I have read the following quotation in several publications:
“From the founding of the Fraternity until 1920, all day-to-day affairs of the organization were undertaken by members of the General Council. The Central Office was created by the General Convention of 1920, and the first such office was established in Indianapolis.”
I have no incisive argument with the first sentence although the second sentence is far from accurate. It became apparent that Phi Delta Theta was destined to have a central office as early as 1915 when an article written by George Banta, Jr., supporting the idea, appeared in the October Palladium. (He suggested Chicago.) The plan received additional support from Frank J. R. Mitchell, Past President of the General Council, in a commentary printed in the June 1917 Palladium.
A report of the Special Committee on Reorganization of the Administration was presented to the thirty-third Biennial General Convention in Indianapolis on January 1, 1918. The report went into considerable detail regarding a person who would be put in charge of a Central Office but avoided any mention of where such an office might be located. That question was answered in the February and April 1918 issue (Yes, both issues were printed as one) of The Scroll when the magazine’s Directory listed THE CENTRAL OFFICE in Oxford, Ohio.
There are numerous references to the Central Office in future publications but without a specific address. At the Birmingham convention of 1914-15, “legislation was passed whereby the general Fraternity took over the ownership of the chapter house of Ohio Alpha…” Funds were raised from the membership at large to finance construction of the Memorial Chapter House; included in the house was the library of the National Fraternity where the Central Office was located, at 506 East High St.
The 1920 convention in Atlanta approved the recommendation of George Banta Jr. that “the Central Office of the Fraternity… shall be in some centrally located and easily accessible city…should be Indianapolis, Ind.” The office was formally opened on October 4, 1921. The January, 1922 Palladium reported that “The Central Office is fast assuming finished proportions and by the end of May we hope to have everything in fine shape for work or inspection.” The article listed the location of the new office at 819 Peoples Bank Building, 134 East Market St., Tel. No. Circle 8441. This became the second central office of Phi Delta Theta.
In October, 1923, the Central Office was moved to Detroit,
Michigan, first at 527 Majestic Building, 1029 Woodward Avenue before moving to 1216 Book Building in 1924. In 1926 the General Council voted to move the Central Office back to Oxford where it drifted between four locations before reaching its destiny at 2 South Campus Avenue.
The south side of a duplex house, 111 South Beech Street, owned by Brother Karl Zwick Miami ’00, served as the beginning site. The office was located on the first floor; bedrooms on the second floor accommodated the Fraternity professionals. Within a year, arrangements were made to purchase a red brick home at 208 East High Street (Oxford’s main east/west thoroughfare). For the next 21 years this building served as the General Headquarters.
Having survived the “great depression of the ‘30s” and World War II of the ‘40s, Phi Delta Theta’s leaders were ready to undertake a new adventure. That “adventure” was the construction of a building designed specifically to serve the needs of a rapidly growing fraternity.
A property at the south-west corner of Campus and High Streets, less than a block from the existing headquarters was purchased. The house on that lot was the birthplace of Carolyn Scott who married Brother Benjamin Harrison. The property at “208” was sold to, and became the headquarters of, Beta Theta Pi.
The newly purchased house became the temporary office of the Fraternity until it was time to begin construction on the new building. Again, it was necessary to find provisional office space; Headquarters was moved to 18 West Church St., a short distance away. On December 15, 1947, Admiral Wat Tyler Cluverius, President of the General Council, turned the first shovel of dirt to officially begin work on a project that would be dedicated during the Fraternity’s Centennial Convention. Note: GHQ moved, physically, from Church Street to the new building during Thanksgiving week-end, 1947.
Now you know the complete history. During the past fifty years, Phi Delta Theta’s “Central Office/General Headquarters” has been in nine locations, the first and five others of in Oxford, Ohio.