Vacant Brewery in Philadelphia

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Date added: September 12, 2023 Categories:

Situated at the northeast corner of N. 10th Street and Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia, the Class and Nachod Brewery, constructed in 1911, stands as a unique and intact example of an early 20th-century Beaux Arts style brewery designed by an important brewery architect. Philadelphia architect Charles H. Caspar designed this impressive brewery early in his career. Capitalizing on the success of this early commission, Caspar went on to design brewery buildings for a number of Philadelphia breweries until the passage of the National Prohibition Act.

The origins of the Class and Nachod Brewing Company can be traced to 1853 when Ferdinand Steinbach opened a brewery on the 1700 block of Marvine Street in North Philadelphia, just a few blocks from the present building. Nearly a decade later, in 1863, Charles Class, Sr. acquired that facility, renaming it "Charles Class' Lager Beer Brewery." From 1868 to 1890, Class's son, Charles Class Jr., was charged with running the family's brewing operations. In 1890, Charles Class Jr. was joined in partnership by Julius Nachod, and the brewery was renamed Class and Nachod.

Seeking larger quarters, Class and Nachod commissioned Philadelphia architect Charles H. Caspar to design a new brewery at N. 10th Street and Montgomery Avenue. That facility was completed in two phases. In 1911, the 5-story main Brewery section was opened. The following year, the two and three-story additions were completed, serving as the Bottling House, Stable and Garage, Boiler House, Engine Room, and Cooper Shop. Class and Nachod continued in operation at the N. 10th Street facility until 1936, a temporary closure during Prohibition notwithstanding. Following the dissolution of the company in 1936, local competitor, Poth Brewing Company, acquired the facility and continued operations at that location until 1941. The next year, the building was acquired by the Atlantic Terminal & Warehouse Company for use as a storage facility for general merchandise.

Neighboring Temple University acquired the building in the early 1980s for the storage of school equipment and supplies. Temple University continued to use the facility for storage until the spring of 2002 when the building was vacated in anticipation of a future rehabilitation.

Brewing in Philadelphia Prior to the Civil War

Prior to the Civil War, brewing in Philadelphia was characterized by small-scale production. Most Philadelphians during this period were drinking homebrewed beer or beer produced in small brewhouses. The city's earliest brewhouses were located along the Delaware River, primarily in the neighborhoods of Society Hill and Old City, consistent with population concentrations.

Four major steps comprise the brewing process: 1) Malting - the milling or grinding of the barley and other grains, 2) Mashing - water is added to the grains and the product is heated to produce a sweet golden syrup known as wort. Hops are added and the product is transferred to a brew kettle where it is boiled to convert the starch in the grain into sugar, 3) Fermentation - the yeast is added and over time (typically 1-2 weeks) the sugar is turned into alcohol, 4) Storing or Lagering - after fermentation has occurred, the beer is transferred to storage for aging. Ales are typically aged for a few weeks, whereas lagers are aged for a number of months.

Until the 1840s, beer brewing in America was limited to the production of English ales and porters. Lager beers, which are comparatively light and more effervescent, had been brewed in Germany since the 13th Century, but were not brewed in America until the 1840s for several reasons. Lager brewing requires a special yeast that was highly perishable. Until the fast clipper ships began running from Europe around 1840, transporting the perishable yeasts was not possible. Lager beers also must ferment in cooler conditions and over a longer period of time. Prior to the development of artificial ice or cooling machines, the fermentation of lager beer was relegated to caves and could generally be accomplished in the Philadelphia region only during the winter season.

John Wagner is attributed with brewing the first lager beer in America in a primitive establishment in Philadelphia in 1840. Not long after, lager beer began to be brewed in cities along the East Coast and in the Midwest. Lager beer was first brewed in Buffalo, NY in 1843, New York City in 1844, Boston in 1846, Erie, PA and Chicago in 1847, Pittsburgh in 1848, and in Milwaukee in 1851.

In the decade before the Civil War, the main seats of the brewing industry in the country were New York and Pennsylvania, with almost half of the beer brewed being produced in these states. Of the 172 breweries in Pennsylvania in 1860, 68 were in Philadelphia.

