019 Chi Omega celebrates 25 years in our beloved Memphis Headquarters, but where else has Chi Omega called home over the years?

Chi Omega Fraternity, The Chi Omega Foundation, and Chi O Creations have called Memphis, Tennessee home since January 1994, when we opened our doors to over 23,000 square feet of highly functional work, retail, and training space. Situated on 2.4 suburban acres in a wooded natural setting, our building includes three floors with a foyer opening into a two-story main gallery, archival museum display, vault, library, staff offices, board room, meeting and training space, kitchen and lounge areas, overnight accommodations for travelers on Chi Omega business, and our Chi O Creations Boutique.

Thousands of Chi Omegas, families, and friends gave generously to build this extraordinary headquarters to support the always growing operations of Chi Omega, which is owned and maintained by the Chi Omega Foundation.

But this big, beautiful building we call home today is not where Chi Omega Executive Headquarters began. Throughout its history, Chi Omega has had seven other offices before purposefully landing in Memphis.

1895-1916

In the very early years of Chi Omega we know that Fraternity operations were handled in Fayetteville, Arkansas, often in our Founders’ homes. As Chi Omega grew, so did the need for more structure in our management. The Fraternity continued to be directed from Fayetteville, Arkansas, for years to come primarily under the leadership of Ida Pace Purdue as she served as S.H. from 1904 to 1910 and continued advising Fraternity leaders for years to come.

In a statement from Mary Love Collins she said, “In preparation for efficiency the Council has, during the past year, experimented with an Executive Office. The object of this office has been to centralize the clerical work of the Fraternity without destroying the individuality of an officer. As you know, several of the women’s fraternities have appointed one member of their governing councils as an executive officer, i.e., the Council authorizes certain steps and the execution is left almost wholly to one member of the Council. A number of the men’s fraternities have this same plan in operation and some of the men’s fraternities have this same plan in operation and some of the men’s fraternities have established business-like offices for this officer. The preservation of records in systematic and accessible form requires an office. But Chi Omega believes that an office can be operated in a way that relieves officers and committees of much clerical work and yet preserves their individuality in their field. That we take this position is worthy of our heritage of emphasis on Grecian ideals. The Greeks never imitated. When they borrowed from neighboring civilizations they remoulded the thing borrowed and made it their own. The office should file all important correspondence, should keep the card catalogue of membership, should preserve all data relating to petitions, keep the Eleusis card catalogue of subscriptions, prepare a card catalogue of precedents, i.e., decisions which interpret the Constitution and Ritual; also, the office should centralize all routine forms, banners, flags, song books, etc., and dispatch formal and general notices or letters of Council officers and committees. The office plan makes for present unconfused administration, and it is invaluable from the standpoint of the preservation of records. Fifty years from now the Fraternity will be eager to have authentic records of these days.”

Fifteen members of Psi Chapter gathered at the University of Arkansas in 1906

1916-1926

The decision to move forward with an established office was made by the authorization that took place at the 9th Biennial Convention and placed Chi Omega at 1002 New Fayette National Bank Building in Lexington, Kentucky.  The decision of where to establish the executive office was highly influenced by the fact that Mary Love Collins, S.H. at the time, lived in Lexington, Kentucky. Chi Omega was the first women’s Fraternity to have an executive office in an actual office building, rather than a home, and only a few men’s fraternities had done the same at this time

Fayette National Bank Building located in Lexington, Kentucky, where Chi Omega’s National Office was located from 1916 to 1926

1926-1932

Chi Omega split its time in the Dixie Terminal Building between two different offices, the first being 830 Dixie Terminal Building in 1924 and in 1931 moving up one floor to 930. Mary Love Collins was known to be thrifty, and the move meant less expensive rent! The original move into Dixie Terminal began Chi Omega’s long stay in Cincinnati, Ohio, that would eventually turn into over 60 years in the city.

Dixie Terminal Building in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Chi Omega’s National Office was located from 1926 to 1932

1932-1947

Next, Chi Omega moved to the Cooper Building in Hyde Park Cincinnati, Ohio. From 1934-1937 it is recorded that office rent and maintenance cost Chi Omega $3,120 per year, breaking down to just $260 per month!

