William Ulmer Brewery

William Ulmer Brewery

Between Broadway and Beaver Streets
Block 3135, Lots 34, 27, and 16

William Ulmer Brewery complex; Credit: Sarah Rosenblatt (2011)

Year Built: 1872-90
Building Type: Office, 31 Belvidere Street; Main Brew House and Addition, 71-83 Beaver Street; Engine and Machine House, 35-43 Belvidere Street; Stable and Storage Building, 26-28 Locust Street
Architectural Style: Round-arched Style
Architects: Office, 1885, architect,
Theobald M. Engelhardt; Main Brew House and Addition, 1872, c.1881; Engine and Machine House, 1885, architect, Theobald M. Engelhardt; Stable and Storage Building, 1890, architect, Frederick Wunder
Original Owner: William Ulmer

History and Analysis

Credit: The Brooklyn Historical Society, Eugene L. Armbruster Photograph and Scrapbook Collection

The William Ulmer Brewery complex, a designated New York City landmark, is a rare extant example of the late-nineteenth century industry upon which the wealth of Bushwick was based. Designed in the American round-arch style, the collected structures include the office building (1885), the main brew house (1872) and its addition (c. 1881), engine and machines houses (1885), and stable and storage buildings (1890).

Born in Württemberg, William Ulmer (1833-1907) emigrated to the United States in 1851 to join family members that already lived in New York City.[1] He soon began working in a brewery owned by one of his uncles, Henry Clausen, Sr., and later partnered with Anton Vigelius to found the Vigelius & Ulmer Continental Laberbier brewery in 1871. Ulmer became the sole proprietor by 1877 and ran the new business—renamed the William Ulmer Brewery—until his death in 1907.[2]

In 1885, Ulmer financed a major building campaign to upgrade facilities at the brewery, and the plant was enlarged to include a handsome, new office, stables, sheds, and storage cellars. Many of these and later additions were the result of new technological advances in the industry that allowed the brewery to increase capacity and production, so, for example, steel framing was introduced to enable a 236-barrel cooking tank in the main brew house. Although financial records for the Ulmer Brewery are not extant, the regular alterations and additions to the complex seem to indicate that it continued to be successful until Prohibition forced operations to cease.[3]

Unlike other large breweries in Brooklyn, there is no evidence to suggest that Ulmer operated an adjacent beer garden or tavern from which to sell his products. Ulmer did, however, invest in real estate, and, by purchasing or building taverns, the brewer could dictate single-source contracts with the proprietors to guarantee that his beer was the only beverage sold. For example, the brew master opened Ulmer Park, a large summer resort with pleasure grounds near Gravesend, in 1893, and, in 1901, he also purchased Dexter Park, a popular baseball and football stadium in Woodhaven, Queens.[4]

Except for the office, many of the buildings associated with the William Ulmer Brewery were sold when beer production was outlawed in 1919. In a permanent departure from brewing, the company retained ownership of the office and the storage additions for use as a real estate office under the name William Ulmer Incorporated.

Additional images

William Ulmer Brewery complex. Credit: Christopher D. Brazee, 2009
Office building (c. 1939) Credit: Municipal Archives, City of New York
Stable and storage building (c. 1939) Credit: Municipal Archives, City of New York