This weekend I learned a lot about the history of the city that FRCH has called home for the last 42 years. As one of the first major cities in the US, Cincinnati has a rich cultural heritage in the arts, architecture, design and as it turns out – beer.
German immigrants flocked to the Queen City in the 1800′s and their influence is still very much evident throughout the city today. Most notably, perhaps, in the many old breweries found within the OTR (Over the Rhine) neighborhood of Cincinnati and the festivals: Oktoberfest and Bockfest that take over the city every September and March, respectably.
I had the opportunity this weekend to take a private tour of the old Kauffman Brewery in the heart of the OTR Brewery district. This 200,000 sq. ft. building (not including the 2 basement levels) was built in 1859 and was forced to close in 1919 due to Prohibition. Most recently it was the Hussman Potato Chip factory, but by Spring of 2011 will return to it’s original intent as the new Christian Moerlein brewery.
The most fascinating thing about this historic building is the fact that for years, a hidden sub-basement level sat undiscovered. Upon locating the original architectural drawings of the building, the new owners were able to uncover passageways that had been closed over for nearly 100 years. Just within the past year they have knocked down walls and drilled holes in the stone floors that have allowed them to rediscover what was once a lagering cellar with three large bays, as well as a network of tunnels that run the length of city blocks, connecting these 19th century breweries.
The arched architecture serves a functional purpose, designed to support the immense amounts of weight associated with the brewery process and hundreds of barrels of beer. In this case form and function created a beautiful piece of design. After nearly a century of being hidden away, the sub-basement lagering cellar is in serious need of some renovation to restore it to glory – but the bones of a beautiful building have been preserved.
To learn more about Cincinnati’s brewing history I suggest checking out this book by Mike Morgan Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King and definitely see this stunning piece of Cincinnati history for yourself at the Prohibition Resistance Tour. Prost!