Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Hillsboro Wisconsin

I am afraid that I'm serving up rather thin soup today.  This is not the kind of site that I would usually devote a post to but it did have one or two interesting features...

But whatever storage caves once existed are now hidden well.

Lets start with a couple of vintage pictures.

Slightly different dates, note the presence of a large building to the left on the upper, and presumably later photo.  But it is a nice building nestled into a hillside. Apparently there was a brickyard somewhere in the foreground of the second, earlier photo.  A detailed book on the Wisconsin brick industry notes that the brick yard was owned by Joseph Bezucha, and that the reddish brown bricks were made for local use only. You could buy 1,000 of them in 1899 for $6.00.  I think those are stacked bricks behind the little brick house.

Of course you did notice that the name on the brewery in the first picture?

Next lets take a look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the place at about the same time as the photos above.  As breweries burned down regularly you tended to see them featured prominently on these maps, but non flammable things like caves are often not shown.

From this you get the sense that the large structure to the right is a whopping great ice house built into the hillside.  This would seem sufficient to keep beer cold even without deeper caves.  Ice probably came from a nearby mill pond.  Notice that the Ice House is shown with a covered loading dock just as is shown in the second photo. That really makes it seem likely that the beer was stored in the ice house.

Of course this does not exclude earlier cave systems.  This brewery was around for quite a while.  It was built in 1870 by a partnership of Ludwig and Landsinger.  As an odd little historic side note I found mention that in 1890 they purchased a vintage brew kettle from the early Aiple Brewery in Stillwater Minnesota.  Perhaps they were upgrading their business or rebuilding after a fire.  Surprisingly the Hillsboro Brewery reopened after Prohibition and hung on until 1943.  So much of what can be seen today are later remnants.

This is about the same orientation as the second historic photograph.  I didn't climb the bluff behind me.  The road is exactly as it was, I am standing at the "Y".

A slightly closer view.  The white wall in the hillside is clearly from the brewery, but it is newish looking cement from some kind of rehab/rebuild.  It did not warrant closer photography being smooth, new and effectively hiding whatever was once there.  But to the left of it, right about where there is a telephone pole I did see something intriguing...

This is trying oh so very hard to be a flat stone face in exactly the spot for a brewery cave.  I scuffed about with the toe of my boot looking for the top of an archway.  If there is one it is further down.  Oh and I should not have to say this but will.  Nobody should ever mess around with any digging tools more formidable than a boot toe in the immediate proximity of what looks like a power line!  There were some traces of asphalt below this stone niche so it may have been nothing more than a spillway for some kind of water run off.  If I had a building built into a hillside I think I would want the water coming off the hill to be routed around it instead of through it.

But surely I will at least find a brick to take home as a souvenir?  I walked along the creek which ran between Mr. Bezucha's brewery and brickyard.  I saw a few busted up generics, of the same attractive shade as the many old buildings on Main Street.  I did find one with a stamp on it, obscured under old mortar.

As I strolled back to my car I unsurprisingly was asked by a local "What're ya doing with a brick?".  In small town America even harmless looking old coots will be recognized as being "not from around these parts".  My explanation was met with a grin.

Alas on returning home I find the word Excelsior stamped on the cleaned up brick. Not from Hillsboro it came from a hundred miles away, ironically from the site I visited in my Brickyard Dog post of a little while back.

No brewery cave, no local brick souvenir.  Some days are like that.

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