The earliest lager brewers in Philadelphia were located along the Delaware River, and in the Northern Liberties section of the city, amongst the English ale and porter brewers. By the time of the Civil War, the lager brewers had moved west along the banks of the Schuylkill River where the beer could be stored, or lagered, in the caves along the riverbanks. In those caves, ice cut from the Schuylkill River kept the lager beer at cool temperatures throughout the year. By the mid-19th Century, many of the German brewers had moved near the Schuylkill River, in a neighborhood that became known as "Brewerytown."

Lager Brewing in Philadelphia Civil War to 1900

From the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century, a revolution in brewing methods and technologies occurred which transformed the lager brewing industry. Among the most revolutionary changes were the introduction of mechanization and the development of refrigeration. These technologies allowed for increased production outputs and prompted the consolidation of the city's smaller breweries into large brewing establishments. Also during this period, the brewing industry witnessed the emergence of the mass market, made possible by the network of rail lines that linked Philadelphia's breweries to cities in other regions of the country. A great increase in the German population in Philadelphia and other cities during the mid-19th Century further advanced the lager beer industry by creating an increase in demand for the product. Eventually, lager beer consumption surpassed English beers. Philadelphia's large post-Civil War breweries were concentrated in Northern Liberties (near the Delaware River) and in Brewerytown (near the Schuylkill River), north of Center City where large tracts of land were available. North Philadelphia, where Class and Nachod is located, also contained a large number of post-Civil War breweries, though these were spread out over a larger area, generally along the rail lines.

Brewery facilities throughout Philadelphia were retrofitted to accommodate the new machinery that became available in the last half of the 19th Century. Large refrigeration machines with miles of piping were installed along with enormous boilers to support those machines. To enable the increase in production, massive brew kettles, more than one story in height, were installed, which often required raising the height of existing breweries. Larger mashing tubs, malt mills, and fermenting tubs were also necessary. It was also during this period that breweries began bottling beer and large bottling houses with associated machinery were constructed for that purpose. In order to lager the increased quantity of beer being produced, large refrigerated storage areas were required where the beer would remain until time of delivery.

Mechanization of the industry facilitated the increase in beer production from the breweries and also allowed for more uniformity in the finished beer than what had been previously produced by hand labor. Those same innovations diminished the importance of the skilled brewing craftsman who had traditionally been formally schooled in the craft of brewing and had apprenticed in European brewhouses.

Lager Brewing in Philadelphia 1900 - Prohibition

The first two decades of the 20th Century brought continued consolidation of the brewing industry. The inability to successfully integrate the new machinery into the older facilities rendered many 19th-century breweries obsolete. As a result, consolidation and closure of breweries in Pennsylvania occurred at staggering rates after the turn of the 20th Century. In 1870 there were 246 breweries; in 1880 the number of breweries reached its highest number with 302; but by 1908 this number had decreased to 248. Philadelphia had 92 breweries in the early 1880s, but by 1909 that number had dropped to 48 and by 1914 the number again decreased to 39.

Several of the city's largest breweries constructed new facilities in the early 20th century. These "modern" breweries were generally comprised of a number of interconnected small work areas that served independent, yet related, functions in the brewing process. In addition to the main brewery building, the typical early 20th-century brewery featured a large warehouse and store room, cooper shop, stables, and garage with ample provisions for both horses and automobiles, railway tracks that could convey entire train cars into the brewery, large fermentation and cooling rooms, sophisticated cooling apparatuses with machinery often occupying entire rooms, and boiler rooms where tons of coal were consumed to heat the boilers in which water was turned into steam. Finally, the incorporation of elevators into breweries made taller brewery buildings possible. The five-story breweries constructed in the early 20th century towered over the three-story breweries of the mid to late 19th Century. Many of these features were the result of the technological developments that occurred just prior to the turn of the 20th-Century and thus gave the early 20th-Century breweries great advantages over their predecessors.

