Below is somewhat of a timeline of the entire Brewery Project.
We have located the site of the brewery on the east side of Boom Lake, and would like to see it developed and recognized as a historical site. Our hope is to clear off the 12X16' Bottling House slab which is only 18' from the paved trail, and make a picnic area of it. We will post the Project's progreess here:
11/24/2008: The Parks Board has approved this plan (see Proposal below) as of 11/24/2008, and will furnish a picnic table and regular maintenance as far as weed trimming and mowing the srurounding area. In exchange the BHG and friends has agreed to do the initial clearing of the trees and brush, and dirt removal from the slab. We will also do a spring and fall cleanup. We should be able to use the brick found on location to erect a monument labeling the site. The marker will closely mimic the other 18 1971 markers. We will need funding for this marker and some mortar mix. Other groups including the Blue Ox Brewer's Society (BOBS) have volunteered to help us with that initial clearing of the slab. Hopefully this community involvement project will lead to others, and maybe more in this park such as a re-birth of the exercise trail on the hill, and a re-use of the ski jump as a sliding hill! The area between the site and the lake will also be cleared to provide wonderful view of the lake and river beyond.Proposal:
PROPOSAL FOR THE BRAINERD BREWERY SITE PROJECT
AT KIWANIS PARK,
BY THE BRAINERD HISTORY GROUP AND OTHER VOLUNTEERS:
The area on the east side of Boom Lake in the present Kiwanis Park area was home to a brewery since Brainerd’s earliest days, and was in operation under several names including the Brainerd Brewing Company, from 1872-1914. The Brainerd History Group (BHG) would like to see the area both identified and utilized, to show a business part of our early days that most folks do not know existed. The Park is surely one of the most beautiful in the city, has a unique dedicated walking path and we think room for more development if done tastefully, and with little change to the pristine surroundings. At the same time, this project might provide a nice rest stop along the walking path while bringing in a bit of history.
We have located one of the concrete slabs, and the one that was supporting the bottling house is less than 20’ from the walking path. It is only partially visible, but with a bit of effort can be cleared off to expose a nice 16’ wide X 12’ deep concrete floor…a ready-made patio. This would make a wonderful picnic area and resting place, overlooking scenic Boom Lake and the Mississippi River beyond, and is also at the base of the footpath exercise trail that leads up the hill and around to the old ski jump location. This patio would also make a nice starting off or ending point for this path. The site is at the highest elevation on that side of the lake, providing a beautiful panoramic vista.
Here is what the BHG and friends would like to do:
-Provide the initial labor to clear the site of small trees, shrubs and dirt from the slab.
-Salvage and clean the Brainerd-made bricks from the bottling house building.
-Build a monument from these bricks to support a plaque similar to the 1971 Centennial series located around town, of which there are currently 18. One such plaque is already in the Park denoting the J.J. Howe Lumber Co., using stones instead of bricks as the pedestal, about 3’ square. Both businesses were serviced by a railroad spur. The plaque would have to wait on our finding some funding for its manufacture, but would note the brewery site and dates of operation.
-Commit to a plan of annual maintenance of the site, as far as keeping it clear of dirt and litter, and overgrowth of brush. This could be a spring and fall regimen.
-We would request of Parks & Recreation a picnic table on the patio, and only the regular weed trimming and grass mowing surrounding the area, as is done in the rest of the park.
-We could start the clearing in the spring of 2009 (or earlier depending on the weather), and complete the pedestal that summer.
11/4/2008, BHG, Brainerd, MN
Staring Nov. 28, 2008 and for 4 different sessions I did some investigating of the area in preparation of the clearing. For a complete (OK, long!) story and list of things that turned up please go to my Brainerd Amateur Historians site:http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdamateurhistorians
Once there, please click on the sidebar link "Beverage Manufacture". Below however is a quick list of things that caught my attention:
-LOTS of artifacts are still easily found where the rubble from the buildings was pushed. This turned out to be ACROSS the paved path from the slab, spilling towards the lake!
-There are several other areas that might make good vantage points to view the lake, one binging higher than the slab and one much closer to the lake.
-The former ski jump area has TONS of possibilities!
-Properly cleared and with some ideas from an arborist, there are some wonderful Spruce and Norway trees to the rear by the bluff tying to compete for light.
