A brief history of Koenig
Around the world, CU alumni are familiar with the Samuel A. Koenig Alumni Center. We all have walked by this dignified old structure on our way to and from classes or on dates. It was one of the first four buildings built on the campus.
It was built in 1884 to serve as the president’s home. Prior to that the president lived in Old Main. Its red brick and sandstone exterior architecture was common to Boulder in those days. The inside was finished in elegant wood. It was solid and meant to stand the test of time and was a fitting residence for Boulder’s “first family” and served this function until 1963.
In the early years cattle grazed on the native grass surrounding the house. As we entered the 20th century curved drive and gardens were added, and the cattle were gone.
Over the years many additions and renovations have taken place. A living room was added to the east end in 1923, and an addition was tacked on the southwestern corner about the same time. Later, the north porch was enclosed as an entry vestibule. The present day gardens reflect the grandeur of the original gardens. In 1977 a deck was built that overlooks the gardens. This was named in honor of Peggy Tague Earnest who served as acting alumni association director in 1962-1963. A ramp was added to the west end of the deck in 1978 and named in honor of William Secor (Acct. ’43).
During the late 1990s the Directors Club was responsible for a major facelift of the patio area. The Koenig Alumni Center and its patio and gardens are now sought after for weddings, receptions and parties.
No one in his home town of Golden dreamed he had money. He was a member of a pioneer family there, who owned the Mercantile Company.
Koenig’s family were frugal, unassuming people. His only flagrant expenditure was travel. Koenig, of German descent, looked up his genealogy in Switzerland. He was tied into his family and never married.
Lorraine Wagenbush of Golden, a neighbor and friend of Koenig’s, recalled these characteristics of the man who made Koenig Center possible by a gift of more than $700,000.
Sam was one of the few Democrats in the county, Wagenbush said. She recalls a heated election for Jefferson County treasurer which was very close with Republican Paul Partridge, also a prominent Golden man. Votes were counted by hand then. They were counted and recounted. Finally, a coin was flipped, and Koenig won the toss. He was elected treasurer for a number of years.
Koenig graduated in electrical engineering in 1913, but never really practiced his profession. He had a magnificent supply of tools, Wagenbush said. Koenig worked for General Electric for awhile. According to records in the Alumni Office, he was a First Lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps during World War I.
Dwight Roberts Jr., former president of the CU Foundation Inc., was Koenig’s main contact with CU. Roberts states “Koenig’s mother left him stock. In the 1920s and 1930s, he bought more stock, bought wisely, invested wisely and held on to his stock.” He also lived frugally.
A high point in Koenig’s life was the dedication of the Koenig Alumni Center at Homecoming, Oct. 26, 1968.
Interesting facts about the Koenig Alumni Center
- The building served as the residence for the University of Colorado presidents and their families until the late 1960s.
- It is the second oldest building on campus. Old Main is the oldest building, built in 1876.
- Remnants of the stone paving from the old curving driveway can be found in the sidewalk along Broadway.
- The east deck, built in 1977 (and rebuilt in 2008), is named in honor of Peggy Tague Earnest. She was one of the Alumni Association staff for many years and served as acting director of the Alumni Association in 1962-1963.
- The ramp on the west end of the building is named for William Secor (Acct’43). It was dedicated in his honor in 1978, by the class of 1943 at its 35th reunion.
- In addition to housing the offices of the CU-Boulder Alumni Association, Koenig serves as a meeting and event center as well as a unique wedding venue for the university and community.