Lager Brewing in Philadelphia Post-Prohibition

In 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, in recognition of Congressman Andrew Volstead of Minnesota who introduced it. The law defined the prohibited "intoxicating liquors" as those with an alcoholic content greater than 0.5 percent. Prohibition officially began at midnight on January 16th, 1920.

While the law did allow for the production of a low-alcohol-content beer, most Philadelphians never acquired a taste for "near beer." Many breweries in Philadelphia found that it no longer paid to brew. Most breweries closed, some were converted to the manufacture of other commodities. Some breweries continued to produce illegal beer until they were shut down by the federal government. None of Brewerytown's breweries reopened in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, however, breweries in other parts of the city that had comparatively modern facilities were able to reinitiate operations.

Class and Nachod Brewing Company

The Class and Nachod Brewery was one of Philadelphia's many mid-size breweries. Though not one of the largest, the company of Class and Nachod remained in business for 83 years (Prohibition notwithstanding), one of the longest periods of operation of any brewery in the city.

Statistics available for Philadelphia's breweries demonstrate that the Class and Nachod Brewery at N. 10th Street was a mid-size brewery in terms of production. In 1879, there were 92 breweries operating in the City of Philadelphia. The average output of those breweries was 6,730 barrels annually. Class and Nachod's average output at their Marvine Street facility in 1879 was only 2,100 barrels annually, making this one of the smaller breweries at that time. By 1902, the number of breweries operating in the city had dropped to 43, where it remained for more than a decade. This is indicative of the fact that the 19th-century breweries had become outdated by the turn of the 20th Century and could no longer remain competitive with the "modern" brewing facilities. While the number of breweries did not change from 1902 to 1913, those 43 breweries increased their output from an average of 48,777 barrels annually in 1902 to 56,111 barrels in 1913, reflecting the continued concern for efficiency and increased production. In 1902, while still at the Marvine Street facility, Class and Nachod produced an average of 53,992 barrels annually, just above average for the city's breweries, but eight times their production rate in 1879. Production statistics available for the first year at the N. 10th Street facility indicate that Class and Nachod was able to maintain their output during the transition to the new plant.

Class and Nachod's N. 10th Street facility incorporated significant improvements over their earlier Marvine Street plant. Most notably, the N. 10th Street brewery was sited directly on a rail line, was two stories taller, had an elevator in the main brewery, was constructed of fireproof concrete, and included a cooper shop, a garage for motorized trucks, and a bottling house, provisions that were not included at the earlier site. This comparatively larger facility required a considerable expansion of their workforce. In 1884, the Marvine Street facility was run by a total of 8 men; seven years later, there were 18 men employed at the thriving Marvine Street brewery. Following the move to N. 10th Street, the company hired 24 additional men bringing the total number of employees to 42. The construction of this comparatively modern and expansive facility suggests that the company was thriving during the first decade of the 20th century.

Like most early 20th-century breweries, the Class and Nachod Brewery accommodated every step in the brewing process under one roof. Early maps provide evidence of the uses of the various floors of the Class and Nachod Brewery. The main brewery section was divided into two sections, following the apparent division on the exterior. The eastern section held the actual brewing operations with the large brew kettles located on the tall second story. From the two-story oriel, located in the main brewing room, the operator would conduct the railroad cars from the main trunk to the spur for weighing before and after unloading coal and malt, and loading beer. The scale indicators were located right in the oriel, which was a great convenience for the operator. Each floor of the western section of the main brewery served distinct functions as follows: 1st floor - racking room and wash house; 2nd floor - storage; 3rd floor - fermenting; 4th and 5th floors - storage. A small room on the first floor of the western section held offices.

Historic maps also indicate the uses of the two and three-story additions. The Cooper Shop contained coopering on the 1st floor with storage above. The Engine Room contained the engine room on the first floor with grain dryers and the ice machine on the second floor. The boiler house held two large boilers. The Stable/Garage was used as a garage on the 1st floor and a stable on the 2nd floor. The Bottling House was used entirely for bottling purposes.

