Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When They Tore Down the Peoples Brewery

July 17, 1974
During this week of July in 1974, demolition crews began hammering down the building of the failed Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh. Demolitionists started at the back of the building, tearing apart the power station and gradually smashed their way towards South Main Street. Six months later they were still at it and on January 7, 1975 The Oshkosh Northwestern published a dramatic series of photos that showed the toppling of the iconic Peoples Beer sign that had crowned the four-story brewhouse. The blunt symbolism of the image is unavoidable.

A month earlier, an auction had been held at the property by then current owner, Klein Industrial of Milwaukee. About 200 people were on hand, many of them Oshkosh residents seeking souvenirs. But the serious buyers were from the Pabst and Leinenkugel breweries who carted away over 12,000 cases of beer bottles and the Brewers & Bottlers Equipment Corp., which bought more than $40,000 worth of equipment, including 869 stainless steel beer kegs. Within weeks, the building was stripped of its remaining valuables and demolition began.

The Bottling Department Today
It took them nearly as long to rip the place down as it did to put it up. Construction of Peoples Brewery began in April of 1912 by the Ben B. Ganther Company of Oshkosh. A carpenters strike delayed construction for a time, but by the spring of 1913 beer was flowing out of the modern brewhouse and into gas-cooled lagering tanks. The brewery on South Main would eventually occupy the entire block between 15th and 16th Ave.

The stately brewhouse is now long gone, but parts of the original plant remain. The old bottling department and offices have been incorporated into the Blended Waxes building at 1512 South Main and if you go east along 15th you can still see the garage where they loaded the trucks and stored kegs. It’s not much, but it’s all that’s left of Oshkosh’s last big brewery.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this story, Lee!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Idiocy. One of the coolest brewery buildings in the Midwest. Whoever made the decision to tear down this beautiful building should be dumped in Lake Winnebago.

    ReplyDelete