-There are enough bowling ball-sized stones to do some nice landscaping if used as terracing or edging.
4/19/2009: The BHG did a bit of investigating and digging at the site on this cool Sunday afternoon. There was no rain though and a warm sun was on our backs by 5:00 or so. About a baker's half-dozen hearty souls were on hand with garden tools, metal detectors and probe rods. In the final analysis, most of the digging was done by hand. We did not uncover the elusive intact Brainerd Brewing Co. bottle, but came close. Again, lots of BBC bottle pieces. After 4 hours of digging the biggest concentration of bottles pieces was found to be near the bottom center of the rubble pile, and about a foot deep. Some nearly intact bottles were found, just a few chips, but they were unmarked, so may have been pop bottles, or beer bottles of later vintage used toward the end of the brewery's existence up to 1914, and were just common glass un-emboossed bottles with beer lables. We also found lots of other items such as crock jug pieces, steel barrel bands, molten glass from the 1914 fire (or a torching of the rubble later on), and a gob of bricks and brick pieces. It was quite a sight to see 3 grown (not grown UP) men all digging in 3X3' hole a foot deep, trying to pry a bottle free from the frost in the ground! Sadly, the frost was too hard and we had to abandon the find for another day.
We also spent some time getting an idea of what was to come when we tackle the Bottling House slab on Sat. the 25th. Peeling back a bit of earth we find there is a 2' wide footing beyond a 2" lower slab, apparently to support its brick walls. We now have a good Sanborn fire insurace map to use as a guide to locate ALL of the buildings on the site. The City has posted it here:http://www.ci.brainerd.mn.us/Maps_Historic.htm
4/25/2009: Here's an update on how the cleanup went at the brewery site last Sat.
The weather was cool but sunny and perfect for hard work! A dozen folks got about a 10X12' section of the slab cleared in 3 hours, but we may be unearthing the Brew House, not the Bottling House, since we are finding more distance than the BH 12 x16" area! The BH may be right under the walking path. If that's the case we have a 30X60' "patio" at our disposal!
The dirt was deeper than we anticipated towards the rear, so we are planning another round next Sat. May 2 at the same 9:00 AM time. This time however the brushing and tree work is all done, and the approachway to the slab is built, so all we will be doing is grunt work...shovels and wheelbarrows. We could use a second wheelbarrow. The excess dirt is going across the path towards the lake in the low area.
When done, we will need to berm up the bank we created to prevent it from washing back on to the slab, perhaps with the many brick chunks. They will not hold up forever but will be OK to hold the dirt until some grass or even some yellow sedum takes ahold. Ideas?
There are lots more photos on the Dispatch's SPOTTED website, so check it out here:http://spotted.brainerddispatch.com/photos/index.php?id=754170
If the link does not work, just go to their website and click the SPOTTED link on the left. I am also posting there dozens of Brainerd historic photos, by category, such as Schools or Railways.
Brainerd Dispatch, April 26, 2009, Biz Buzz section, by Renee Richardson:
History buffs are likely to enjoy the efforts to uncover Brainerd's past with a dig at the former site of the Brainerd Brewing Co. on Boom Lake. Brainerd History Group members have been using garden tools, metal detectors, probe rods and a majority of hand digging to uncover an elusive intact Brainerd Brewing Co. bottle. So far they found lots of pieces and chipped but unmarked bottles.
This weekend the group planned to do some clearing at the former brewery and uncover the bottling house slab.
Brainerd brewery site clean-up and excavation:
We have long know that there was a brewery in Brainerd, a history of which can be found in Carl Zapffe Sr.’s 1946 book “Brainerd 75”, as well as in many Brainerd Dispatch news accounts. The location is listed merely as “what would be 4th or 5th St. if extended that far south”, or “on the east shore of Boom Lake”.
Many times I have walked the area in that vicinity but could find no traces of a building, but had suspected a flat area covered with only shallow-rooted sumac, but strangely no large trees like the rest of the area. Then one fall day my wife and I were walking on the path around the lake and it was just starting to snow. The light dusting of snow deposited on what little of a concrete slab was exposed, revealing something that did not look like Mother Nature had put there.
