E.C.B.A. The Keg Spring 2004

Sad But True:

Dubois Brewery is Demolished

The complex was torn down last summer (August, 2002). Sam Komlenic did a fine job of documenting the demolition. Here's a series of photographs showing the demise of the two smokestacks, part of the final phase of demolition. Check the More About Us Link to find out why this brewery complex is close to our hearts.

Deconstructing Dubois

by Sam Komlenic

During the summer of 2003, another landmark American brewery was deconstructed and hauled away. The DuBois Brewery had been erected by the Hahne family in 1897 to supply beer to a growing rural-industrial region of Pennsylvania. The enterprise consisted of an imposing set of buildings. Dominating the scene was, as in most cases, the brewery itself. An ornate three-story corner annex housed the plant offices and a locker/shower room on the north end. Just to the south sat the imposing brewhouse reaching nearly ninety feet into the air, which was topped with a flagpole right up until the complex was razed. Further south was attached a mechanical area housing a grains dryer and other equipment, followed by a racking room, engine room, and boiler house with chimney. Later added to this was a newer boiler house/power plant containing the taller chimney which carried the DuBois Brewing Co.’s name into the 21st century. Behind this sat a large two-story ice house, erected in 1919 in anticipation of expanding that area of the business during prohibition. Rounding out the complex were the stables (later a garage), the main office building with the brewery’s bierstube in the basement, and a bottling house.

When I first visited this place in the early eighties, the courtyard between these buildings was still paved with the original brick, and was inset with a railroad siding. Since paved over, the yard became the staging area for the demolition effort. The ice house came down first, followed by the stock house (to the rear of the brewhouse), with its cork-lined walls. I was intrigued to note their ingenious construction. They consisted of three separate brick walls flanking two air spaces which provided primary insulation for the storage cellars. Progress then moved around to the three story office/shower corner. After this was down came the most unexpected part of the project. During a work break, the entire brewhouse, now without support to the rear and one side, came crashing down without warning in a massive cloud of dust and confusion. Fortunately, no one was injured and work continued. The center of the structure was left intact while the focus moved to the older chimney. A crane with a steel plate fitted to the end of the boom was used to push in the chimney, foot by foot, from the top. As bricks cascaded through the boiler house roof, pigeons scattered through broken windows as they lost their longtime home. Once this phase was complete, the previously bypassed part of the building was demolished.

The crane was tall enough to reach the height of the old chimney, but the new one was another "story". The rubble of the entire building was piled upon itself and compacted to a height of 25 feet, and included an access ramp. The crane was driven up onto the pile and extended to its full height to begin work on the signature structure of the complex. On an absolutely gorgeous late summer day, curious onlookers and the media watched (from a safe distance) as the 125 foot terra cotta chimney was whittled off the DuBois skyline. Dust rose like ghostly bituminous smoke from the now-jagged shaft. The power house came down last, and the entire heap was carted to the landfill.

The smaller buildings remain. The bottling house contains a glass imprinting business which, interestingly enough, silkscreens beer glassware. The office building is an apartment house, and the stables are occupied by a garage door company. Behind where the brewery stood, along Main Street, is the Hahne mansion. Built of yellow brick and stained glass, it stands fully exposed for the first time in its history. The ground the brewery occupied is now a grassy plot, small enough to make you think that it never could have held that massive and magnificent building which once housed the company that produced its own "Budweiser" in defiance of Anheuser-Busch. Some of us, the souvenir hunters and others who watched that day, will always have one ragged brick to jog our memories.