Saint Louis, MO

Did anyone say beer? The historic Centennial Malt House building will hopefully be repurposed again

CJ Coombs
The Centennial Malt House in St Louis City, Missouri.Photo byParker Botanical, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Centennial Malt House building is attractive with all the arched windows and importantly, all the attached history. It's located at 2017-19 Chouteau Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. For good reasons, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 15, 2005.

This building has gone by other names:

  • The Chouteau Avenue Brewery Malt House
  • The St. Louis Brewing Association Malt House
  • The Joseph Schnaider Brewery Malt House

The architect of the building was Austrian-born, Louis Kledus. This building was co-designed by Fred W. Wolf who was a German-born, Chicago engineer and architect.

The building has a limestone foundation and the walls are brick and limestone. The architectural style is Late Victorian: Romanesque and Renaissance. This two and three-story red brick building was designed and built for Joseph Schnaider, a local brewer, in 1876. Prior to 1883, a one-story brick addition was built onto the west end of the building.

The Centennial Malt House used to be part of Joseph Schnaider's Chouteau Avenue Brewery and Schnaider's Garden. It's significant due to the architecture, industry, and European heritage.

The building was originally built for a German-born brewer named Joseph Maximilian Schnaider, and it was an important part of his brewery complex. It's also the only part of the complex left.

In 1946, the building was sold to the St. Louis Brewing Association. During this time frame, it was used as a brewery malt house and later as a manufacturing facility.

In the mid-1800s, the number of German immigrants arriving in the United States was happening about the same time lager beer was being introduced to the country. With a new tax imposed on alcoholic beverages in 1862, this made beer less expensive than whiskey. As a result, beer sales grew. Where there were larger German populations with immigration, it seemed that breweries started to grow.

Early on, as far as architecture goes, the American breweries' top three cities were Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. Breweries were designed for more efficiency which included the weight of materials, equipment, and methods.

St. Louis Brewing and German Immigration

The first commercial brewery to open in St. Louis was announced on April 26, 1810. Fifty years later, there were 40 local breweries. Many foreign-born immigrants were coming from Germany. Joseph Maximilian Schnaider, who was born in Germany in 1832, was one of the immigrants and he was a successful brewer in St. Louis.

Schnaider arrived in St. Louis in 1854. In the following year, he decided to go into business for himself and built the Green Tree Brewery. After hooking up with another brewer, Max J. Feuerbacher, who also became his brother-in-law, the Green Tree Brewery was relocated in 1864. In the following year, Schnaider sold his interest to Feuerbacher. After that, he organized the Chouteau Avenue Brewery and Schnaider's Garden.

Schnaider managed his brewer until he died in 1881. His brewery had ranked in the top three in early 1876.

In 1879, Schnaider incorporated all of his business interests under the Joseph Schnaider Brewing Company. In the spring of that year, another well-known brewery architect, Edmund Jungenfeld, designed a wagon shed and a beer storage house for the brewery.

After Schnaider died, his wife, Elizabeth, took over as the president from 1881 to 1889. On the grounds of the complex, the construction of an ice house, a machine house, a storage house, a bottling house, and a summer theater took place. The complex was viewed as a complete city brewery by 1885.

The effects of strikes in the late 1880s led to the consolidation of 18 of the breweries in St. Louis which were named the St. Louis Brewery Association. Each of the breweries maintained their own independence relating to the manufacturing of their special brands of lager beer. Schnaider's Brewery was part of the merger.

Between 1860 and 1896, the number of local breweries had gone down to 25 from 40. By 1896, St. Louis was ranked second in product value next to New York. In 1898, the St. Louis Brewing Association was only running 13 breweries. To meet competition, more breweries merged to form Independent Breweries Company in 1907.

At the turn of the 1900s, the Schnaider Brewing Branch and associated gardens were closed. When Prohibition hit in 1920, the remaining syndicate breweries were also closed.

The Chouteau Avenue Crystal Ice & Cold Storage Plant was formed by the Association with the brewery buildings and the Centennial Malt House. In 1946, the St. Louis Brewing Association sold the malt house to a Marvin A. Stein who transferred the property to a family named Shanfeld. They used the building as a warehouse.

Interestingly, the St. Louis Brewing Association fled to France to avoid jail time. Allegedly, it was involved in paying bribes to public officials for control of streetcar lines in St. Louis so that many of those lines would pass right in front of properties owned by it.

During the 1960s, the buildings and cellars for lager were demolished. The silver lining with all of that is the one building that was spared which was the Centennial Malt House. It was sold to a truck parts company in 1977.

Restauranteur, Paul Hamilton, spent millions in renovating this building. It used to house Vin de Set, PW Pizza, and 21st Street Brewer's Bar which all permanently closed due to a fire last year. According to LoopNet, the building is on the market.

For further reading on the building's history, visit Schnaider's Beer Garden.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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