Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Just Listed: Historic Breweries of Pennsylvania Edition


Just Listed is a semi-annual feature of Pennsylvania’s cultural resources that were recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Since our last Just Listed post, four properties from across the Commonwealth have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  You can explore these National Register nominations and other historic properties in Pennsylvania via CRGIS, our online map and database.

The History of Pennsylvania Breweries

Pennsylvania may be the home to Yuengling, known as “America’s oldest brewery,” however the Commonwealth has yet to officially declare a craft beer month.  However the ‘Official Tourism Website of the State of Pennsylvania’ dedicated a page to Pennsylvania Craft Brews, where Pennsylvania’s beer culture is significantly truncated…

The German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and 1800s brought many of their old-world traditions with them, including the love of great beer.

This particular blog post isn’t going to detail Pennsylvania’s brewing history (but maybe we’ll mull over the idea of a beer blog for a future post).  And we’re a little late to honor American Craft Beer Week (which was mid-May this year).  Regardless of any future beer narrations, resolutions or festivals, Pennsylvania indisputably has a rich brewing history and those buildings where brewing happened have been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

Duquesne Brewing Company, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny CountyDuquesne Brewing Co_2014

Listed May 11, 2015, for its Industrial significance at the local level.

The Duquesne Brewing Company of Pittsburgh was formed by a group of South Side businessmen and incorporated on April 4, 1899 and throughout its history pioneered advanced methods of brewing, marketing, and distribution until 1972 when the company ceased operations.

Duquesne Brewing Co_1889Duquesne Brewing Company benefited from consistent, progressive leadership, whose entrepreneurial approach to both the business and technology of brewing allowed the company to successfully adapt to many changes in the brewing industry.  In 1900 – six years before the mass manufacture of automobiles – the company was also the first to introduce an electric beer delivery truck in Pittsburgh.  As part of its bid to move quickly to the top of the restored beer market after Prohibition, the Duquesne Brewing Company became the first brewery in Pittsburgh to package its beer in cans, which then had cone-shaped tops and bottle-cap seals.  At the height of its success, post-World-War II, Duquesne Brewing exported beer to twelve other states.  Consequently, the Duquesne Brewing Company became one of the top ten breweries in the country following World War II.  The buildings it constructed are conspicuous landmarks in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, recalling an era when each urban village was served by its own brewery, and communities prospered along with the successful businesses in their midst.

Duquesne Brewing Co_detailFollowing the war, Duquesne Brewing finally advanced a massive, expensive, modern expansion plan.  In 1950, the company spent $3.5 million on a new, state-of-the-art, International Style brew house.  The new building, constructed by Landau Brothers of Pittsburgh, was designed by Harley, Ellington, & Day, a prominent architectural firm from Detroit which specialized in brewery design.  It contained four floors dedicated to grain storage, refrigerated hop storage facilities, a modern cooking room with inspection balconies, a master brewer’s office adjoined by a laboratory, a well-equipped medical center, a dining room for employees, and an auditorium-style meeting room, complete with tap room and projection booth, for shareholders and sales personnel.

The Duquesne Brewing Company operated during a period of transition for the brewing industry from brewing on an independent, hand-operated, local scale to brewing on a fully-mechanized, mass-produced national scale.  The contrasting styles of its two massive brick brewhouses, separated by half a century, reflect the changes in brewing, and in industry in general, during the first half of the 20th century.  The heavy, ornate, Romanesque solidity of the 1899 structure exemplifies the tradition of the locally-based, German-dominated brewing industry in an era after modern advances in refrigeration, pasteurization, and bottling made a modern brewing factory possible, but before the true advent of mass production, marketing and distribution.  The International Style cladding over Duquesne Brewing’s state-of-the-art, 1950 brew house conveys the boldly modern associations the brewery wished to project of its large-scale aspirations at the middle of the 20th century.  Together, the buildings of the Duquesne Brewing Company plant stand for more than half a century of adaptation and innovation in brewing.

