A Driving Tour of Kansas City's Historic Breweries|
Developed in conjunction with Hometown Beer: History of Kansas City's Breweries
A driving tour of Kansas City's still-standing breweries and brewery related is best undertaken on Saturday or Sunday when you can easily pull to the side of the road and get out for a better look, especially since some of these locations are in busy commercial districts that can become crowded with trucks during working hours. In addition, do watch out in some of these neighborhoods: it would be best to lock your car doors.
FERD HEIM BREWERY
Start by heading North (assuming you are coming from south of the Missouri River) on I-29, I-35 or Paseo towards the Paseo Bridge, but exit on Front Street and go East one-and-2/10ths of a mile to North Kansas Avenue. Turn right (south)and then turn right again (west) on Chestnut Trafficway. Stay on Chestnut Trafficway. After you pass its intersection with Nicholson Avenue, you are driving on top of what was the first Electric Park (described on pages 129-132 of Hometown Beer).
As you drive onto the overpass, some of the buildings to your left are what remains of the Ferd Heim Brewery, pictured on page 128. To your right, the building marked Case Supply is the Heim bottling department building, constructed in 1901. Turn right on the Guinotte Ramp and at the bottom of the ramp continue bearing right until you reach the stop sign. There turn right on Guinotte and proceed one block to Montgall and stop.
The building on the southeast corner of that intersection is the Heim #20 Fire Station, explained on page 129. To your left, at 507 Montgall, is the bottling department building. Beginning on page 138, there is an interesting story about its cornerstone. Straight-ahead on Guinotte are the remaining buildings of the Ferd Heim Brewery, whose chapter begins on page 123. This brewery operated from 1887 to 1905, when it become Plant 'A' of the Kansas City Breweries Company, whose chapter begins on page 220. It continued under that name until the advent of Prohibition in 1919. Many of the buildings have been torn down and some painted gray, but you can easily detect the older brick buildings from the original brewery.
Now drive west on Guinotte 9/10ths of a mile to Lydia Avenue. Turn left on Lydia and follow it up the hill. Stay on this somewhat winding road for 7/10ths of a mile to Oak Street. You will notice that the street you are traveling on has become 3rd Street. When you reach Oak, find a place to park.
The buildings to your left, on both sides of Oak between 3rd and 5th Street, were the George Muehlebach Brewing Co., whose chapter begins on page 36. Unfortunately, the brewhouse, which was on the southwest corner of 3rd & Oak, has been torn down. Check out the pictures on pages 47 and 50-1 to help you get oriented.
GREEN TREE DEPOT
Continue west on 3rd Street one more block to Grand Avenue. Turn right on Grand and go one block to 2nd Street and stop.
The building on your right at 201 Grand was the depot of Green Tree Brewing Co. of St. Louis from 1893 to 1911. The west side of the building has been completely refinished, but if you go past the building, and look back at it from the north, you can see, with a little study, the original brick work.
Several breweries, along with several out-of-town breweries' depots, were located on Levee, which was the street on the south side of the river, at the foot of the bluff. None of these buildings survive today. Some pictures appear on pages 76-77 and 82.
To get an idea of how steep this bluff is you might want to drive west three blocks to Delaware Street and walk down the brick street towards the river. We do not recommend walking beyond the gate in the fence.
The beautiful building at what would be 304 Delaware was once the depot of George Wiedemann Brewing Co. of Newport, Kentucky.
WM. J. LEMP DEPOT
When you are finished in this area, proceed south to 20th Street and drive east (turn left) to McGee and stop.
At 215 East 20th Street sits the beautifully restored depot of Wm. J. Lemp Brewing Co. of St. Louis, built in 1895. This building is now the home of the McKay, Bell and Byerely law firm. The chapter on the Lemp brewery begins on page 194.
Turn around and go west on 20th Street to Southwest Boulevard. Turn left. After one short block, turn left on Central and stop.
The building on the southeast corner of 21st and Central was the depot of Pabst Brewing Co., constructed in 1911. It is pictured on page 79 of our book. Two additional stories have been added to the south part of the building. It eventually became Pendergast Distributing Company, which was owned by Tom Pendergast.
IMPERIAL BREWING CO.
Next, proceed south to where you can turn right on 21st Street. Go west one block and turn right on Broadway. Immediately turn right on Southwest Boulevard. Drive straight for three blocks to the bright green building on your left, at 122 Southwest Boulevard, and stop.
This building housed Imperial Brewing Co. from 1933 to 1938. This Imperial (there were two in Kansas City) is described on pages 24 and 25. Unfortunately, the building has been extensively remodeled.
ROCHESTER BREWING CO.
Next, turn left on Baltimore and then left on 19th Street. Go west four blocks to Washington, where the street T's at an unmarked intersection. The street you were on has turned into 18th Street. Turn left on Washington. This is a quaint old neighborhood. After you have passed 20th Street, stop.
In the middle of the block on the east side of the street, at 2015 Washington, is a large brick building, pictured in our book on page 190, which was at one time the bottling department of the J.D. Iler Brewery, which later become the Rochester Brewing Co. It operated at this location from 1888 to 1919. Its chapter begins on page 182. Though there has been some remodeling, it is still possible to see the original foundation and where a door was bricked in. Check out the wooden columns, visible through the loading dock doors on the north side of the building, if they are open. The brewery itself, none of which remains today, was located in this block on the west side of Washington.
