Although fraternity houses and presidential residences typically don’t have much in common, Sunnycrest is an exception. Currently home to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, Sunnycrest was formerly the residence of College President Joseph Mauck in the early 20th century.
When 1875 Hillsdale alumnus Joseph Mauck returned to the college to serve as president in 1903, he and his wife bought the house sitting at the corner of Hillsdale and Fayette, known as Windsor Castle, and renamed it Sunnycrest. Mauck purchased the house from Former College President John Windsor who had lived in the house for more than 40 years after building it himself.
Until Broadlawn was built to serve as college-owned housing for the current president, each president was responsible for purchasing their own home, according to Public Services Librarian Linda Moore.
Despite the financial struggles of the Great Depression, the Maucks used Sunnycrest for entertaining, which included hosting annual senior breakfasts.
Members of the Mauck family continued to live in Sunnycrest, including four of Mauck’s daughters. Wilfred O. Mauck ‘21, son of Joseph Mauck, moved into Sunnycrest in 1933 as president of the college, before moving into Broadlawn upon its completion in 1936.
In September of 1939, defective wiring in Sunnycrest caused a fire which damaged most of the house, garage, and parked cars. Plans for repair were arranged and completed soon after.
“Approximately seventy-five percent of the house and furnishings were either completely demolished or partially damaged,” according to the Collegian.
A few years later, World War II began and changed the student makeup of the college. Many national fraternities promised not to revoke charters for war-caused man shortages. Prior to the draft that took many Hillsdale men off campus, fraternities were already planning post-war reconstruction, the Collegian reported in February of 1943.
ATO was one of the fraternities to follow through with these plans. ATO alumni first purchased Sunnycrest in the summer of 1950, five years after the war ended, fulfilling a longtime dream of the fraternity to own a house.
Prior to life at Sunnycrest, ATO actives had lived in the Griffith House on the corner of Union Street and East Fayette Street, beginning in 1915. ATO left the Griffith House to live in Herron Hall which was later demolished and replaced with Koon Hall.
As of August 1, 1950, wives of ATO alumni began furnishing Sunnycrest and preparing for that fall when it would go on to house 30 men, making it the largest fraternity on campus.
The third floor contained a ballroom, which, The Collegian reported, alumni remember as the location of many college functions put on by the Maucks. The summer preparation included converting this ballroom into a large dormitory, equipped with 15 bunked beds. The house had no major renovations, including any structural changes.
“We very much appreciate the history of our house,” senior and ATO President Josh Pradko said. “Because the house was formerly a very nice residential place, it looks beautiful from the outside; on the inside, a lot of the original beautiful aspects, particularly the woodwork, remain.”
Sunnycrest remained untouched until 2000, when alumni decided it was time to take action in improving the house. At homecoming of that year, alumni Paul Schlatter ‘72 and Kim Beck ‘75 saw the need for major changes. The ATO Alumni Board met in January 2001 and decided to completely renovate the house.
A group of alumni showed up that summer to begin renovations.
“We had 30 or 40 alumni there, getting it down to its bare bones,” Tony Gwilt ‘90 told the Collegian in 2014.
According to The Collegian in 2001, the renovations included a new roof, new hardwood floors, new mattresses, porch rails, wallpapering, carpeting, reconstruction of staircase railing and balconies, new furniture, landscaping, and fresh interior and exterior paint.
The fraternity also built an annex in downtown Hillsdale for the fraternity to use for social functions to ease use of the house. With these $400,000 worth of changes came restrictions, such as the strict implementation of a no drinking in the house policy.
Alumni assisted with recent Sunnycrest improvements, including redoing the siding in addition to redoing the bathroom this past summer.
“Part of the reason the house looks so good is that our alumni have invested a lot over the years in maintenance and improvements,” Pradko said.
The house is currently used as a sanctuary for members of ATO to eat together, hold chapter meetings, and hang out, according to Pradko. They used to have a cook who put their kitchen and dining room to good use; however they don’t have a cook this year and are currently looking for one to start a house meal plan again in the future.
This fall, twelve active fraternity members live in Sunnycrest. Sophomore and ATO member Owen Macauley said he appreciates Sunnycrest’s fraternal and presidential history.
“There’s something cool about living with all your best buddies in the same house where men with the same principles as you lived 50 years ago,” Macauley said.