MHT File Photo
1701, Gay St., N., Baltimore, Baltimore City
The American Brewery brew house is a unique example of 19th century industrial architecture. Its height and organization of interior spaces were predetermined by the requirements of brewing but the exterior details are expressions of the age and of the people who lived and worked in the area. In style, it can best be described as "middle-European Chalet." The brew house is five stories high but its three towers make it seem taller. The central tower is seven stories and the two on either side are six. The building’s stained glass windows, detailed exterior brickwork, and varied windows with arched, rounded, rectangular, and square shapes add a sense of the unusual to the residential neighborhood. The interior of the structure is largely unaltered although some sections have been modernized and others are no longer in use. There are two buildings across the street from the brew house that were built during the same period and the three together show how a late 19th century brewery would have appeared. The southernmost of these was built in 1896 as a residence for the brewery owners. It is a three-story brick building with brownstone trim. The door frame and cornice are brownstone with rosette decorations. The rosette motif is repeated in the cornices of the windows with a corbel in the center. The building itself has a wooden cornice now painted green. At present, the windows are boarded up and the interior is gutted. The office building next door is two stories high and has three sections. The southernmost section has a rusticated brownstone façade. Brownstone archivolts frame the first floor door and window. The four rectangular windows of the second floor are arranged symmetrically over the first floor divisions. Above the roof line, there is a triangular section of stone with the date 1892 inscribed on it. The middle section is the same as the first described except that it is brick with stone archivolts. The triangular stone section has the date 1896 on it. The last and northernmost section was built in 1900 and is also brick. The façade has six divisions implied by brick arches and a slightly larger central section where the garage door is. Each of the smaller sections includes one semi-arched first floor window and one arched second floor window. The central section is slightly taller than the others and includes two windows above the large door.
The American Brewery is a monument to the development of brewing, one of Baltimore’s major industries, and to the Germans who worked there and lived in the area. The first brewery on the site was erected in 1863 by John Frederick Wiessner on land leased from Charles Rogers. At the time, there were 21 other breweries in Baltimore City and nearby sections of Baltimore County. Wiessner’s brewery was a great success and the business quickly outgrew the original building. The present structure was built in 1887 to enlarge and modernize the brewery. The brewery was one of the finest in the state and it continued to operate until Prohibition. The Wiessners unsuccessfully attempted to produce "near-beer," 3.2% added, but, in 1931 they were forced to sell the brewery to the FitzSimmons family who owned the American Malt Company, subsequently the American Brewery. The brewery is still used to brew beer, although it is now a division of the Allegheny Beverage Corporation. The products there made today are Heibrau, Keg, American, and Arrow beers. They also make Malta Schaefer for the Schaefer Company.