BOULEVARD BREWING CO.
Continue south on Washington, past West Pennway. When you get to Southwest Boulevard, turn right. Just after you pass under the railroad tracks, turn left on 25th Street and stop.
The building at 2501 Southwest Boulevard is Boulevard Brewing Company. Its chapter begins on page 270.
IMPERIAL BREWING CO.
Go south on Southwest Boulevard 4/10ths of a mile and turn left into the parking lot of Margarita's. Get out of your car and look west.
The rather imposing structure across the street and behind some buildings is the front portion of the other Imperial Brewing Co., which did business at that location from 1901 until 1919. Its chapter begins on page 210. Because of the positioning of the freeway and some of the other buildings, it is hard to get a decent view of the building, but there is one from the east side of Southwest Boulevard, a block south of Ponak's restaurant.
LEO THOMA BREWERY
From Margarita's parking lot go north in the alley to 28th Street and stop.
The gray building on your right, now covered with vinyl siding, is 1310 West 28th Street, and housed the Leo Thoma Weiss Beer Brewery from 1910 to 1919. This small weiss beer brewery is described on pages 28-30.
'WETTEST BLOCK IN THE WORLD'
Turn left on 28th for one-half block to Southwest Boulevard. Turn right and go north on Southwest Boulevard, past Boulevard Brewing Company, back under the railroad bridge, to Summit. Turn left on Summit and go north one block to Cesar E. Chavez Street. Turn left and drive west 6/10ths of a mile to Wyoming. Turn right on Wyoming and proceed north 9/10ths of a mile to 12th Street. Turn left on 12th Street and proceed straight ahead up the ramp, following it around the curve, and back down. Proceed north to Central Avenue and turn right. Drive east on Central two blocks to an unmarked street, which is State Line and stop.
The building to your left, with the numbers 724 above the door (actually 1724 West 9th), was once James Flanagan's Place, which is written about and pictured on the first page of the Preface to our book. What lies ahead of you was once described as 'the wettest block in the world.' It stretches from State Line east to Genessee along 9th Street. At one time, twenty-three of the twenty-four buildings located on this block were either saloons or liquor stores. There is a picture of the north side of this block on page 193. When Kansas voted dry in 1881, by adopting state wide Prohibition it became necessary for all of the workers in the West Bottoms to cross over State Line at the end of the day to quench their thirst. An elevated rail line ran down the center of 9th Street and a station was located above the intersection at State Line. Hence this block was a rather popular meeting place and no doubt many thousands of people frequented its establishments for many years.
UTE DISTILLING CO.
Next, turn right on State Line and drive south to 925 State Line.
The red brick building was the home of Ute Distilling Co. in 1914, the bottler of Old Lagerbusch brand beer. See page 22.
SCHLITZ BEER DEPOT
About a block further down is a small red brick building on your left at 955 State Line. Watch out for the holes in the road around the railroad tracks.
This brick building, which was an ice house, is all that remains of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. depot that was located here from 1880 to 1919 and ultimately stretched from 955 to 967 State Line and around the corner, where its stables and cooper shop fronted on St. Louis Avenue. The Schlitz chapter begins on page 158.
BARRETT & BARRETT BOTTLERS
At the end of the street, turn left on St. Louis Avenue. It is hard to see the sign since it is covered up by the tree. Also, don't be misled by the Pacific Avenue sign – just turn left, and you are then on St. Louis Ave. Go east three blocks to Liberty Street. Just beyond the intersection, stop at 1422 St. Louis Ave.
This attractive building once housed Barrett and Barrett, a turn-of-the-century manufacturer of all kinds of ciders and vinegars, and also a bottler of beer. Barrett and Barrett served as the American agent for Carling & Co., a Canadian brewer of ale, porter and stout, that had purchased a brewery in Cleveland and set up agents in Baltimore, Chicago, Peoria, St. Paul and Kansas City.
HAMM BEER DEPOT
Continue east on St. Louis Ave. three more blocks to Santa Fe Street and turn left. Go north past 9th Street, to 811 Santa Fe and stop.
The building was the office and warehouse for Hamm Brewing Co. from 1910 to 1917, when they moved to 1323 West 9th Street (no longer standing).
DIRECTION TO DOWNTOWN KC
Turn around and go south on Santa Fe to 9th Street. Turn right on 9th Street and go west two blocks to Hickory. Turn left on Hickory and go south four blocks to 12th Street. Turn right for one block and then turn left. Then make another immediate left and go up the ramp. You are now on 12th Street headed east towards downtown. It is time to go home and, in the spirit and substance of this tour, have a cool one.
However, for those of you that are in the mood for a little more adventure, check out the following:
A building occupied by Frank J. Quigg Brewery from 1913 to 1915 is located at 1700 Madison (five blocks west of Broadway).
A building occupied by Lion Brewing and Bottling Co. in 1903 is located at 2940 Fairmont (one block east of Southwest Boulevard).
A faded sign advertising Heim beer can be seen on the sign of a building on Gillis (four blocks east of Cherry), just south of Missouri Avenue (one block south of 5th Street).