Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was founded at Indiana University in 1911. The ten founders determined from the start that membership would be based solely on achievement. In 1949 the fraternity's Washington Alumni Chapter worked with undergraduate chapters at Howard University and Miner Teachers College to purchase this Georgian style former residence designed by Washington architect Leon E. Dessez. "Kappa Kastle" became a popular center of social activity, activism, and philanthropy for African Americans, especially during the era of racial segregation. Members of the Washington Alumni Chapter have led the way in politics, civil rights, education, medicine, the arts, and other fields.
Kappa Alpha Psi was founded as Kappa Alpha Nu in 1911 by 10 African American students at Indiana University. From the start the fraternity's membership was based solely on achievement; the group has never excluded any man based on color, creed, or national origin.
In 1949 the fraternity's Washington DC Alumni Chapter bought a four-story Georgian style rowhouse at 1708 S Street, NW, with a loan from the black-owned North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company. Two local undergraduate chapters participated in the purchase: the Howard University Xi Chapter and the Miner Teachers College Beta Kappa Chapter.
Kappa Kastle, as it was sometimes called, became a popular center of social activity, activism, and philanthropy for African Americans, especially during the era of racial segregation.
With alumni chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity occupying a property diagonally across the street and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority later purchasing a property adjacent to Kappa House, the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and S Street, NW, became DC's center of African American Pan Hellenic organizations.
Today only Kappa Alpha Psi retains a presence at the intersection, but the national headquarters of Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta sororities are located nearby on New Hampshire Avenue.
Many men who have played an important role in politics, civil rights, education, medicine, and the arts have been associated with the Washington DC Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. Among these are:
- James "Biff " Carter, Jr. (1924-1999), a native Washingtonian who taught in the DC Public Schools and served as principal of Ballou High School. He later worked as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education and in the office of U.S. Representative John Conyers.
- William Henry "Stud" Greene, M.D. (1900-1983), a physician and benefactor to Howard University. Howard's stadium was named for Greene.
- George E.C. Hayes (1894-1968), an attorney, professor of law at Howard University, civil rights activist, and a member of the team that argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Frank D. Reeves (1916-1973), a lawyer, Howard University professor, civil rights activist, and member of the team that shaped the Brown v. Board of Education case. He was also the first African American asked to sit on the DC Board of Commissioners, an honor he declined. He served as legal counsel to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and the 1968 Poor People's Campaign. In addition, he co-founded the National Conference of Black Lawyers and founded the Joint Center for Political Studies.
- Municipal Court Judge Armond W. Scott (ca. 1873-1960) was appointed to the bench by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Kappa House was designed by Washingtonian Leon E. Dessez, FAIA (1858-1918) and completed in 1908 as a private residence. Dessez also designed the Admiral's Residence at One Observatory Circle (today the Vice President's House), the Miner Teachers College building on Georgia Avenue, the Gallagher Hospital, and the hospital at the Soldiers Home.