Nineteenth century Brooklyn brewery designated

Four-building complex is rare reminder of Brooklyn’s once-major industry. On May 11, 2010, Landmarks designated the former William Ulmer Brewery at 31 Belvidere Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn as an individual City landmark. The brewery comprises four buildings constructed between 1872 and 1890: an office building, a brew house and addition, an engine and machine house, and a stable and storage facility. Brooklyn-based architects William Engelhardt and Frederick Wunder designed the complex around a courtyard in the American round-arch style with characteristic brick cladding. The complex is highlighted by the redbrick Romanesque Revival-style office building, which features a slate mansard roof and terra cotta panels and ornamentation. An ornate iron gate, believed to be original to the complex, remains at the site.

In the decades before Prohibition, northern Brooklyn breweries were major beer producers, supplying ten percent of the beer consumed in the United States at their peak. Railway access contributed to Brooklyn’s prominence in brewing, as well as the influx of German immigrants to the area in the mid-1800s.

William Ulmer immigrated to Brooklyn from Germany in the 1850s and together with Anton Vigelius opened the Vigelius & Ulmer Brewery in 1872. Ulmer later bought Vigelius’ share of the business and became the brewery’s sole owner. He retired in 1900 as a millionaire, passing the brewery on to his sons-in-law. The brewery did not reopen after Prohibition, and the buildings were converted to industrial uses. Although the complex has undergone alterations, the original buildings retained the detailing that defined their historical use. The complex’s courtyard, however, is now occupied by a parking garage and was not included in the designation.

At Landmarks’ May 11 meeting, Chair Robert B. Tierney pointed out that the complex would be the City’s first brewery to be designated. Tierney said Landmarks had surveyed former City breweries, and the Ulmer Brewery was one of the only intact structures. Commissioner Joan Gerner said the quality and materials of the complex was “absolutely stunning,” and expressed hope that designation would alleviate graffiti blighting the site. Commissioner Christopher Moore agreed, and suggested that an appropriate response would be to have a “fine brew to celebrate.”

LPC: William Ulmer Brewery, 31 Belvidere Street, Brooklyn (LP-2280) (May 11, 2010).

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