Excerpted from The Ithaca Journal
Article by Ithaca resident and SAE Ron Demer ’59
The stately and beloved SAE house, Hillcrest, which crowns the prominence above Stewart Avenue on the south bank of Fall Creek gorge, was totally destroyed by a fire which consumed all of the personal property of the brothers. Fortunately, only two SAEs were in the house, and they escaped safely with no loss of life or injury. Records, photos, and some first-floor furniture, including a grand piano, were saved by brothers of neighboring Alpha Delta Phi and nearby residents. The fire was started by crossed electrical wires and set off an automatic fire alarm system.
The flames had a good start before the firemen arrived. They were hampered by low water pressure and the steep wooded slopes on three sides of the property. Like a bonfire on the summit of a mountain, the glaring red flames from the blazing building lit up the city and surrounding countryside. It was seen at a distance of 25 miles up the lake. When Chief Burns realized that SAE was going to be a total loss, the firemen directed hoses at Alpha Delta Phi to prevent the flames from jumping the gorge. The blaze continued from the start at around 9:00 p.m. thru midnight, fought by all six area fire companies, and finally extinguished by a sudden thunderstorm.
The fraternity plans to use the $12,000 in expected insurance proceeds to anchor a new mortgage and build a new, fireproof structure on the magnificent site. For more information see the June 12, 1911, Ithaca Journal and the September 1911 Record of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.