Comparison of Class and Nachod's N. 10th Street facility with Christian Schmidt & Sons' brewery on Edward Street in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia provides evidence of the standardization of the brewing process that had occurred by the early 20th Century. Schmidt's Brewery was established in 1859 as an ale brewery. In 1880, they began producing lager beer, and the plant was extensively remodeled for that purpose. Despite those renovations, their facility was not able to accommodate the larger vats and associated equipment that had become the industry's standard in the early 20th Century. In 1914, Schmidt's constructed a new four-story brewery. A Hexamer map of 1916 documents that new brewery and indicates the uses of the surrounding older auxiliary buildings. Aside from the main brewery, Schmidt's plant was comprised of a stable, garage, storage buildings, wash house, racking room, refrigerating house, engine house, malt mill, boiler house, and cooper shop. These independent functions were located in separate, often interconnecting buildings, that were primarily three and four stories in height. A rail siding directly into the facility allowed for the transport of raw materials and finished product. Schmidt's operation had a similar plant organization and contained the same departmentalized functions as Class and Nachod's facility, indicative of the standardized methods of production.

Just nine years after the opening of Class and Nachod, Prohibition was enacted, which had devastating short-term effects on the industry and ultimately on Class and Nachod. For a time during Prohibition, Class and Nachod produced a "near beer," until evidence surfaced of bootleg beer production and the brewery was padlocked by the federal government in April 1922. Beginning the following year, and continuing for the remainder of Prohibition, the brewery remained closed.

Upon repeal in 1933, the Class and Nachod Brewery stood as one of only eight breweries in Philadelphia that were available for the manufacturing of beer. Newspaper accounts from the period reported that this was largely due to the brewery's machinery, which was still considered quite modern despite remaining idle for fourteen years. In August 1934, Class and Nachod filed a petition to reorganize, but continued in operation for the next two years, at which time the company was dissolved. Records indicate that the Class and Nachod Brewing Company continued in existence until 1936. In 1936, the competing F.A. Poth & Sons Brewing Company acquired the Class and Nachod operation and continued to manufacture beer at the N. 10th Street facility until 1941.

In 1941, nearly a decade after repeal, only 11 breweries remained in operation in the city. Those eleven breweries, however, produced an average of 154,278 barrels annually, three times the average production rate prior to prohibition. Class and Nachod's brewery, having been constructed just a few years before prohibition, allowed for the facility to remain sufficient for operations after repeal, but its relatively small size did not allow for it to stay competitive with the much larger breweries in the mid-20th Century.

Site Description

The Class and Nachod Brewery is situated at the northeast corner of N. 10th Street and W. Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia. An elevated rail line borders the property to the east, and the vacant, unrelated N. Snellenburg Company Department Store Warehouse stands to the north. The site is comprised of six interconnected sections that historically served as: the Brewery, Cooper Shop, Engine Room, Boiler House, Stable and Garage, and Bottling House. Erected in 1911, the Brewery section is a 5-story Beaux Arts style reinforced concrete building clad in red brick. The other sections were built the following year as two and three-story additions; they implement the primary materials established on the Brewery section, but are much more restrained in ornamentation. The Class and Nachod Brewery is arranged in a U-shaped plan positioned around a brick-paved courtyard that is open along N. 10th Street. With the exception of the windows on the small additions, which were replaced c. 1985, the original features of the Class and Nachod Brewery remain essentially intact and in excellent condition.

Constructed in 1911, the Brewery section is located on the southern half of the site, with primary elevations along W. Montgomery Avenue and N. 10th Street. This five-story Beaux Arts style red brick building is organized into three bays on the west elevation and twelve bays on the south elevation. The southwest corner of the building is rounded and contains the main public entrance, which is currently boarded up. That entrance is heavily ornamented with a terra cotta arched surround with molded keystone, flanked by fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals. A curved entablature with scroll and floral cresting tops the entrance and contains the words, "Atlantic Terminal & Warehouse," signage added c. 1942 for the subsequent occupant.

