The History of the Kappa Alpha Order at the University of Virginia
As one of the oldest fraternities at the University, Kappa Alpha has continued to embody the traditions, spirit, chivalry, gentlemanly conduct, and brotherhood that its founding fathers established. The Lambda Chapter of Kappa Alpha Order was chartered on November 19, 1873, by John L. Hardeman. The charter members and also the founders were Joshua Walker Gore, Samuel Woolston Budd, George Asbury Roszel and Thomas Arthur Jones. As seen to the left, the KA House was originally located at 17 University Circle. These four men had come to the University to pursue professional studies but they were so imbued with the spirit of the Order that they decided to establish a chapter at Thomas Jefferson’s great University.
In 1925, there was a plan to build a replica of Stratford Hall in order to establish a permanent home for KA House. As seen in a letter from President Alderman below, there was a formal effort to provide funding for Kappa Alpha. The Lambda Lodge Institute was established with notable member Dr. Albert Lefvre as the Vice-President. Dr. Lefevre was the Dean of the Philosophy department from 1905 to 1927 and was an active member of the Lambda chapter. A document detailing the Lambda Chapter’s plan can be can be accessed here.
While the project never gained enough momentum, Alumni Hall was built in the proposed spot for the house and the brotherhood moved to its new home on Gordon Avenue. While this house suited the brothers’ needs, it proved to be less than flame retardant in 1958 when it burned to the ground.
The current house at 600 Rugby Road has served as the home for KA’s for over the past 50 years. The home was purchased from the Tilman’s, a known Charlottesville merchant family. The Georgian-style house (built in 1925) and noted Toad Hall appendage was warmly received and well used into the 1980’s, by which time it needed work. After the purchase of the house by the Historic Renovation Corporation, 600 Rugby Road received a full renovation and an addition in the summer of 1985. Antiquated and unsafe wiring was replaced throughout, floors were refinished, bathrooms were renovated, and new lighting and furniture was installed. Carried over to the “new” house were the wooden dining benches handcrafted by pledges in 1982 and still used today. The two-story addition connects the house to Toad Hall. It consists of a downstairs cinderblock and cement party room, with four bedrooms upstairs. Construction of the addition allowed meals to be moved from the small dining room in the main house to the party room, which includes a bar/serving area off the kitchen.
Beginning with a pledge project in the spring of 1983, additions have been made over time to the porches and decks of the house. The first phase consisted of expanding the Grady Avenue walkout porch around to the back door of the house. Wood decks came later on both the Grady and Rugby sides of the house; later still, benches were added. This has allowed KA to hold many of its parties outside, such as the Annual Louisiana Crawfish Broil. It is often said at the University that spring does not begin until the brothers are seen hanging out on the porch of KA.
2013 marks the 140th year that Kappa Alpha Order has been in existence at the University of Virginia. The Lambda chapter continues its reputation as one of the most traditional and close-knit brotherhoods in the IFC. Members are extremely active at the University with regards to social life and maintain an emphasis on strong academics. The Lambda Chapter continues to remain loyal to the Kappa Alpha motto, “Fratres usque ad aram fideles.”