The Atrium is the main entrance of the building. The main focal point in the room is the large marble table in the center. The table is modeled after one found in the ruins of Pompeii. John Russell Pope made two design changes to the original table: first, the original table had griffins and our table has double headed eagles, the second change is Pope added the words Salve Frater to the front of the table, meaning welcome brother in Latin.
The room has an Egyptian and Phoenician theme, which was popular at the turn of the century and appears in many of Pope’s designs, which is simply a design element and not a link to the fraternity. There are four ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, each with 33 visible light bulbs. The chandeliers have a female face surrounded by serpents (an ancient symbol of wisdom) surrounded by the four cardinal virtues; Temperance, Prudence, Justice and Fortitude.
Around the room are eight solid granite columns weighing about 24 tons each. These columns are more than just decorative; in fact they help to support the massive temple room above us. The chairs you see around the room are replicas of ones found in the theater of Dionysius in Athens. The only changes made were that ours have the double headed eagle carved into the back of the chair. The chairs are in front of standing floor lamps with the face of Hermes, the messenger of the gods (sometimes called the light-bringer).
Heading towards the stairs there are two large Egyptian statues. These statues are a little younger than the rest of the building. They were each carved in place out of a single piece of black marble, which took 15 years to locate. A stone large enough was finally found on the shores of Lake Champlain in upstate NY. The exact translation of their inscription has been lost but to paraphrase it says “Dedicated to God, Wisdom and those who build strong nations.”