The Castle is highly visible meritorious building that everyone sees as they drive down College Avenue from Orono, and I guarantee you they look at it. Who wouldn’t? It stirs our emotions as only beauty can, and we look at it and smile, indulgently, with the gratifying knowledge that it is ours. It does affect each of us that way, I know; it stays in our memory. It is a deep sense of place that we all share. We hold the distinction as the first chartered fraternity at the University of Maine, and it is the only fraternity house in the state of Maine that is on the National Historic Record of Buildings and Homes, and I doubt if there are many fraternity houses in the nation that are so honored. One can only wonder what The Castle will look like 120 years from now. Hopefully it will not be destroyed by neglect, mistreatment, or ignorance.
It is fitting to remember that our brothers in 1925 were a significant historical linchpin in helping turn nothing into something with their committed organization and daily responsibility in bringing our grand and beautiful fraternal home into being, and they did not need to be coaxed to do so. There was no futile time spent lamenting the fire that destroyed the old house, they simply got to work on the new one with boldness and imagination, head and heart. With excitement and change in the air, they could not retreat from what they had to do. Rising to the occasion, they shared a common fraternal interest, and the passion of their collective sweat equity, quite literally earthy and visceral, was the highest in serving the greater good for our fraternal future. To their way of thinking and acting, it had to be like this, and no other way. Seldom, perhaps, has our brotherhood exhibited such “an inexhaustible voice…a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” They were on the construction site during the surveying, digging, leveling, hammering, sawing, framing, laying the foundation, mortaring and brick work, flooring and window work, and everything else to create our visibly alluring fraternal home at the University of Maine. Inch by inch of the construction process, they were equal to the occasion each and every day, and their place in our history is deserving of absolute respect. They truly built a new life from the ashes of the old, and it is more astonishing that it was completed in a year. Lastly, they lived Teilhard de Chardin’s phrase in everything they did: “A fresh kind of life is starting.” With deep and lasting affection, we thank them for their efforts.
The question is whether we feel and act the same way toward renewing The Castle with a fresh breath of architectural life as they did in helping bring it to life. We know that the hands of time cannot be reversed to that first day when the our brothers walked through the front door of the newly built Castle and everything was perfect, new, and fresh. However, with our collective effort we can come close in giving it a courageous rebirth that those brothers would be proud of seeing, as well as the aesthetic historic balance of harmony, effort, and commitment between the fraternal generations: the continuing linked journey of committed devotion, with our eyes on the future. Dogma at its best.
The Castle was, and continues to be, a pathway in our collective life that shaped each of us to be successful; therefore, let us be unified in our enthusiasm and effort to see that the Castle does not become a run-down landmark that unceremoniously fades into the forgotten past like other fraternities at the University of Maine. We have no reservation in stating that we are proud to be part of the great tradition and history of the University of Maine, and that many more young men will walk through the welcoming and fraternally hospitable front door of The Castle. In closing, with rational simplicity; emotional, intellectual, and fraternal rigor, we have succeeded since 1899 in a historically arresting manner: fraternally, historically, and architecturally. May it remain that we continue to succeed for another 120 years. Everything we do now we do in the hope that in the years, decades, and centuries to come, young men will find their way to the most beautiful fraternity house at the University of Maine with its unique architectural character and fraternal distinction. That is a true historic statement, and it certainly echoes the truth of what Keats stated at the end of “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: “Truth is beauty, beauty is truth - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Raise the steins to Omega Mu and our brotherhood.
Chip Chapman, ‘82