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Email from Lee Altenberg about fraternity house founded by Carl Clemans

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  • timraetzloff
    I received an email from Lee Altenberg about the original Sigma Nu fraternity house at Stanford. Carl Clemans, the founder of Alpine, also founded the Sigma Nu
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 12, 2012
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      I received an email from Lee Altenberg about the original Sigma Nu fraternity house at Stanford. Carl Clemans, the founder of Alpine, also founded the Sigma Nu fraternity chapter at Stanford in 1891. According to this email from Lee, the structure still exists, remodeled several times, and enlarged, and even moved, but it still exists.

      Lee's email

      Hi Tim,

      I made a momentous discovery today, of the "long lost" Beta Chi Chapter house that Carl Lane Clemans himself had built. I thought the original chapter house had been gone for a century, but in fact it was merely transformed and is now, quite poetically, the only co-op owned student residence on Stanford. I stumbled across this because Stanford is trying to grab ownership of the house, and I am contributing my campus co-op experience to help the students and alumni reverse the action.

      Here's the house he had built for the fraternity chapter he founded --- a good warmup for Alpine!


      and more on the issue if you are interested: www.savexox.com

      Here's a graphic I made showing the structural correspondence despite the makeover.
      Now, you could help me greatly with some of your historical knowledge. The main question is, did Clemans actually live in the house? Any information you have pertinent to that would be quite helpful. Didn't Clemans stay on as a coach even after he graduated? Do you know when he graduated, with what degree? I evidently never sent you the info I wrote up about Clemans, but perhaps you had already read it on the Web which is why you contacted me:


      Here's the relevant excerpt:


      The story of the house begins in 1891 with one Carl Lane Clemans, riding on a train from Cornell, where he had just graduated, to Palo Alto, to become among the first students at the new Leland Stanford, Junior, University. He already had plans for his first day: to organize a Stanford Chapter of the Sigma Nu Fraternity, and as soon as he arrived he began recruiting. Among his recruits were the Crothers brothers from San Jose. Clemans was the halfback in the first Big Game and George Crothers went on to become a strong ally and Trustee of the University.

      The Beta Chi Chapter of Sigma Nu was the third fraternity to be chartered at Stanford, and the first one to build its own chapter house on campus. The original house was down by the athletic field, but by 1910 the Row had taken shape, and so Sigma Nu built its second house "on top of the hill", at 664 San Juan, intentionally as secluded as possible from the rest of the Row.

      But it wasn't until Clemans and Crothers encountered Leland Stanford that another one of their projects, one with a multi-million dollar legacy, would come into being. Leland Stanford, the great "Robber Baron", builder of the Central Pacific Railroad, had developed a peculiar notion about the direction American industry should take. He believed the time had come when the capitalist (such as himself) could be dispensed with in the industrial system, and that the workers could organize, operate and own their industries themselves, as cooperatives. This was no idle thought of Stanford's. As U.S. Senator he introduced a bill to foster the creation of worker owned cooperatives, and in his founding of Stanford University, he intended the fostering of worker cooperatives to be "a leading feature lying at the foundation of the University".

      Clemans and Crothers heard Senator Stanford tell them at the Opening Exercises that "We have also provided that the benefits resulting from co- operation shall be freely taught. Co-operative societies bring forth the best capacities, the best influences of the individual for the benefit of the whole, while the good influences of the many aid the individual." Inspired, one must surmise, with Stanford's vision, Clemans, Crothers and others founded the Leland Stanford Junior University Cooperative Association on December 7, 1891, to serve as the first campus bookstore, with Clemans president and Crothers on the Board of Directors. The student share-holding system was found to be problematic, so in 1897 the cooperative was reorganized under a faculty board of directors to become today's Stanford Bookstore. The book rebates you get there are a result of its being legally a cooperative.

      These two interests of Clemans and Crothers their first quarter at Stanford -- the Sigma Nu house, and cooperatives -- were to finally come together 70 years later, when the Beta Chi chapter house became Synergy House. But there is a story to tell in between.

      Please feel free to forward this to the other Alpine historians you know, and the Clemans family.
      Best regards,


      Lee Altenberg, Ph.D.
      Associate Editor, BioSystems
      Phone: (808) 875-0745, E-mail: altenber@...
      Web: http://dynamics.org/Altenberg/

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