Last round on tap for old North Side brewery?

September 26, 2011

A vacant 1880s Romanesque brewery that was once among the city's largest beer producers is now being eyeballed for demolition.

The building's owner, Key Development Partners, is seeking permission to demolish the former U.S. Brewing Company complex at 2530 N. Elston. The demolition permit, which was applied for last month, is under a 90-day review because the more than 120-year-old building has "potentially significant architectural or historical features" according to the city's Historic Resources Survey. The Logan Square property also includes capped underground artesian wells and a larger, but altered, neighboring building.

Is this a preservation emergency? The group Logan Square Preservation has made a fair case the complex should be landmarked and reused. The one-acre site is also for sale. Asking price: $5.8 million.

While everything gets sorted out, the old brewery is worth examining for its architecture. but also because the plant represents Chicago's brief time as a major beer-making capital. The plant produced 250,000 barrels of brew a year and was once one of 40 breweries across the city. We weren't Milwaukee, but we gave em a good run for their beer money. And left behind some good architecture to boot:

The building in these photographs was built by German born industrialist, brewer and rare-coin collector Virgil Michael Brand, who maintained an apartment in the building as well as a residence on Cedar. The bachelor died in 1926 and left behind a staggering 368,000 rare coins--likely the largest private coin collection in the world, then, according to a Chicago Tribune article from the early 1980s. A single 3rd Century gold coin owned by Brand and minted by the Romans fetched $117,000 in a 1982 auction in Zurich.

Brand kept the collection in cigar boxes behind a bookcase in his brewery apartment.