tv Heurich Brewing Company CSPAN June 25, 2017 10:00pm-10:21pm EDT
>> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable service companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> the heurich house in washington, d.c., was built by christian heurich, who started a successful brewing company in 1872.
today we tour several rooms in that mansion, also called the brewmaster's castle, to learn about the heurich family. this is the first of a two-part series. >> this is the home of christian heurich, washington, d.c.'s most important brewer. he was a philanthropist, and he also was the largest employer during his lifetime. he lived to 102. when he died he was still operating his brewery, he was the oldest brewer in the world at that time. this room was built originally to be christian heurich's beer drinking room. room floor was made out of title. furniture wetavern still have in the middle of the room. because christian was basically 60 years old when he had his children and the dining room was the only place for the family to have meals, this became the german breakfast room. this is where the kids would
have their breakfast and lunch. there was a phone in here. it was a more casual dining space. and when that conversion happened, they ordered a suite 's furniture from christian home province in germany. we have a set of table and chairs, this amazing sideboard. we have a couple other pieces including a bench. all of them have historic figures from the place where christian grew up. they are the founders of his home province in germany. this room still retains a lot of its original features. ll that on the wa; are all restored. they are all idioms of drinking. "th the cat on top, it says
there is room in the smallest chamber for the largest hangover." cat is there because hangover in german means "cap poor --" he was a brewer. he drink in moderation. everything in moderation. he moved to washington in 1872 to purchase and start a brewery here. rentingrted by schnell's family brewpub and he divorced from his partner and ended up purchasing schnell's. heurich married his widow, amelia, and build that brewery in that location, introducing lager beer, getting rid of the wheat beer, improving
marketing, improving the marketing, forming relationships with area businesses so he can distribute his beer to them, and really turning into an operation. if you look at pictures of the brewery over those years you can , see how fast the changes were. part of what encouraged the larger buildings he ended up building on the site was the fact that he suffered multiple fires at that location. it was just a fact of life when you were brewing beer. any sort of business at the time, any home, had a potential hazard for fire being used to heat was being used to manufacture, boiled the mash for the beer. just a spark would cause something to erupt. there would be small and large fires there. there were a few
fires that almost bankrupted him the damage was so great. luckily, by the last fire, he had built the business up enough and have enough capital that it did not ruin him, but he got the picture that this was a problem and a hazard to his livelihood. he decided to build a fireproof brewery, at the same period he built this house. he was using the same new technology, fireproof technology, and he built a state-of-the-art brewery down at the site of where we now know the kennedy center, right on the potomac. and that brewery was unveiled in 1895, much fancier, there were a lot of opening events and parties. people were invited in. it ended up becoming the largest brewery in washington, d.c. that brewery had a capacity of 500,000 barrels and they never quite made that much.
it was a gigantic manufacturing facility. between 1872 when he first opened this brewery until 1966 when his brewery finally closed, they had 11 labels with many different beers, different beers underof those labels. brands thefferent whole city new. he was a household name in washington, d.c. at the time. , so when heurich moved to washington, it was a period of time when there were a lot of german-americans coming here. what they were bringing was beer. beer was part of the german culture. so there were breweries being set up all over the city, all over every city. i think what made heurich competitive and not fail like schnell did was he really was trying to create a more
state-of-the-art business or a more sophisticated business. that meant he would go out and form relationships and have bars and restaurants that were his clients, people who he knew were going to take his products. it is something that maybe now we take for granted because at this point, craft brewing in america has become this industry and there are best practices, but he was a businessman coming here starting from scratch, trying to figure out what would help him make it here. and he did succeed. we know that he suffered from periods of exhaustion when he was building up his business and would have to take large amounts of time off and go to europe and take the cold water cure and do these things to sort of revitalize himself because he was working nonstop to build up
this business. the biggest challenge to heurich's brewery and probably to heurich personally, very trying time he and his family had to go through happened in 1917, which is when prohibition came to washington early later in the year in 1917. i think he could see its march heading towards that process. earlier in the year in march, america entered into world war i. world war i, the entry into world war i sort of made the prohibition inevitable, in order to change the country's sentiment there was a lot of propaganda released and a lot of focus on the german-american
community. in america up until that point when we hadn't entered the war, there was sort of no reason to necessarily take a side. nobody was really focused on. at that point, germany is our enemy. so prominent german-americans in washington, d.c. had a difficult , time. s had aeurich difficult time. the department of justice was investigating them. we have recollections from christian and amelia about the department of justice coming to the house and looking through every cranny of their house. and won't he be ashamed when he realized that we've done nothing wrong. they ended up having to get rid of chris junior's ham radio, which was in the turret of the house, because the department of justice suspected that it might be used for spying. there were news people --
