Internal courtyards, painted doors and lakefront views are just a few of the memorable elements the old Panhellenic Row provided to sorority members for over four decades on Florida Southern College’s campus.
According to the FSC Archives, the building was built in 1956. Dormitories sat on top of a hill overlooking Lake Hollingsworth. Designed by St. Petersberg architect C. Dale Dykema, they served to complement the large collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture that was unique to the campus. The rectangular-shaped two-story dorms included courtyards, known as atriums which were located in the middle of each house.
FSC shared a picture on Facebook of the old dormitories asking alumni to share their memories of the row. Amanda Gruzas Abraham shared in a comment, “I loved living in the Alpha Chi Omega House. I loved walking out into the atrium and seeing all of my friends. I lived there for three years and my time was filled with such happy memories.”
The complex even included a long drive and parking area that was accessible from Lake Hollingsworth. However, in 1960 the building and driveway were damaged by flooding after a storm occurred. The college was able to repair the dormitories back to their intended state, but over time the facilities aged.
Finally, in 2006 the college chose to tear down the dormitories in preparation for the groundbreaking of the Barnett Residential Life Center, known today as the Wesley and Nicholas residence halls.
A monumental event for FSC’s sororities was sure to create some disappointment. Many of the Facebook comments from FSC’s post on the dormitories communicated the wistful feelings from past alumni regarding the row.
Debbie Grass Niermeyer shared, “It was the perfect location with all the sororities together. The open concept was great for rail sings, I was sorry to see it go,” Niermeyer said. Rail sings referred to when sorority women would gather outside the dormitories and sing their chapter’s sacred songs and chants.
Brittany Bozeman stated in a comment, “I was there the year it was torn down. We were allowed to paint the walls since they were being demolished, but we had a blast.”
After the demolition, the college moved sororities into Publix Charities Commons and Greek Quad. The Commons broke ground on April 16, 1997, and were funded by Barney and Carol Jenkins Barnett. According to flsouthern.edu, “The structures, designed by architect Daniel Fowler of Lunz and Associates, are suite-style dormitories that house Greek life organizations as well as their respective chapter rooms.”
Known to many today as the Greek suites, the dormitories house both fraternity and sorority members as well as unaffiliated students. Aidan Smith, a Greek-affiliated Junior who lived in the suites her sophomore year, appreciates the commons, but wishes there was more to them.
“I feel as though Publix Commons has nice size rooms, but there is a lack of cohesion of the rooms between sisters,” Smith said. “For example, there are no cooking applications for sisters. I also wish we had larger common areas for the whole chapter to comfortably dwell in without being in tight quarters. Chapters today use various classrooms on campus to hold their meetings because the rooms in the commons are not adequate.”
Not only do the suites present an atypical layout, but they also lack kitchens.
“If the suites had kitchens, I know many more women would be inclined to live in them and it would further enrich the sorority experience,” sophomore Ashley Pascarella said. “The suites are such an important bonding tool for many sorority sisters, but so many decide to abstain from living in them and choose apartments instead due to dietary preferences.” Pascarella currently lives in the suites.
With complaints from current students, it’s clear the layout of the old row was able to complement the community and ambiance of sorority life and provide the cohesiveness and amenities that today’s housing lacks.