(click to enlarge photos)
Albert Braun arrived from Iowa soon after Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Or perhaps before. I we can trust the photo published below, Braun was here on the day of the fire and enjoying come cold beers at the beer garden that was then open at Pike Street and Front Street (First Avenue). The caption to his piece of Seattle Times nostalgia from 1934 makes some spirited claims.
Whether before the Great First or after it, within a year-and-a-half of the young German immigrant’s arrival here, with financial help from local and mid-western investors, Albert Braun built this brewery about two miles south of Georgetown. The then still serpentine Duwamish River is hidden behind the brewery. Directly across the river, on its west side and also hidden, was the neighboring community of South Park. Braun’s name is emblazoned on the brewery’s east façade, and so it was best read from the ridge of Beacon Hill and from the trains on the mainline railway tracks below.
The brewing began here mid-December 1890, and the brewery’s primary brands, Braun’s Beer, Columbia Beer, and Standard Beer, reached their markets late in March of 1891. The 1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Seattle includes a footprint of the plant that is faithful to this undated photograph. The map’s legend notes that the buildings were “substantial, painted in and outside” with “electric lights and lanterns” and that a “watchman lives on the premises.” It also reveals, surprisingly, that the brewery was “not in operation” since July of that year. What happened?
The economic panic of 1893 closed many businesses and inspired a few partnerships, too. Braun’s principle shareholders partnered his plant with two other big beer producers, the Claussen Sweeney and Bay View breweries, to form the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. Braun’s landmark was then designated as “Albert Braun’s Branch.” Of the three partnering breweries, this was the most remote, and it was largely for that reason – combine with the year’s panic – , it seems, that it was soon closed. The upset Braun soon resigned, sold most of his interests in the partnership, and relocated in Rock Island, Illinois. There, in quick succession – or simultaneously – he started work on a new brewery and fell in love, but with tragic results. Early in 1895 (or late in 1894, depending) Albert Braun committed suicide, reportedly “over a love affair.”
For six years this tidy Braun brewery beside the Duwamish River stood like a museum to brewing, but without tours. Practically all the machinery was intact, from its kettles to its ice plant, until the early morning of Sept 30, 1899, when The Seattle Times reported “the nighthawks who were just making their way home and the milkmen, butchers and other early risers were certain that the City of Tacoma was surely being burned down.” They were mistaken. It was Braun’s five-story brewery that was reduced to smoldering embers. The plant’s watchman had failed that night to engage the sprinkler system that was connected to the tank at the top of the five-story brewery. The eventually flame-engulfed tank, filled with 65,000 gallons of river water, must have made a big splash.
There is at least a hint that the brewery grounds were put to good use following the fire. The Times for August 11, 1900, reports that the teachers of the South Park Methodist Episcopalian Sunday School took their classes “Out for a holiday on the banks of the beautiful Duwamish River, (and for) a pleasant ride over the river to the Albert Braun picnic grounds.”
Anything to add, lads? Here’s Lady Rainier to cheer you on!
Yup. Ron has found a few links that prowl the territory – widely conceived – and we have reached far for four or five more.
JUST 45 DRINKING DAYS LEFT (A Collection of Pioneer Square neighborhood saloon life before they closed in Washington State on the first day of 1916. Jean notices that here no women are to be found. The photographer for these 5×7 glass plates has not been identified eiher.)
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Thanks to Gary Flynn the Bellingham-based “brewerian” for his writing on Braun’s brewery and many others. In 2010 Flynn received the American Breweriana Association’s Excellence in Literature award for “Outstanding achievement in supporting the objectives of ABA and the Breweriana community.”