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Remember: Visiting the Ghosts: Neuweiler Beer - "Nix Besser"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Visiting the Ghosts: Neuweiler Beer - "Nix Besser"

After writing this post, I figured I would go and visit some of the places in Allentown that have fallen into disrepair but were at one time leaders of business in the city. Through a search online, I located a fellow named John who had been given permission by the current owner of the Neuweiler site to allow access to interested individuals. Sunday afternoon, my brother, my friend CJ and I took a journey through what is left of the old brewery and here are some pictures:

It was unbelievable in there. It was sad. It is a real mess. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to see it while I could. I took the following pictures from the roof:

This ghost watches the city and if ever a building could feel sad I would imagine this one does. It was an odd feeling, looking at Allentown from the roof. Seeing Coca-Cola Park and the new buildings on Hamilton made the visit more special. Those are our new landmarks. Sunday afternoon, I stood on one of our older landmarks that is deteriorating further everyday and there is little chance to save it. There are no imminent plans for the site that I am aware of but when the time comes, and it will, I hope they save what they can and preserve it. What follows is a brief history of Neuweiler Beer.

"Louis Neuweiler came to Allentown in 1891. Beermaking then was more than 100 years old in the Valley, its roots going back to the Moravian brewers in Bethlehem. Neuweiler hooked up with longtime brewer Benedict Nuding, whose business was at Seventh and Union streets. In 1900, Neuweiler bought out Nuding. In 1906, he took his oldest son, Charles, into the business that became L.F. Neuweiler & Son.

The Seventh Street location was too small for expansion, so in 1911 the Neuweilers purchased 4.5 acres at Front and Gordon streets and hired Philadelphia architects Peukert and Wunder to build the brewery. It got its water from an underground lake 900 feet below. Neuweiler ordered his own generators for electric power and had separate wells drilled.

Neuweiler opened at this location on April 28, 1913. That day, son Louis P. entered the business and its name became Louis F. Neuweiler & Sons, a name it would retain until 1965. (Louis P. Neuweiler later left the family business and became a local banking executive at Merchants National Bank.)

Neuweiler's truly was a family operation. Charles Neuweiler sometimes drove the horse-drawn wagon to Bethlehem loaded with barrels. The women in the family kept the books.

Neuweiler's also was something of an absolute monarchy. Generous to his family, Louis F. Neuweiler had a temper and little patience with those he regarded as lesser mortals. He once ripped the telephone out of the wall in frustration and told the operator she could go to hell when she couldn't understand the phone number he was asking for.

Louis F. died in 1929. It was during Prohibition and Neuweiler's was brewing only near beer with 3.2 percent alcohol and making mixers under the names Purity and Frontenac Pale. In the early 1930s, Charles Neuweiler turned down an offer to buy the brewery for $500,000 from gangster/bootlegger Arthur Flegenheimer, aka Dutch Schultz. According to son Theodore Neuweiler, his father said, ''We have always made honest beer,'' and ordered Schultz off the property.

At first, the post-Prohibition years were good for Neuweiler's. Its slogan ''nix besser,'' none better, was shared across the community. But by the early 1960s it found itself trapped between the growing market share of the beer giants of the Midwest and the growing preference for its lighter product.

On May 31, 1968, Neuweiler's closed its doors for the last time, $800,000 in debt.

Over the years, some of the equipment was sold. One of the stainless steel brewing tanks ended up at the Milford Park campmeeting grounds in Old Zionsville to be used for water storage
-Urban Exploration Resource



Blogger Katie Bee said...

Holy hell, that's beautiful and tragic. I hope that at least some portions of the building can be salvaged and preserved, like the cornice and parts of the copper dome.

June 15, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Heather Hacker said...

I look at those buildings Monday through Friday on my way to & from work. I have always hoped they would be salvaged into some living spaces or even commercial space. Not knowing the state of the interior, I just wished that the interior would be salvageable. Everyday when I drive past I think about breaking in there just to look around and climb to the top of the dome (where occassionally someone will fly a Puerto Rican flag for a day or two until it is pulled down, I can only presume, by the building's owner). What a great opportunity that was for you. Thanks for the backstory.

June 15, 2009 at 3:59 PM  
Blogger michael molovinsky said...

andrew, you, and especially your brother, may find it informative to sit and have a cup of coffee with your tour guide of the brewery. although a young man, he had remarkable potential, for which he has been punished, instead of rewarded.

June 16, 2009 at 7:06 AM  
Anonymous victoria barrett said...

you guys didn't get all the story. in 1994 my father Jay Barrett bought the patent to distribute the beer. He died shortly after unexpectedly, but it was expected that he was going to get it going places. He was the driving force behind it, and after he passed, unfortunately it fell apart.

November 9, 2009 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Andrew Kleiner said...

Thanks for the info Ms. Barrett. I am very sorry to hear that it didn't work out.

November 9, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I was a child I have dreamed of owning and investing the building's future. The building is beautiful. It is with highest ambitions I'd be the one to bring great life to this site.

February 22, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

In the 60's I met a gentleman named Phillip Neuweiler. I was in my early teens and as I recall (now many years later) he was running the Neuweiler Brewing Co.
My guess is that he was in World War II because I believe he may have been a high ranking officer in the CAP (Civil Air Patrol).
Not sure if anyone can verify that I am correct (or not).

April 28, 2010 at 4:49 PM  

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