A rough-faced, molded reinforced concrete watertable adorns the west and south elevations. A combination of molded rough-faced reinforced concrete voussoirs and lintels top the window openings. The sills, also of reinforced concrete, are smooth-faced. The second-story sills continue across both primary elevations as a belt course. A second belt course is located above the fourth-story windows. Both squared and arched window openings provide fenestration on the two street elevations. Currently, all window openings on these elevations are boarded up on the exterior. Most window sash survive behind the boarding and are a combination of 6/6 wood double-hung sash and paired 4/4 wood double-hung units with arched 4-light transoms above each sash. A two-story copper-clad oriel projects from the east end of the south facade at the second story. The windows have been removed. Crowning the two street elevations is a corbelled cornice. The treatment of the cornice at the eastern end of the south facade differs from the remainder of the elevation. The eastern section contains stepped parapet sections in an apparent exaggerated attempt at crenellation. A datestone reading "1911" is set within the center parapet and a larger "Class and Nachod" signboard is located beneath the 5th-story windows.

The east elevation, facing the elevated rail line, is three bays wide and mirrors the form and details of the east end of the south elevation in terms of fenestration and cornice details. The corners of this elevation are marked by concrete spheres that top the end parapets. An iron-framed train shed that survives in ruinous condition is located at the second-story height.

The north elevation, facing the courtyard, is secondary in design and details. The eastern end, comprised of three bays, is nearly identical to the east elevation, with window openings only at the 4th and 5th stories. The remainder of the north elevation is organized into five bays. The easternmost bay contains wide-paneled metal hoisting doors. The four bays to the west of the hoisting doors contain 2/2 wood double-hung sash set in segmental-arched openings. Paired 6-light casement units are located on the interior side of all 2/2 windows, serving as an interior storm system. There is currently only one window beneath the third story, although evidence in the brickwork suggests that originally the lower stories were fenestrated as well. Portions of the brick on this elevation have been painted. Several former window and door openings were infilled in concrete block, sometime around 1985. A metal shed serves as a canopy at the first story at the location of a concrete loading platform. Abutting this shed, to the west, is a one-story, one-bay gable-roofed extension. An entrance is located on the north elevation and contains a modern metal single-leaf door.

The interior of the Brewery is organized into two sections (consistent with the design differences on the exterior), with a small three-bay east section, and a larger west section. A brick wall with sliding iron door, divides the sections on each floor. Both the east and west sections contain reinforced concrete floors and ceilings, with exposed reinforced concrete beams and squared reinforced concrete columns on each floor. The walls in the east section are painted brick. In the west section, the walls are brick covered with insulation and parging that seemingly dates from the brewery occupation (1911-1941). Two sets of parallel tracks are embedded within the reinforced concrete floor and run east-west through the west section, likely originally used for push carts. A small room, enclosed by 2' thick reinforced concrete walls, is located along the north wall of the west section. This originally served as the malt mill according to Sanborn maps.

Access to the interior of the Brewery is provided through entrances at the southwest corner and on the north elevation. At the southwest corner, the primary entrance leads to an office area that is finished with unornamented plaster walls and ceiling, with beaded board paneling beneath the windows on the west wall. The doors along the loading dock on the north elevation lead to a small entrance area with a blue-glazed brick floor.

An open metal stair with metal pipe rail provides access from floor to floor in the east section of the Brewery. A single freight elevator with utilitarian style door is located adjacent to the stair. In the west section, a freestanding metal spiral stair extends to each floor.

The most ornate feature of the building, the oriel, is located in the east section of the main Brewery, at the second floor. The oriel is two stories in height, but is located exclusively on the second floor of the brewery. Shadow lines on the wall indicate the presence of a former mezzanine that would have provided access to the upper story of the oriel. That mezzanine was probably removed after the brewery's closure in 1941, and as a result, the upper story of the oriel is currently not accessible. Original interior wooden features and trim survive intact including a half-glazed, paneled wood door, flanked by 1/1 interior double-hung wood sash above beaded board bases on each level and original interior wood window trim. The remainder of the windows in the building contain window sills only with no trim.

