St. Elmo Society

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St. Elmo Society
Founded1889; 134 years ago (1889)
Yale University
TypeSenior secret society
Patron saintSaint Elmo
Former nameDelta Phi, Omicron chapter
Headquarters35 Lynwood Place
New Haven, Connecticut 06511
United States

St. Elmo Society, or Elmo's, is a secret society for seniors at Yale University.[1] It was founded in 1889 as part of the national fraternity, Delta Phi (ΔΦ).[2][3] St. Elmo's is a member of the “ancient eight consortium” which includes the seven other original societies at Yale: Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Berzelius, Wolf's Head, Book and Snake, Elihu, and Mace and Chain.[4]


St. Elmo Hall, 111 Grove Street, 1899
St. Elmo Hall (second), circa 1940
Rosenfeld Hall (St. Elmo Hall), today
St. Elmo's current tomb, 1985

St. Elmo Society was founded in 1889 as the Omicron chapter of the national fraternity Delta Phi.[5][2] St. Elmo was the third senior society at the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale's sciences and engineering college from 1854 to 1956.[5][6][3] The Sheffield Societies were clubs that also provided residential quarters for the students.[1]

In June 1905, the group was incorporated under Connecticut state law to form the St. Elmo Corporation, with the primary purpose of holding the title to a new clubhouse at 111 Grove Street and other financial assets. Thus, the society is considered a “landed" society, the name given to societies at Yale that own a house or tomb.[1]

On October 11, 1925, the chapter severed its ties with Delta Phi and became an independent organization called the St. Elmo Society.[2] The Harvard Crimson reported that the split came "after the mother chapter deplored its snobbishness and disrespect of frat pins."[7] The creation of Yale's residential system in 1933 led some Sheffield organizations to sell their buildings to the university, but St. Elmo retained its residence.[8]

In 1965, a decade after the Sheffield school was incorporated into Yale College, St. Elmo Society became a secret senior society in the style of Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf's Head.[9][1] According to the Yale Daily News, the society is known for the Halloween party it holds at its house or tomb and other parties throughout the year.[3]

Chapter house[edit]

Delta Phi's original chapter house or dormitory was built in 1895 at 111 Grove Street.[10][5] It was called St. Elmo Hall or St. Elmo Clubhouse.[5][11] The group selected this name from deference to it iconography from the Knights of Malta who were seafarers; Saint Elmo is the patron saint of sailors.[12][13]

Construction on St. Elmo Hall started on April 1, 1895, and was completed in September.[5] Its cost was $20,000 ($703520 in today's money).[5] . Its first floor consisted of East Haven stone (brown sandstone) and its upper floors were of buff-colored brick with trimming of terra cotta and East Haven stone.[5][14] The roof was slate.[5] Inside, St. Elmo Clubhouse included a library, a large oak-paneled hall or reception room, a smoking room, a billiard room, studies, two floors of bedrooms, and bathrooms.[5][14] Its 25 by 17 feet (7.6 by 5.2 m) chapter room was on the fourth floor.[5] The New York Times noted that St. Elmo Hall was "handsomely furnished".[14]

In 1912, the society built a new dormitory next door at 109 Grove Street.[8] Also called St. Elmo Hall, it was designed by architect Kenneth MacKenzie Murchison in an Elizabethan style.[8][15] The three-story Elizabethan style building cost $130,000 ($3942138 in today's money).[15][8]

During World War II, St. Elmo Hall became a convalescent hospital for soldiers who were out of the hospital but still need observation.[16] Yale started leasing dormitory space in St. Elmo Hall starting in 1945 and bought the building in 1962.[8] After purchasing the building, the university renamed it Rosenfeld Hall.[17] The society leased part of Rosenfeld Hall from the university.

In 1985, the university refused to renew St. Elmo's lease at 109 Grove Street, giving the society short notice to move out and find a new residence. The following year, St. Elmo Society purchased a building at 35 Lynwood Place.[18][3] As of 2021, Rosenfeld Hall is used for residential annex and classroom space.[8] The society's former chapter room in the basement is used for furniture storage.[19]


When it was part of Delta Phi, the fraternity's badge was the Maltese cross of the Knights of Malta.[13] The Yale chapter selected Saint Elmo, also known as Erasmus of Formia, as the namesake of its house in 1895.[12] Saint Elmo was chosen because he is the patron saint of sailors, and the Knights of Malta were seafarers.[12] Copying the Omicron chapter, other chapters of Delta Phi began using the St. Elmo name; today, the fraternity is known as both Delta Phi and St. Elmo Hall.[12] When it separated from Delta Phi in 1925, the Yale chapter changed its name from St. Elmo Hall to St. Elmo Society.[2] By that time, the chapter demonstrated "disrespect" for the fraternity's badge.[7]