The building is currently being rehabilitated, utilizing the federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit program, to convert this largely vacant industrial building into gallery and studio space in addition to apartments for artists.


Henry F. Ortlieb Company Bottling HouseOrtlieb_1950 bottling house exterior

Listed August 5, 2014, for its Architectural significance at the local level.

The Henry F. Ortlieb Brewery was once one of the largest beer brewers in Philadelphia. Founded by the Ortlieb family in 1869, the brewery grew considerably in the early 20th century, adding to the plant as their market expanded.  In 1948, the company’s final major building—the Bottling House—was completed to incorporate state-of-the-art bottling technology into the facility. While most of the impressive brewery complex has been erased by recent demolitions, the 1948 Bottling House has started a new life as a home for KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based architecture firm recognized for its environmental ethos, research expertise, and pioneering design and planning.  In order to relocate to this building, KieranTimberlake undertook an intensive rehabilitation project to adapt the vacant building for their needs while retaining as much of the original character and materials as possible.  This project was also made possible in part by the federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit program, administered by the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office.

The Bottling House features International Style influences, showcasing the distinctive design characteristics of post-World War II industrial buildings in the Philadelphia region, including horizontal massing; asymmetrical organization; ribbons of metal-frame windows; red brick with exposed concrete trim; and large-scale signage in a sans serif font.

The Philadelphia region adapted the International Style for industrial and institutional buildings a bit differently than in other geographic areas.  Key to this regional distinction was the influence of Paul Cret, an architecture professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and a local tendency to retain continuity with the past.  The result was the widespread use of brick as an exterior treatment—a material dominant across the city.  Cret’s theories of modernism were a profound influence on his most famous student, Louis I. Kahn.  The vast majority of International Style buildings in the Philadelphia region, both before and in the first decades after World War II, used the city’s traditional material palette: red brick with light-colored trim (usually concrete instead of earlier stone), with comparatively little use of the glass curtain walls otherwise typical of the International Style.

Ortlieb_sign detail

Ortlieb underwent considerable expansion in the 1930s.  In 1933, the year of Prohibition’s repeal, the company began the construction of new ale-making facilities, with the Koelle firm again serving as architects.  This was followed by other expansions until 1940, when Ortlieb announced a capacity expansion of 200,000 barrels, or a 200% increase over the brewery’s 1932 output.  In addition to bottles, Ortlieb began packaging beer in a recent innovation:  the six-pack can.

The up-to-date style carried Ortlieb through another three decades of production, outlasting the vast majority of their nineteenth- and early twentieth-century contemporaries and competitors in the region. The Ortlieb’s Bottling House thus represents an important, late chapter in Philadelphia brewing and industrial brewery facilities. The Ortlieb brewery remained a family-run business until it was sold to rival Christian Schmidt Brewing Company (then among the largest producers in the nation) in 1981.


-Excerpted from Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Summer 2015, A Place in Time, written by April E. Frantz.

All images for the National Register properties featured in this blog are on file in State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The SHPO would like to thank the authors of each nomination: Duquesne Brewing Company – Angelique Bamberg, Principal at Clio Consulting; Henry F. Ortlieb Bottling House – Emily T. Cooperman, ARCH Preservation Consulting.


Pennsylvania properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places since April 2015



Duquesne Brewing Company

City of Pittsburgh

LISTED 5/11/15



Wyoming Central Office of the Bell Telephone Company

City of Philadelphia,

LISTED 5/11/15



Stewart Farmstead

Hatfield Township

LISTED 5/19/2015



Gosztonyi Savings and Trust

City of Bethlehem

LISTED 5/19/2015

Author: Andrea L. MacDonald

Andrea L. MacDonald serves as the Director of the PA SHPO and is the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. Andrea is passionate about Pennsylvania’s food geography and is committed to discovering unique ways to connect Pennsylvanians with their unique history and communities. Andrea is has been with the PA SHPO since 2004.


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