Friday, August 5, 2016

Breweries of Sheboygan - Part Two

Researching 19th century brewery history is not easy going.  Partnerships come and go, breweries and fortunes regularly go up in smoke, smaller operations go entirely unnoticed.  

A good case in point is the brewery located between 14th and 15th Streets in Sheboygan Wisconsin.

The standard history has a gentleman named Jacob Muth starting a brewery here in 1848, then selling it to the Bintz (or sometimes Binz) brothers in 1852.  They later sold it to a Thomas Schlacter who ran it from 1868 to 1885.  Schlacter was the last man to brew beer on the site.

But very problematically we learned in the last installment of Forgotten Brewery Caves that August Bintz actually came from Chicago in 1856 and started his first brewery on 12th and Ontario.  That information came from an account of early breweries that appeared in the Sheboygan Press on 17 February, 1921.  No doubt it was colored a bit by thirsty nostalgia in the first dry years of Prohibition but it contains a great deal of specific information not found elsewhere.

Another source, albeit one prone to a bit of exaggeration, is found in a collection of biographical sketches from 1894.  In this version Jacob Muth does start a brewery in 1848 but almost immediately brings in Joseph and August Bintz as partners.  

It is a bit frustrating but I suppose the narrative is not greatly altered by whether the brewery on this site started in 1848 or a few years later, or whether the Bintz brothers were active or silent partners.  Lets take a look around.

This is a lithograph showing Sheboygan in 1885.  I have circled the brewery proper but should point out that with outbuildings it took up the entire block.  

This shows the brewery in its final form, as a three story brick building.  It was rebuilt as such in 1872 after a fire.  Remarkably it survived until fairly recently.  Here it is before its destruction in 1988 by, you guessed it, another fire.

The correlation between the upper 1885 view and the (?) 1970s view below is pretty good.  But it does look as if perhaps the lithographer has the building rotated 90 degrees from its true orientation.

Here is the site -same view- in the summer of 2016.

If you study the three perspectives closely something odd appears.  In the 1885 view it is actually a four story structure with a lower level opening out into a deep ravine.  This was no doubt a deep storage cave.  Beer would have been run down from the upper levels into the basement and then taken out by wagon for delivery through the doorway.

In 2016 there is no ravine.  It has all been filled in and is now a street.  

Circa 1885 the Schlacter brewery went under.  About all that remains of their work is a single example of a very attractive 1870s pottery beer bottle marked T. SCHLACTER.

After the last beer was brewed here the property was acquired by a man named Charles Born. He was also referred to as "Captain" Born, not on the basis of Civil War service but because he was an organizer of a post Civil War militia company.  Born converted the block into a sort of amusement park/spa.  There was a hall you could rent for occasions, gardens and a sanitarium. Health giving mineral water was later "discovered" on the site.  There is a series of postcards from Born's park that you can see HERE but as they appear to be copyrighted I won't reproduce them directly.

Born's Park even served as an emergency hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic but the enterprise closed two years later and was subdivided up into building lots in 1927.

Captain Born actually was a Colonel at the time of the Spanish American War.  He became a brevet Brigadier General; a rather impressive addition to his curriculum vitae that also included service as a Sheboygan Alderman, Police Chief and four terms as Mayor....three as a Republican and one as a Socialist!

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