1947-1973

After years of renting space for Chi Omega’s Executive Office, Mary Love Collins wanted a prominent, permanent address for Chi Omega. A large Cincinnati home was purchased for $68,500. A separate account was established called the Executive House Fund, and it provided funds for improvements to the house, utilities, lawn maintenance, etc. The house was on the banks of the Ohio River in the Hyde Park section of Cincinnati, Ohio. However, the mailbox for the large, impressive home was located on a small lane with a not-so-impressive name, Weebetook Lane. Mary Love quickly solved that problem when she had the mailbox moved to the corner of the property that touched Grandin Road making the address 2245 Grandin Road, a prominent address in Hyde Park!

Grandin Road became both the Executive Office for Fraternity business and the home of Mary Love Collins and Elizabeth Dyer. Mary Love Collins, 1907 initiate of Delta Chapter at Dickinson College, had led Chi Omega as S.H. from 1910 through 1952 and served as administrative councilor and President Emeritus until she joined the Omega Chapter in 1972. Elizabeth Dyer was, at the time she moved into the Grandin Road office, serving Chi Omega as S.T.B., then later as S.H. from 1952 until 1970. Elizabeth attended Vassar College for her undergraduate work, was a Special Initiate of Delta Chapter at Dickinson College in 1922, and was also the Dean of the College of Home Economics at the University of Cincinnati.

Following the death of Mary Love Collins on September 27, 1972, Elizabeth Dyer was no longer serving as S.H., and the Grandin Road property could not be used for Chi Omega business. Because the property was located in a residential area and future S.H.s would not necessarily live in Cincinnati, the property had to be sold. Chi Omega leaders began looking for the next location that would house the growing work of Chi Omega.

Grandin Road Executive Office, front view

Grandin Road Executive Office, back view

1973-1994

After closing a long chapter at Grandin Road the next location that would host the important work of the Fraternity was Carew Tower, the tallest building in Cincinnati and an art deco marvel. The entire 33rd floor of Carew Tower became home to the Chi Omega Executive Office from 1973, after the death of Mary Love Collins, until 1986.

In 1986, the Chi Omega Executive Office was moved to the 31st floor of the same office building, Carew Tower, until their move to the present location in Memphis, Tennessee.

“No discussion of Carew Tower is complete without mentioning Hathaway’s, the 1950s-style-diner in the arcade of Carew Tower. Many council members and staff have eaten at this famed counter and became personal friends with the waitresses!” said Lyn Harris, National Archivist.

Carew Tower today in Cincinnati, Ohio

Chi Omega’s view of Cincinnati’s skyline from the 33rd floor of Carew Tower, photo taken 1974

33rd floor office of Carew Tower displays, left, a needlepoint crest done by Elizabeth Orman, right, The Greek Theatre, photo taken 1974

Mary Love Collins’ clock featured in the room where computer records were handled in the 33rd floor office of Carew Tower, photo taken 1974

The Council Room of the 33rd floor office of Carew Tower, in which the first meeting took place on June 18, 1973, photo taken 1974Reception area and secretary desks of the 33rd floor office of Carew Tower, photo taken 1974

Chi Omega Executive Office staff, July 1993 in Carew Tower

1994-Present

2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Chi Omega Executive Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Chi Omega had been in Cincinnati, Ohio for over 60 years, and after paying rent in Carew Tower for 20 of those years, the Governing Council was ready to look for a permanent home.

Bids were placed on a couple locations in Cincinnati, but none of them were right. A nationwide survey was taken of alumnae inquiring their idea of the perfect location for a Chi Omega Executive Headquarters. The results included Cincinnati, Dallas, Kansas City, and Memphis. We were delighted to know that our now neighbors, Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Headquarters and Kappa Delta Sorority Headquarters, had both already found a home for their executive offices in Memphis in the Southwind development.  Plans were unveiled at the 1992 Convention, and Chi Omega Leaders broke ground later that year.

The official Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, as we know it today, opened its doors in January 1994.  The address at Headquarters, 3395, is representative of the executive office on the 33rd floor of Carew Tower in Cincinnati, and the 95 is in honor of the 1895 Founding.

Groundbreaking ceremonies in Memphis, September 13, 1992

Groundbreaking ceremonies in Memphis, September 13, 1992

Ground floor plan for Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee

Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee

The Main Gallery at Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee

The Archive Museum at Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee

The Myth Garden at Chi Omega Executive Headquarters, Memphis, Tennessee

Executive Headquarters tours are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For chapter or group tours, please contact the Executive Headquarters staff by calling 901.748.8600 or emailing ChiOmega@ChiOmega.com.