Special Edition: A Deep Dive Into the History of the Old Stone Jug


This talented and devoted man explains why the Jug has been able to withstand the test of time.

The Old Stone Jug is perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in the downtown Hamilton area. Locals, alumni and current students alike have their own relationships with the building. Alumni returning to campus can often be seen taking photos in front of the building. What most students don’t consider is how the Old Stone Jug has changed and remained the same over the years and how that has affected the student and local resident relationships.

The building that now houses the Old Stone Jug has a history predating its use as a nightlife locale; the building was also used as a restaurant, a jail house, a hotel and even a hospital. The “Jug,” as we fondly call it, began its use as a bar after the end of Prohibition in 1933. Back then, the Jug catered to the local resident population rather than the students. The Jug as we now know it was molded by the Koen family and more recently John Koen. John has lived above the Jug since 1964 with a secondary residence on Lake Moraine when Colgate isn’t in session.

“When I was a young teenager I was working for my father … with my siblings I took over [the Jug],” John said. “I developed a lot of relationships with the people at Colgate. The student body has changed a lot. Colgate students in the ’70s were primarily from the Northeast, and now a large portion of the student body is from Colorado, California and other countries.”  

Working in the establishment as a teenager, John eventually acquired the Jug and turned it into the student-focused bar and dance club that we know so well. The establishment has seen changes in student demographics, and many important alumni of the university inside its walls. Many bars have come and gone through Hamilton, but the Old Stone Jug has stood the test of time and continues to be a landmark for the town of Hamilton.

“What we’ve tried to do is maintain the Jug … what we try to do is be consistent … so that when you come it’s the same as when you were there before,” John said.

This consistency in the Jug has been the result of John’s history taking care of the establishment at a young age and purchasing ownership at a later point in his life.

“I have always put everything I have into the Jug because I care about it. I personally maintain it, I tend it, I take pride in it every day, and I always have my entire life because it was here for me when I needed it,” John said.  

The future of the Jug may change as John plans to retire and an heir is not yet apparent for the Jug dynasty.

“We are taking [steps] to preserve the Jug, knowing we will not be eternal,” John said.

For those students or alumni who worry about the prosperity of the Jug in these coming years, John was able to provide one last inspirational quip.

“It’s the people that come inside the [Jug], the student body that Colgate attracts, that make the Jug what it is,” John said.