Monday, December 7, 2015

Then & Now: From Paine Lumber to Fox River Brewing

A couple of pictures. The photo on top was taken just about 100 years ago. The camera was facing northeast from the Congress Ave. bridge. The image it captured shows the Paine Lumber Company. The lower photo was taken this past Wednesday from about the same vantage point. It shows the Fox River Brewing Company Restaurant and Taproom.

Edward Paine with his sons Charles and George opened their first lumber mill in Oshkosh in 1853. It evolved into the Paine Lumber Company, which became the world's largest manufacturer of wood sashes and doors. At its peak in the 1920s, Paine Lumber was the largest employer in Oshkosh with more than 2,000 workers.

Crippled by the stock market crash of 1929, Paine Lumber closed in 1934, then reopened in 1937. In 1959, the company was sold to Louisville's General Plywood Corporation, which closed the plant again in 1971. Local investors re-opened the mill in 1972, but the company went bankrupt ten years later. In 1982, most of the mill was the demolished. The River Mill Condominiums, shown at the far left in each of the images is the only portion of the factory remaining.

In 1995, the Fox River Brewing Company and Fratellos Restaurant was built upon the vacated grounds of the old mill. The brewery and restaurant opened on December 15, 1995. It was the first brewery launched in Oshkosh in 82 years. Fox River is now celebrating the 20th Anniversary of its opening.

Vestiges of the Paine Lumber Company remain. The current Oshkosh Door Company traces its lineage back to the original Paine Lumber Company.

The row houses built by Paine Lumber in the mid-1920s as homes for millworkers still stand along Summit Ave.

And the former Paine Thrift Bank on Congress Ave. is now the offices of the Supple Group, the parent company of Fox River Brewing.

Over the past few weeks I've been thinking a lot about Fox River Brewing. If all goes well, I'll show you why here next Monday.

In the meantime, here's something cool... Fox River has been posting its tap lists on its website. If you click the beer names on the list, most will open the brewmaster's data sheet for the beer. If you're into digging down into the guts of a beer, these data sheets are amazing. I wish more breweries would do this sort of thing. Check it out right here.

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