newspaper articles coming out in "the new york times" accusing heurich of -- he had a dairy farm in maryland. he had a mausoleum to matilda, his second wife at the farm. , a reporter went and poked around and then wrote this story mausoleum must be some sort of foundation for battlements he was constructing against washington, d.c. even later that same period of time, "the new york times" published a story saying heurich had committed suicide. he, at that got on the phone point, with the editor and the editor said, i will retract the story. he said, don't retract it, just keep me dead and keep my name out of the newspapers. but it was a really trying time for them. in there recollections, it is one of the hardest times for christian because here he is, having made his life in america. he chose to come here, he always
said that germany was his mother but america was his bride. and now he's being challenged, and being accused of not supporting his country. germany becoming our enemy during world war i, and the connection between beer and the german-american community, the german culture, was so closely tied that it was just sort of a matter of time that the anti-german sentiment from us entering world war i would bring prohibitions faster and stronger than maybe it would have otherweise. so, it was a real blow to heurich in 1917 to not only have america be at war with his own d.c. getsut later,
prohibition before the rest of the country and he has to shut his brewery down. he attempted to keep his business going. was in thent, he 80's and could have let it go and been ok with it. but he decided he wanted to keep his staff employed as much as possible. he actually cleaned out barrels in the brewery, had them sterilized, bought $100,000 worth of apples, and tried to create a healthy, nonalcoholic apple cider. unfortunately, within a year and a half, the cider fermented. they were allowed to sell a bit of it, but after prohibition they weren't allowed to get rid in any other way but letting it drain down the sewer. it was pretty sad. heurich wasn't able to keep the brewery open, had to shut the doors. he still had an
ice-making plant so he kept some people with work. but it was the end of his brewery. it's interesting that he never completely knocked down the buildings during that time. i don't know if it was for thought or he just didn't have the heart, but he did survive prohibition. he lived to be 102. when prohibition ended, he decided to put his personal capital he had made, all this money through not just the brewery, but prudent land investments. he floated the re-opening of the brewery, redoing the equipment, hiring a new head brewer, and was really the only brewery in washington to survive prohibition. the brewery did not even close until 1956. it's possible to say that in the end, prohibition really did kill the brewery anyway because people had sort of lost their taste for beer.
they were used to bathtub gin. brewing wasn't really happening behind the scenes, and so in the 1950's when they had to close, it was these large conglomerate breweries with standard recipe beer the people were gravitating towards. they didn't have this daily desire for this hardier beer as they had before prohibition. after christian died, his wife -- the kidscided didn't want the house and she was trying to figure out what to do after she died. she decided she was going to give the building and the property to the historical society. at the time it was called the , columbia historical society. now it is the historical society of washington, d.c. she gave it to them and kept a life estate, meaning she could
continue to live in the house until she died. unfortunately, she died within the year of the gift. so the historical society took possession of the house in 1956. this became their headquarters and they were here in different iterations, building up their own organization until 2003. at that time, they moved downtown into the carnegie library. two of the heurich grandchildren created the heurich house foundation, which is where we -- what we are today. it is what owns the property and operates the museum here, and they helped us take possession of the house and all the objects inside. luckily for us because the family has been so involved, since 2003, all kinds of artifacts have come back into the building. journals and diaries and photos and objects and pieces of furniture that had been
scattered in 1956, have all slowly come back. every day we get more and more , material, more and more documentation to help us understand the heurich stories. and their importance to washington, d.c. there are a great amount of historic preservation of buildings in d.c. we are probably one of the most restricted in terms of preservation properties in washington. not only is this building a landmark, the exterior of the building is a landmark, but also our interiors are. we are one of 23 buildings in washington to have our interiors landmarked and probably the most heavily landmarked in that way. also, our garden, which is this amazing open space in dupont circle, and it's very rare in washington for there to be a big garden in a backyard. the reason why it still exists and has to exist is because washington has something called the height act, which means
buildings can only build up to a certain footage, and then they are not allowed to go any higher unless they somehow can make an arrangement with neighbors who have land that has not yet been developed. they basically by the air rights of their neighbors. our neighbor has purchased our theen's air rights, so garden has to remain a garden. and the building and carriage heights have to remain the heights they are now because we have given away the right to build up. i hope you were able to get a feeling for the heurich family. they were a really important family in washington, d.c. they were this lost story. at everyone knew who they were one point, and they really helped build up washington, d.c. there's a part of washington that i think the rest of the country doesn't see and doesn't
necessarily understand that is not just the federal city, it's not just the federal government and the smithsonians. there are people that have lived here for generations. this is their hometown. they have a history too, and the story is important to the growth of this city, the economy of the city, and the spirit of washington, d.c., as well. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website at c-span.org/history. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> american history tv is on
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