I later came back with a probe rod and determined there was at least a 12X16’ slab as the 1917 Sanborn fire insurance map showed, so I thought I had found the Bottling House as it was labeled. This was about in 2007. In the mean time the Brainerd History Group was formed, and we decided to tackle a project as proposed to the Parks & Rec. department. It involved clearing the slab of brush and dirt, committing to a twice-annual clean-up and maintenance program, and hopefully someday marking the site as a historic site with a monument and marker. The monument’s pedestal would be built of Brainerd-made bricks found on the site. In 2008 Park & Rec. accepted the proposal, and committed to placement of a picnic table and their regular park maintenance as in the rest of the park.
In the spring of 2009 the Brainerd History Group spent 2 Saturday mornings with wheelbarrows, shovels, picks and sweat labor and unearthed a 14X18’ slab, much larger than the Bottling House, so we think what we unearthed is the much larger Brew House of 38X60’. The Bottling House is likely buried under the paved walking trail. So, we were content to exposed a slab larger than we anticipated, and the farther to the back towards the hill we went the deeper the dirt was, so we commenced finishing up the project by using the hundreds of brick pieces and some concrete chunks as shoring material for the exposed sand to prevent erosion. We also spread a bit of grass seed to solidify the pieces in time, and envision adding some flowering perennial ground cover. We needed an entry pathway to fill in a low area from the paved trail to the slab, so we used the dirt from the excavation for this, and lined the pathway with boulders found right on the site. A lot of Brainerd Brewing Company bottle shards were found in the area, as well as pottery and metal ware and sewage pipe. On the east side of the slab is a clay-lined sewer pipe outlet in the floor.
When we were done the diggers all stood on the trail and looked in to the site and were all surprised really how fast it went and how good it all looked! There is indeed strength in numbers, and showed that a community project CAN still be done! Some of the helpers were just folks that had wandered by, others just interested in Brainerd history. And, most were women. So much for the weaker sex idea! We must have moved a ton or two of dirt and rubble. Thanks to the City of Brainerd and the Parks Dept. for welcoming this project! What else can we accomplish?
-Carl W. Faust, 5/3/209
After the second and final digging on May 2, 2009, we had some questions as to where we go from here, and even why we stopped where we did. Here are some thoughts.
With the 1917 Sanborn map in hand, and the Bottling House listed as 12' deep X 16' wide, and we had already exposed 14' wide X 18' deep, and no end in sight on the depth, we were sure questioning which slab we were unearthing, and pretty much threw out the Bottling House, figuring it is under the walking trail some place. Also, the bigger building is 38' deep, and that would put it pretty far in to the bank. Looking at the brewery photo which looks like 3 buildings hooked together, likely additions, and finding the slab edge you see there on the left, it appears that the taller middle section in the photo is where we are at. The smaller building on the right must be where the chimney is on the photo. In other words, the photo lines up nicely with the map as our dig being in that middle building. However, you see beyond that big [what appears to be] quarried stone on the left, there is no slab. Either the Sanborn map’s red color is indicating fireproof roof and not slab, which we later found may be the case since getting the Sanborn Key, or in the demolition of the north/left building on photo, its slab was torn out and pushed toward the lake. We did find huge slab chunks on the other side of the trail, but they could be driveway or anything.
One more curiosity is the drain or sewer pipe I found on the right front of the slab. If this is that little black dot on the map then that matches the scenario above. The Sanborn Key is vague on this. Are those dots drains, or hydrant/water taps? In a brewery, drains in most rooms would be likely. Also, the map shows the right side/south building as being a brick floor, yet we see no bricks there, but busted slab. Was it brick on top of slab for sanitation, and the bricks scavenged long ago? Is that black rectangle on the map a boiler? It does match up with the chimney on the photo.
Shawn, the GIS guy at the City who put the maps online is going to GPS the area, and try to pinpoint the walking trail, and that will tell us a lot. Then we need to go down some time and bring lots of probe rods and look for slabs. The Bottling House should be easy to find being so small.