The red brick, Cooper Shop, Engine Room, and Boiler House directly abut the Brewery to the north and are accessed from within the open courtyard area. These three interconnected sections are two stories in height and were erected in 1912, a year after the Brewery. There is no clear demarcation of the various sections evident on the exterior. Interior partition walls serve as evidence of the independent historic functions that occurred in each section. Wide door openings in the partition walls provide access from section to section and to the adjacent Brewery and Garage/Stable.

The main, west elevation, is organized into seven bays comprising the original Cooper Shop and Engine House. The Boiler House is located in the northeast corner, to the north of the Engine House and east of the Stable/Garage, and hence there is no south or west elevation.

Access is gained along the west elevation through a c. 1985 metal roll-down garage door and through a pedestrian entrance with c. 1985 single-leaf flush metal door. Fenestration is provided by a combination of c. 1985 aluminum units in two configurations: 1/1 with snap-in grids and paired 1/1 with snap in grids and transoms. Rough-faced, molded reinforced concrete lintels with keystones top the squared openings. A smooth reinforced concrete belt course is located at the second story. A corbelled cornice and flat roof top the building. The railroad tracks directly abut the building to the east. The north elevation is unfenestrated red brick.

In the interior, the Cooper Shop occupies the two western bays, and has been used as offices since the mid-1980s. The interior contains painted brick walls, vinyl and concrete floors, partitioning installed c. 1985, and painted concrete ceilings with steel beams.

The interior of the Engine Room is utilitarian in finish, with reinforced concrete floors, parged brick walls, steel columns, and exposed steel ceiling beams.

The Boiler House is industrial in character with a brick floor, parged stone and exposed brick walls, and an exposed reinforced concrete ceiling. The boilers have been removed. A tall terra cotta smokestack rises from the roofline.

The three-story red brick Stable and Garage is located to the west of the Boiler House and is accessed from within the open courtyard and from the adjacent boiler house and bottling house. Terra cotta plaques above the second story bear the words, "Garage" and "Stable," indicating the original usage. The main, south elevation, is organized into four bays. On the first story, there are four original large garage door openings, two of which have been infilled with brick, and the other two containing modern roll-down doors. Smooth-faced reinforced concrete lintels top the squared openings. The second story continues the four-bay arrangement with paired 1/1 aluminum sash with snap-in grids in single bay and paired arrangements. The third story contains an original hoisting door in the east bay with original double-leaf wood doors. The remaining windows at the third story contain 1/1 aluminum sash with snap-in grids. The second and third-story windows contain smooth-faced reinforced concrete lintels and segmental arched heads. A corbelled cornice and flat roof crown the building. The north elevation is unfenestrated red brick.

The interior contains concrete floors struck in a grid pattern with brick walls (areas of which have been painted), a reinforced concrete ceilings with exposed steel beams, and steel columns.

The two-story Bottling House is organized into three bays on N. 10th Street and four bays on the south elevation. A brick sidewalk fronts the N. 10" Street elevation. That elevation contains three double-leaf, vertical board, wood loading doors at the first story, each topped by two-light transoms. Rough-faced, molded reinforced concrete voussoirs frame the openings. Above the loading bays are c. 1985 paired 1/1 aluminum sash with snap in grids. Rough faced reinforced concrete lintels with keystones top those openings. A smooth reinforced concrete beltcourse spans the west elevation below the second story windows. A terra cotta plaque with the words "Bottling House" is centered on the west elevation. The second story bays are separated by brick pilasters that continue to the corbelled cornice.

The south elevation contains one roll-down metal garage door in the easternmost bay. A hoisting bay is located above that was converted to a window c. 1985 with paired 1/1 aluminum windows (with snap-in grids) and transom above. The three bays of windows to the west contain c. 1985 1/1 aluminum windows (with snap-in grids) set in segmental arched openings.

Smooth reinforced concrete sills support the windows. The corbelled cornice continues across this elevation.

The north elevation is unfenestrated red brick. The interior of the building is consistent in design, features and finishes to the adjacent Stable and Garage, with concrete floors, brick walls, reinforced concrete ceilings and exposed steel beams and columns.

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Class and Nachod Brewery, Philadelphia Pennsylvania