Abandoned Brewery in Philadelphia
Bergdoll Brewery - City Park Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
When Louis J. Bergdoll emigrated to the United States, an impoverished German immigrant in the mid-1800s, he came with few possessions, except the knowledge of brewing beer. This proved to be the asset upon which he built his career as one of Philadelphia's most important and prosperous businessmen.
In 1849, Louis J. Bergdoll, Sr. founded the original plant of the Louis Bergdoll Company at 508 Vine Street in Philadelphia for the brewing of lager beer. The business was conducted under the firm name of Bergdoll and Schemm until, at the end of one year, Mr. Schemm withdrew from the firm. Charles Psotta associated with Louis Bergdoll soon after, and in 1856 the firm of Bergdoll and Psotta in need of more commodious quarters abandoned the plant on Vine Street and began the development of a new complex located in the still existing buildings in the block situated on the east and west sides of 28th Street, between Brown, Parrish and Poplar Streets. The site of the plant was chosen primarily because of its location near Fairmount Park and the Schuylkill River, which would supply the pure water for the brewery from numerous artesian wells, The farms of the surrounding countryside supplied quality grain for the Bergdoll malt houses, and when combined with the sweet local water, produced a brew acclaimed throughout the area.
Charles Psotta died in 1876, and Mr. Bergdoll purchased his interest in the brewery, continuing operations under the name of The Louis J. Bergdoll Brewing Company. By this time, The Bergdoll Brewing Company had an established reputation as one of the most important breweries in the Philadelphia area.
As the operation grew, Bergdoll established malt houses in New York, which accounted for a third of his malt production. Ultimately half of the malt produced in the Philadelphia and New York houses was sold to other breweries over a wide geographical area.
Bergdoll began importing barley from Canada to enhance the quality of his brew and as his activities expanded beyond the city, so did his reputation as an industrious, successful, and ambitious entrepreneur. What initially began as a small brewery business flourished to become a brewing industry whose revenues far exceeded even Bergdoll's aspirations.
Bergdoll's empire expanded beyond the brewing business. Other's of his enterprises were the Bergdoll and Pawling Realty Company and The Bergdoll Motor Car Company. Louis Bergdoll and his various ventures had an enormous positive impact on the City of Philadelphia and its inhabitants. An undeveloped area by Fairmount Park became the economic center for the varied Bergdoll businesses, and a residential community to house the families of the brewery employees grew up around the brewery buildings. The Bergdoll facility remained a major employer in the City of Philadelphia until the advent of prohibition in 1920. The smells of the brewery gave an identity to this city within a city which is to this day still known as "Brewerytown".
Bergdoll's business associations throughout the country added to the cosmopolitan character of the city and helped build the city's reputation as an important center of commerce. Bergdoll himself, as a result of his growing wealth and power became a dominant figure in the business aristocracy of the city.
On October 3, 1881, The Bergdoll Brewing Company was incorporated and became The City Park Brewery. Louis J. Bergdoll Sr. died at his home in Philadelphia, on the 10th of August 1894, but the brewery continued operations until prohibition (1920-33) forced its closing. It reopened in 1933 for another year of business but in 1934, The City Park Brewery ceased operations.
Several of the original brewery buildings have since been demolished. These included a malt house which was built in 1862, an ice house built in about 1872, a refrigerating storehouse and office built in 1873, and various dwelling houses built in about 1873. From the buildings which remain, however, and from the surrounding row houses, (many of which were built by Bergdoll before his death, and six of which survive) one can still visualize the appearance of The Bergdoll Brewery as the large and flourishing complex that thrived at the turn of the century.
At the 28th Street site, five buildings exist which have survived from the Bergdoll Brewery facility. These structures have been added to and renovated over the decades as the Louis J. Bergdoll Brewing Company grew and prospered. The exterior appearance of these buildings, is for the most part unchanged from the original, the changes that have been made have been interior and non-structural.
Building 1 - Bottling Plant
Sometime after 1882, a bottling plant was erected on this site at 29th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, which was originally the site for outdoor storage of kegs and vats. This building remains intact today, essentially as it was when constructed.
The building is a one-story structure of brick and steel, with a basement which is partially below grade. The structure measures 75' x 145' in plan and is divided into 8 bays along the 29th Street facade. The exterior walls are brick-bearing walls with brick pilasters at each bay supporting trusses that span the first floor which is approximately 18' high. Each exterior bay contains two arched openings which rise to nearly the full height of the exterior wall, and impart a strong rhythm to the street facade. Each brick panel recessed between pilasters, corbels out to the plane of the brick cornice above and ends in a terra cotta cap. The paired flat arches are constructed of brick headers of excellent workmanship, and a strong limestone water table at each opening, strengthens the rhythm of the street elevation.
Building 2 - The Brewery House
The original brewing house was erected in 1856 and consisted of a 3 story dwelling house for Mr. Bergdoll (2A). A brick and stone fermenting, cooling and storing section (2B), and a one-story fermenting and distilling building of stone and brick with a slate roof (2C).
