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Letter to the Editor


I enjoyed your article about 3819 Walnut Street (Spring 2018 issue of The Delta).  I believe I first saw it in the chapter newsletter but did not have time to comment then.  I was the Alumni Contact for '75/'76 and even wrote a short history for the newsletter of the time. I based the information on a couple of boxes of old newsletters and other memorabilia that had been given to me as Alumni Contact.  I passed those on to the next Contact, but I doubt documents that old survived.  This was long before the Internet.  Below are some comments on the article from my memory.

I don't remember us ever thinking the house had been a church.  The room at the top was called the coop, short for cupula.  A cupula is a device for circulating air and can accommodate a lookout, although ours would have been for the view.  The idea is that on hot days the windows are opened (those big French windows would have been particularly effective), and hot air is vented out the top.  When I moved into the house, we were told that in the days before the high rises Penn built in the late sixties, the coop had the best view on campus.

As for the organ pipes, we were told they came with the house and people would come from miles around to hear it played.  Supposedly the pipes were damaged when the house was occupied in some manner during World War II.

We were also aware that Zane Grey did not live in the house, but it is possible he visited. When I lived there, and for some years afterwards, there was a first edition of his most popular book, Riders of the Purple Sage, in the Rox Room.  He had inscribed a full page at the beginning.  It started something like "To my brothers at Beta Rho" and went on to hope that by reading that book brothers would be inspired by the American West just as he was.  I went on to buy and read the full set of his novels.  Not sure what happened to that book.

We were aware that a family previously lived in the house.  We even had a photo album that showed what the house looked like when the family lived there.  One evening while I was Alumni Contact an older gentleman knocked on the door.  We assumed he was an alumnus.  It turned out his family had lived in the house, and he asked for a tour.  We gave him one and showed him the album.  With any pictures that had people in them he would say, “that was my uncle such and such, that was my aunt, etc.”  He had not actually lived in the house himself.

Thanks for the memories.

Mitch Zimmer (Pennsylvania)

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