Campus Eateries and Hangouts: The Green Tea Pot

RS 39/2/25 box 3

Alta Gwinn Saunders, Associate Professor of Business English

Students today have an overwhelming number of dining options and they can stop in at any one of the numerous Starbucks or Espresso Royale locations for a cup of coffee or tea. In 1916 there were fewer options. The entrepreneurial women of Delta Gamma saw this as a business opportunity.

The perfect chapter house had gone on the market at the corner of Mathews and Nevada, but the women of Delta Gamma did not have the funds to purchase it. The Delta Gamma Alumnae Association decided to open up a tea room to earn the money to pay for the new house. The effort was championed by Alta Gwinn Saunders, a founder of the Delta Gamma Iota chapter. Saunders was an Associate Professor of Business English from 1917-1948 and was heavily involved in Delta Gamma throughout her career. [1]

RS 41/69/322 box 2

The Green Tea Pot Shop on Green Street, ca. 1922

The group rented out the second floor of a Green Street building between 6th and Wright Streets and opened the Green Tea Pot tea room. They hired a graduate of the Home Economics program as the manager and soon had a staff of one cook, one dishwasher, and two waitresses. The women of Delta Gamma and the Alumnae Association also pitched in as extra help, especially for special dinners held on holidays and for student group events. [2] The dishes on the menu included “homemade bread, pickles, fruit salad, chicken, and jelly” and the tea room boasted “perfectly prepared food, in scientific proportions, in as large amounts as possible, and according to Hoover regulations.” [3]

RS 39/2/20 box 138

The Delta Gamma Sorority House located at 1207 W. Nevada

The Green Tea Pot was a favorite spot for aviators from the School of Military Aeronautics. “One feature of the service of the tearoom has been to offer aviators a place where they and their friends may enjoy the boxes their sweethearts, sisters, and mothers send them,” Bess Byers described. “The aviators bring their unpacked boxes to the tearoom and the attractive packages containing cigarette makings, boxes of chocolates, cigars, cakes, chewing gum, and so forth are stacked in front of the fortunate beaming aviator.” [4]

The restaurant operated on Green Street for ten years. [5] Within the first year, the women had earned enough money to make a down payment on the house at the corner of Mathews and Nevada.  [6] Delta Gamma still occupies this house today. [7]




[1] “A Professor of Business English: Alta Gwinn Saunders, Iota,” The Anchora of Delta Gamma, January 1924.

[2] Transcript, speech given by Edith Shiveley Wegeng at the Delta Gamma Founder’s Day Dinner, March 15, 1965. Record Series 41/72/19 box 1.

[3] Byers, Bess. “The Green Tea Pot,” The Lyre of Alpha Chi Omega, November 1917.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Shuck, Avis Gwinn. “Iota- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” The Anchora of Delta Gamma, January 1945.

[6] Transcript, speech given by Edith Shiveley Wegeng at the Delta Gamma Founder’s Day Dinner, March 15, 1965. Record Series 41/72/19 box 1.

[7] “The House” Delta Gamma Iota website.

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