Delta Phi fraternity selected its male members in December of their freshmen year.[5] Each pledge class was consisted of twelve members.[5]

Today, St. Elmo Society is a senior society.[9] It began admitting women sometime before 1982.[20]

Popular culture[edit]

In her young adult novel, Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo features an occult version of the St. Elmo Society whose members can conjure storms.[21]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "An Irrepressible Urge to Join". Yale Alumni Magazine. March 2001. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  2. ^ a b c d "St. Elmo Quits Delta Phi.; Yale Club Is Hereafter to Be an Independent Society" (PDF). The New York Times. 1925-10-12. p. 10. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  3. ^ a b c d Sur, Snigdha (27 May 2009). "So secret I can't talk about it". Yale Daily News Historical Archive. Retrieved 2023-08-20 – via Yale University Library.
  4. ^ "Tap secrets of Yale societies". Yale Daily News. 2002-04-12. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Welch, Lewis Sheldon; Camp, Walter (1899). Yale, her campus, class-rooms, and athletics. University of California Libraries. Boston: L. C. Page and company (incorporated). p. 208 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Schiff, Judith Ann (September 2004). "How the Secret Societies Got That Way". Yale Alumni Magazine. Archived from the original on 2005-04-04. Retrieved 2023-08-20 – via
  7. ^ a b Bull, Bartle (November 22, 1958). "Yale Fraternities: A Spawning Ground". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Strahan, Derek (2019-08-16). "St. Elmo Hall, New Haven, Connecticut". Lost New England. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  9. ^ a b "Tombs and Taps, An inside look at Yale's Fraternities, Sororities and Societies". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  10. ^ "Manuscripts & Archives | Yale University Library". Retrieved 2023-07-06.
  11. ^ "Many Changes at Yale; Graduates Who Object to the Destruction of Old Brick Row. Some of them Will Enter a Protest; An Alumnus of the Class of '84 Writes a Letter on the Subject -- The Handsome New Buildings" (PDF). The New York Times. June 9, 1895. p. 26. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  12. ^ a b c d "History". Delta Phi Fraternity. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  13. ^ a b "History". St. Elmo Hall at the University of Virginia. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  14. ^ a b c "Property of Old Yale; Estimates Now Place It at a Value Exceeding $5,000,000" (PDF). The New York Times. December 23, 1895. p. 10. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  15. ^ a b "Architect K. M. Murchison". The Journal. Meriden, Connecticut. 1912-05-18. p. 11. Retrieved 2023-08-21 – via
  16. ^ Schiff, Judith Ann Schiff (November 2018). "Yale and the Great War". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  17. ^ "Building Name Changes on the Yale Campus". Office of the President, Yale University. 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  18. ^ Zou, Isabella (2023-04-13). "ZOU: I belong because you don't". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  19. ^ Guo, Jerry (2008-05-29). "Connecticut Journal: Inside Yale's secret societies". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  20. ^ Freedman, Samuel G. (April 16, 1982). "'Tap Day': Fading Bit of Old Yale". The New York Times. p. 34. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  21. ^ Lyall, Sarah (2019-10-03). "A Star of Y.A. Imagines a Supernatural Ivy League in Her Debut for Adults". The New York Times. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  22. ^ "Viewers of Le's records may be fired | Yale Daily News | Page 15924". Yale Daily News. 2009-10-07. Archived from the original on 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  23. ^ a b c Guo, Jerry (2008-05-29). "Connecticut Journal: Inside Yale's secret societies". Gadling. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  24. ^ "Fraternities Name 97 AT Sheffield; Members of Scientific School Classes of 1931 and 1932 Chosen. St. Elmo Picks Albie Booth" (PDF). The New York Times. December 10, 1929. p. 24. Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  25. ^ "Yale '62 – Obituaries – Professor Robert Morse Crunden". Archived from the original on 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  26. ^ "Office of the General Faculty Home Page". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  27. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (August 20, 2023). "How Ron DeSantis Joined the 'Ruling Class' — and Turned Against It". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  28. ^ Nettleton, George He (1920-11-21). Yale in the World War, Part One – George He Nettleton – Google Books. Kessinger. ISBN 9780766196957. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  29. ^ "jimbio". Archived from the original on 2009-02-28. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  30. ^ Sellers, Patricia (1988-09-26). "The Olympians of Business". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  31. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2011-04-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ Colt, George Howe (2019-10-08). The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968. Simon and Schuster. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-5011-0479-4 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ J. Griffin. "Guy Hutchinson Page". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  34. ^ "The Making Of A Black Middle Class Family, Part 2". 2007-10-22. Archived from the original on 2007-10-22. Retrieved 2023-07-06.