American Breweriana Journal November/December 2004
Pennsylvania Brewery Preservation Success Stories
A Photographic Tour Through the Keystone State
By Rich Wagner
I would have to say my fascination with architecture dates back to my days as an ice cream man for two summers while going to college. Three or four times a week I'd drive down Broad Street into Philadelphia to the company freezer where I'd restock my truck. Along the way were buildings from the Nineteenth Century with marble steps, sills and keystones. Each day I'd see more decorative tile and brickwork, or turrets with cone-shaped multi-colored slate roofs.
There were ornate patterns, faces, decorative pine cones or oak leaves adorning windows and gables. If you could look beyond the sad shape many of these places were in, with a little imagination you could visualize the street scene when the buildings were new.
So eight years later, when I found myself visiting working breweries around Pennsylvania, I was awestruck when I came upon the Dubois brewery complex. Industrial architecture with the same flavor of those buildings I'd admired on my drives down Broad Street. Each building was identified with a sign carved in stone BREW HOUSE, ICE HOUSE, STOCK HOUSE. Holes had been ripped into walls to remove the tanks, but all the buildings remained essen tially intact. Inside were gauges waiting to measure pressure in the boiler house, large circular openings in the floors where kettles and tanks should have been, even the "Bier Stube" stood ready.
In my travels to various towns I found that talking with the older locals would usually turn up information on any abandoned brewery buildings. I found Kaier's in Mahanoy City, Fuhrmann & Schmidt in Shamokin, and the Germania brewery in Altoona, all magnificent buildings which appeared as ruins of an ancient industrial past. And so began my fascination and interest with breweries both active and dead and the reuses to which brewery buildings could be put, such as dairy and food plants, cold storage, warehouses and garages, just to name a few.
Twenty-four years and a considerable amount of shoe leather later I’d visited over 400 brewery sites in Pennsylvania and over 500 breweries and brewpubs in North America. In my travels, I photographed any old breweries I'd happen upon, particularly ones which not only survived bur were restored and reused.
In that time, I have conducted fourteen brewery tours in Philadelphia, four in Pittsburgh, three in Luzerne/Lackawanna Counties and one in the Lehigh Valley and South-Central Pennsylvania. The E.C.B.A., ABA and NABA have all sponsored tours – some of the photographs illustrating this article are among the highlights.
In March 2004 I did a story for E.C.B.A.’s the KEG entitled “Brewery Preservation: Celebrating the Success Stories, Remembering the Fallen,” which sadly included the Dubois brewery which was torn down in 2003, among the fallen. As an outgrowth of that story, I looked through my photographs and notebooks and made a list of other “Success Stories.” The list started with about a dozen known sites around the country, and when I posted it on my website it was about two pages long.
Then it occurred to me that the American Breweriana Journal published a lot of articles chronicling “known standing brewery buildings,” so I borrowed the E.C.B.A.'s library collection of the American Breweriana Journal and paged through every issue dating back to 1984. It took days to comb through so many pages but the result was worth it. The list now has over 300 brewery success stories!
Thirty-two states and six countries are represented: 10 in California, 23 in Illinois, 17 in Missouri, 13 in Ohio, 110 in Pennsylvania and 43 in Wisconsin. I contributed 136 sites to the list. Phil Graff accounted for about one hundred more.
The rest were found by other ABA members. I put question marks next to sites that were described years ago and looked as though they might be torn down. I didn't list some of the sites from the American Breweriana Journal if they were vacant or in ruins. I did not include sites that contained only foundations or walls. I did count garages, offices, warehouses and, in a couple cases, brewers' mansions.
Eric Rosengrant has unearthed some very interesting and obscure finds in central Pennsylvania, and I have added them to my list. He actually employed satellite images from the internet together with Sanborn Atlas maps to determine whether extant buildings were once breweries. I could hardly imagine using such techniques when I started back in 1980. Note: many Pennsylvania Sanborn Maps have been made available online through Penn State University since this article was written.
One significance for researchers is that each brewery is tagged with its American Breweries II number, providing easy access to "headstone information" for each company. I have al ready received an email from the owner of the Gerhard brewery in Morris, IL who reports that the brewery is an industrial site today. I am hoping that more people will contribute additions and corrections to the list. If you know of a brewery that has survived and has been adapted to reuse, or see one on the list that's been torn down, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO CAPTIONS (Updated July 13, 2020).
Allentown: What’s left of the Daeufer & Lieberman brewery has been converted to housing. The office building and remaining portions of the Horlacher brewery have been utilized by a warehouse and factory.
Bethlehem: The Uhl brewery is a warehouse.
Johnstown: The Germania brewery now houses the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center. A portion of the bottling house of the Goenner brewery was converted into an art gallery.
Norristown: Adam Scheidt brewery is not the Stony Creek Office Center.
Northampton: What’s left of the Northampton brewery is occupied by a variety of light industry.
Philadelphia: Buildings of the Bergdoll brewery complex have been developed into a number of condominiums including the office, brew house, ice house, bottling house, cooper shop and wagon shed, The Class & Nachod brewery has been converted into housing on the Temple University campus. Since this article was published the Ortlieb bottling house has been beautifully adapted for Kierentimberlake, an architectural firm that specializes in developing brownfield properties. Esslinger Plant #1 is a factory and until recently so was Plant #2. There were recently announced plans to convert Plant #2 into a brewery. The Weisbrod & Hess brewery currently houses the Philadelphia Brewing Co. and other businesses. Since this article was published the Poth brewery in the city’s Brewerytown section is being developed into housing.
Pittsburgh: The Eberhardt & Ober brewery has been converted into a brewery/brewpub and houses other businesses. Since this article was published the Phoenix brewery has been converted into housing. Also the Duquesne brewery complex, which housed a number of businesses is slated to have a brewery/brewpub. The Wilhelm brewery is housing. The Bauerlein brewery has a scrap dealer. Since this article was published the Hazelwood brewery is potentially a site for a new brewery. The Mount Oliver brewery is a theater. The Hoehl brewery is a factory.
Mount Joy: Bube’s continues operating a nano-brewery as well as a number of restaurant and entertainment venues.
Wilkes-Barre: The Stregmaier brewery has been beautifully restored and serves a variety of uses. The Reichard & Weaver brewery is owned by the county and is used as office and storage space.
Since this article was published two which appeared have been razed: Protobrewery in Philadelphia and the Koehler brewery in Erie has been razed.
List of Known Standing Brewery Buildings
Reilly, Pamela. “100 Years After Prohibition, the Legacy of Pennsylvania's Historic Breweries Survives.” Pennsylvania Historic Preservation. Blog of the PA State Historic Preservation Office. March 11, 2020.
MacDonald, Andrea L. “Just Listed: Historic Breweries of Pennsylvania Edition. Pennsylvania Historic Preservation. Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office. July 15, 1915.
Ortlieb's Bottling House Now Offices for Kierentimberlake Architectural Firm. 2015.
Ortlieb's Bottling House Preservation/Restoration. American Institute of Architects Showcase 2018 COTE™ Top Ten.
Wagner, Rich. "Brewery Preservation: Celebrating Success Stories, Remembering the Fallen." The Keg. Spring, 2004.