As to where to go from here on excavations, if we now have the main Brew House, we have only scratched the surface as the map lists it at 38' deep X 60' wide! Crumbling slab and nice trees appearing to be growing right up through it made us decide to leave that area untouched, except a bit of investigative digging to reveal more slab to the south, then we left it alone. Going more to the east/uphill was getting deep in the dirt really fast, approaching 4’ and it had to be hauled by wheelbarrow across the trail. And, since we only asked permission from the Parks & Rec. to uncover the 12 X 16' slab, we were quite happy with one that was bigger. If we do uncover more slab it would make sense to go to the south as it more parallel with the trail, as opposed to just going deeper in to the woods and uphill. As it was we were creating a bank on 2 sides that needed shoring to prevent erosion, and the only material we had at hand was the brick pieces and concrete chunks, and just about enough to shore up the banks we had created. Amazingly, we used up all of this slag ruble almost to the last piece, the last few used as edging around our two tree survivors…a cute idea the gals came up with.
One last consideration is that in this tree-hugging world the Parks guy said to go easy on taking down ANYTHING living! The sumac on the other side of the trail was even marginal, but we did take some out, but carefully left some on the north, just removing enough to provide a visual lane to view the lake. A landowner to the north did a lot of clear cutting, and another neighbor complained that some was removed from the lake side of the trail. Shawn said about 4 lots do have land just beyond this trail, so it was OK, but people are VERY touchy about clearing these days. You'll see however that we did clear around the site a bit 8-10' out especially on the north, just to keep the brush and bugs at bay, and open up the area a bit to make it more welcoming. What looks open now will look pretty full in July. We left the entrance a bit shielded so as to not make it look like a bomb dropped, then opened it up a bit as one walks in.
In time, when we have a better idea of where we are digging so far, we may expose more slab, but it will then require bigger equipment such as a skid loader if going east/uphill. This will be another project, and a bit more aggressive, but REALLY fun!
Thanks to Renee and the Dispatch...again! This is what a local newpaper is all about. Send along a note to them and tell them how wonderful this interest and coverage is. A hundred years from now THIS article will be the history of the day, and the folks involved can be proud to have been part of it. 5/16/2009:
History buffs uncover old Brainerd Brewing Co.
Along a curving trail around Boom Lake, the storied past lies just below the surface.
Or at least it did until recently.
In April, a hardy group of history buffs moved the earth to reveal a bit of Brainerd long lost from sight. Overgrown with trees, grass and shrubs, the former site of the Brainerd Brewing Co. was a historical footnote in Brainerd's life. It once churned out beer made largely with Minnesota malt for the area's parched souls.
The Brainerd Brewing Co. as it was in the 1890s on Boom Lake. The malt came mostly from Minnesota and the beer was consumed locally. The brewery was forced to close in 1914. Remnants of the bricks along with a building slab were revealed in a recent excavation of a small portion of the site.
According to Carl Zapffe's book on the history of Brainerd, the brewery on Boom Lake's east shore started about 1880. It had fits and starts and different owners in its early years. It became the Brainerd Brewing Co. in 1906 and grew to a capacity of 10,000 barrels per year by 1910.
Carl Faust of the Brainerd History Group knew roughly where the brewery used to stand from Zapffe's account. When he was in the area about five years ago a light snowfall visually confirmed the site.
In April, volunteers worked to reveal the slab of the Brainerd Brewing Co. building just off the walking trail along Boom Lake in Kiwanis Park in Brainerd. They took out about 50 wheelbarrow loads of dirt and found bricks and bottle pieces.
The site is just feet from the paved recreational trail that winds around Boom Lake. Faust believes the smaller bottling house identified in maps is actually buried beneath the trail. The brew house had a much larger footprint than the small area exposed through the volunteer excavation. There are plans for a picnic table and a sign identifying the brewery.
This 1917 map of Brainerd lists the Brainerd Brewing Co. site on Boom Lake. The business was closed by the U.S. government and the handwritten note on the page notes the buildings were torn down in 1924.
Overgrown and buried, a small portion of the former Brainerd Brewery Co. site along Boom Lake was recently excavated. The site is just feet from the paved walking trail. Plans are to place a picnic table and a sign to identify the former business. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
(See Image13.psp) Faust said even though the area is small it's worth recovering from past obscurity. It's a way to get people interested in history and preservation, he said.
"It's more than just saving buildings," Faust said. "It's these little sites that make it interesting."
Faust is a believer in bringing history out of the museums and books and making it even more accessible to people through physical sites they can walk to and see for themselves.
"You get it out of the book and get it out in the field - it really makes a difference," he said. "I think that's the kind of things we have to do to get people thinking of history. What it will lead to I don't know but I think it's fun."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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