By 1882, 2 additional floors and a slate roof had been added to the fermenting building section (2B) which now was a 5 story building (brick) used for fermenting, cooling, malt milling, storing, cleaning, and mashing. Five floors and a tin roof were also added to the distilling building (2C) making it a 6 story brick building used for beer and hops storage. Between the years, 1882 and 1888, Bergdoll's dwelling house (2A) was demolished and a 6-story brick and stone slate roofed building with a basement was erected, for use as a brewery kettle room. An additional floor was also added to the fermenting building (2B) at that time, making it a 6 story structure. The building remains today, basically as completed in 1888.
The building is an eclectic mixture of rich detail and exuberant vitality. It is clearly apparent that the building was built as three distinctly separate structures, although a loose unity does exist in the relationship of floor lines and the consistency of materials. The exterior walls of the building are of brick construction with small openings at the lower floors and increasingly larger openings toward the top of the building, a characteristic reminiscent of Italian Renaissance urban architecture.
The detailing of the building exterior shows a concern for quality of design and workmanship which is uncommon in todays industrial structures. The north facade is a rhythmic series of brick arches, terminating at the 6th floor in an elegant series of closely spaced arches which corbel out to a projected brick cornice. The west facade is a montage of brick arches, pent roofs, decorated pilasters and corbeled decorative construction. It has an originality which is characteristic of the architecture being produced in Philadelphia in the 1880s in the wake of Frank Furness, and is reminiscent of his work.
The building plan reflects the three separate periods of construction. Each section of the structure is surrounded by masonry bearing walls and has an interior column structure. Floors are of concrete rib construction, formed over hollow tile. The interior space is varied. A four-story high brewery kettle room occupied the entire area of the northwest building segment (2A), and the remainder of the building is divided into one and two-story high compartments, used for cooling and storing.
Building 3 - Beer Storage House
On the site where this building now stands in 1871 stood a one-story stable, a cooper shop that manufactured the wooden barrels used by the brewery, and a wagon shed. In 1873-1874, a one-story cool shed was added. These buildings were demolished by 1882 and a three-story brick ice house with a slate roof was erected along with a three-story beer storage house, (3A). The third floor of this building was demolished in 1888 leaving a two-story storehouse. Sometime between 1888 and 1908, the building was extended eastward to Newkirk Street (3B), and another addition (3C) on the southwest was added between 1908 and 1917. The space was used as an engine room at that time, and remains today basically as it was in 1917.
This building, while built in three stages, is nevertheless a highly unified composition. It is a 2-story building with 20-foot high ceilings (3A and 3B). The floor construction is of concrete which spans between exterior walls. A wooden clear-span roof truss supports the slate-shingled roof. The newest section of the building (3C) is one story in height with a flat roof.
The exterior walls are a well-organized pattern of 3 levels of 12 openings in a well-made wall of hand-molded brick. The lower row is of large, limestone linteled flat head openings. The second level is of small brick arched openings with stone sills. The upper level is a well-proportioned row of tall arched top windows with limestone sills, and wood casement windows which remain in excellent condition.
A band course of projected and angled bricks occurs at the floor line between first and second floors, and the building is topped by a band of stacked brick occurring below the parapet.
Building 4 - Administrative Offices
The land on which the former administration building (4) presently stands was originally the site for a one-story frame stable. In 1872 this was demolished and a 3-story brick office and cooper shop was erected. The exterior of the building built in 1874 remained unchanged through the years; yet, the interior space experienced numerous renovations. By 1882, the office space was made smaller and a taproom was added. Between 1882 and 1892, the interior was divided into general offices, private offices, and storerooms. The building also contained a large cellar beer vault.
This Victorian-like building which measures 24 feet x 90 feet in plan has a two-story high facade divided into 8 bays by 2-story high brick pilasters. Each bay contains a tall brick arched window opening with a stone sill at each floor and is capped by an ornate projected stone cornice supported by stone medallions. The third floor is contained within a shingled mansard roof with a dormer centered in each bay. The interior dormers have graceful triangular pediments; with curved pediments at the corners. A Square tower topped by a pyramidal crown dominates the center of the building, and well-crafted Corinthian capitals anchor the buildings' corners. The workmanship is of a level which is today irreproducible.
Building 5 - Cooper Shop
This building was erected as a cooper shop before 1908 on the site where 2 one-story frame, brick and slate roofed wagon sheds originally stood. In this two-story brick structure, all of the wooden barrels used in the brewery operation were manufactured. By 1922, the building had been subdivided into a garage and a stable, and remains basically as originally constructed.
The ceilings of both stories of this building are 18 feet high, the top floor is spanned by steel trusses supporting a sloping wooden roof. A large lantern is centered over the clear second-floor area. The first floor has a sloping concrete floor and a concrete slab floor construction above, with heights varying from 16 to 18 feet.
The 28th Street facade is characteristic of the exciting eclectic architecture being produced in Philadelphia at the turn of the century. It is divided into 12 bays by brick pilasters, which extend from a limestone band course set at approximately 6 feet above the street, to the corbeled brick cornice which dominates the building. Four large arched openings at the 2 corners and 2 center bays of this facade, mark the location of the original building entrances. Above these entrances are tall windows opening into the second floor, which have circular arches separated from the lower portion of the window by stone lintels extending between pilasters. An elaborate parapet exists above each entrance. The intermediate bays at the first floor contain monumental round-arched brick openings, while the second-floor openings have flatter arches.