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Cracker Barrel sells Mitchell House to fraternity

Jared Felkins [email protected] • Updated Nov 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM

Cracker Barrel Old County Store announced the closing on the sale of the Mitchell House to Sigma Pi Fraternity International, which will be used as the new home of its executive office. Formerly, Sigma Pi’s executive office was in Brentwood.

Built in 1910 as the home of Dr. David Mitchell and his family, the Mitchell House near Lebanon City Hall has also served as a school and office building. Once the Mitchell family left the home, it sat dormant for several years before it was bought by Castle Heights Military Academy and used as the junior school from 1936-86.

In 1998, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store bought the Mitchell Home and began restoration. Cracker Barrel founder Danny Evins was a graduate of Castle Heights Military Academy and later served as chairman of its board of directors while his son attended the school. Evins and others wanted to return the establishment to its grandeur of the early 1900s.

Doug Barber, Cracker Barrel executive vice president, said Cracker Barrel representatives are pleased that Sigma Pi plans on continuing to honor the history of the building and its close ties to Castle Heights. Sigma Pi is a national fraternity founded in 1897 by former military cadets. 

Through the restoration efforts of Cracker Barrel, the Mitchell House is listed as a historic landmark on both the Tennessee registry and the National Register of Historic Places.

In the past, the Mitchell House also served as a location for weddings, photography sessions and events. The building will now be reopened for such events effective immediately. Interested parties can visit mitchellhouse.org for more information.

“We are grateful for the support and respect shown by both Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. and the city of Lebanon throughout this process, and look forward to a great partnership with Lebanon and surrounding businesses in the future,” said Ayalon. “As we look toward the future, Sigma Pi will continue to go above and beyond to maintain the foundation that the founding fathers built for the fraternity. The move to the Mitchell House is a new chapter in the history of Sigma Pi. We will continue to build upon the legacy that has been created over the past 117 years.”

Sigma Pi Grand Sage Christopher Brown announced at the 50th Biennial Convocation in 2010 in Danvers, Mass. that Sigma Pi would be in a new headquarters by 2014. He then appointed members to a new headquarters committee to investigate other fraternity headquarters and come up with a recommendation on the type of building the fraternity would pursue.

The committee was comprised of Mason Cozart (ΕΚ, Southern Arkansas), PGS Gary Tash (ΒΠ, Virginia), Les Wright (ΓΥ, Murray State) and Grand Second Counselor E. Andrew Morris (ΓΥ, Murray State). Justin Beck (ZE, Santa Clara) was later added to the committee. The results of their findings were presented to the grand council.

Through the efforts of Executive Director Michael Ayalon and the new headquarters committee, the Mitchell House was determined to fit the criteria and the purchase was completed in November 2013. The move signifies the improved and continued focus to bring Sigma Pi to the forefront of fraternal organizations. The historic building will give Sigma Pi a platform to create a national presence.

The floor plan of the home allows for the first floor to function as the museum of Sigma Pi and provides meeting space through two boardrooms. This area also will serve as a place for brotherhood initiations to take place. All business offices are located on the second floor.

Sigma Pi fraternity was founded in 1897 at Vincennes University, in Vincennes, Ind. The fraternity is one of the top men's collegiate organizations in North America with more than 120 active chapters and colonies in the U.S. and Canada with more than 99,000 members. Sigma Pi is the only Greek letter organization with an international philanthropic program, The ACE Project. Notable alumni include Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, country music star Tracy Lawrence who lives in Wilson County and Jack Daniels Master Distiller Jeff Arnett.

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