Alpha House Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
LANSING, Mich. – The Historic Alpha House was one of twenty-seven historic Michigan properties given special recognition in 2021 through their listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has announced. Administered in Michigan by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the National Register of Historic Places is the United States federal government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance.
“This year’s nominated historic properties span the history and geography of both of Michigan’s peninsulas, recognizing places and people who are significant in our communities, our state, and our nation. National Register listing promotes our shared history, fosters a sense of pride in our communities, provides public recognition of our historic places, and generates economic investment and activity,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Mark A. Rodman. “SHPO is honored to join with so many people and communities across the state in celebrating this diverse group of properties which have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2021.”
More than 96,000 properties across the country, including nearly 2,000 in Michigan, have been listed in the National Register since the program began in the 1960s. The National Register is a program of the National Park Service and is administered by the states.
Each place listed in the National Register is referred to as a “property,” whether it is a single building, site, or structure or a historic district composed of hundreds of individual buildings. In 2021, twenty-three individual properties and four historic districts totaling more than 179 contributing historic resources in Michigan were listed in the National Register.
To be considered for listing in the National Register, a property must generally be at least 50 years old, and must also be significant when evaluated in relationship to major historical events or trends in the history of their community, the state, or the nation. A property must also possess historic integrity – the ability to convey its significance.
The Historic Alpha House, Detroit, Michigan
An important focus of recent National Register listings are sites that played a role in the Civil Rights movement and African American experience in the 20th Century. Starting in 2016, a series of federal grants from the National Park Service have enabled the survey and documentation of several sites in Detroit, with an outward expansion to other areas of Michigan. The initial grant funded the nomination of five initial sites, among them the Birwood Wall and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Flat. Learn more about each of these specific sites in this earlier press release.
This initial effort laid the groundwork for additional Civil Rights sites to be added to the Register. The Alpha House, located in the Brush Park neighborhood, was the next to be listed. Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest African American fraternity in the United States. Among its more than eight hundred chapters, the oldest continually owned chapter house is the Alpha House of the Gamma Lambda Chapter.
Acquired in 1939, Alpha House has been the launching pad for outreach programs to support higher-level learning, voter and candidate forums, and as a safe space for community discussion. In times of racial tension in 1943 and the 1960s, the house was a beacon for the African American community. It continues to serve the Gamma Lambda Chapter and its outreach initiatives today.
“Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. all over the country understand the significance of the Alpha House in Detroit; however, it was important to make sure the story of the house is understood by a much broader audience. We have a well-established, historic legacy of our impact on the Detroit community. It’s necessary to share that history with everyone in a way that honors the brothers who came before us, while inspiring present and future generations of Alphas and those with whom we partner and serve,” said Alburn H. Elvin, Jr., president of the Gamma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
“By pursuing the National Register of Historic Places designation, we wanted to ensure our history is preserved and shared. Being honored with this designation means the legacy of the Alpha House and those who shaped our history will be remembered forever. The Alpha House is more than just a house – it’s a beacon of brotherhood and service. It’s the epicenter and springboard for our servant leadership throughout the city of Detroit.”
Visit the Historic Alpha House page on this website to learn more about the history of this property.
Source: Achtenberg, Kathleen. Twenty-Seven Distinctive Places in Michigan listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2021. Michigan Economic Development Corporation, February 14, 2022