Saint Paul, MN

The History of St. Paul's Melchior Funk Brewery (1866 - 1901)

Matt Reicher

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1885 Sanborn Map Rendering of the Funk BreweryFort Road Federation

Pioneer brewer Melchior Funk was born in Baden–Wurttemberg, Germany, on July 23, 1828. As a young man, he emigrated to the United States, settling into the brewing trade in Cincinnati, Ohio, and St. Louis, Missouri, before making his way to St. Paul.

In the early 1860s, City Brewery founder Dominick Troyer, in business in St. Paul since 1855, decided to return to Europe. He sold the brewery, located along Eagle St. in the St. Paul's Upper Town district, to Funk and Ulrich Schweizer. The two men ran the business until 1866 when Frederick Emmert acquired Funk's portion of the brewery.

Funk married Wilhelmine Bandomir in 1862. In 1866, after leaving the City Brewery, he established the Funk Brewery near the northwest intersection of Colborne and Cascade Streets in St. Paul's nascent West End neighborhood. The location was a short distance from the Christopher Stahlmann Cave Brewery.

Melchior Funk's brewery stood above the Mississippi River alongside sandstone caves and above a deep well of a seemingly endless supply of pristine water from an underground spring. The two-story complex that acted as the main brewery was 50ft x 100ft with two 25ft x32ft wings. Smaller wooden structures served as cooling and storage spaces.

The Funk Brewery's steam-driven machinery, considered the best money could buy at the time, powered the company's engine, boiler, air pump, feed pump, heater, and more. It was a well-regarded, growing business capable of producing two thousand barrels of beer a year. By 1879, the brewery was producing over seventeen-hundred barrels of beer yearly—a nearly twenty percent increase over the previous year. This output made it the sixth-largest brewery in the city.

A brook that ran through the brewery's grounds furnished water to the establishment for everyone to use, no matter the purpose.

By 1880, the company employed five to six men year-round and used an eight horse-power engine to run its facility. They stored five hundred to six hundred tons of ice in underground sand rocks cellars to help keep the spaces cool, thereby aiding the lagering process.

In the early years, the Funk family lived on the brewery grounds. In 1886, they commissioned architect Moritz L. Weise to build them a home near the brewery. The beautiful multi-storied structure, located behind the brewery at 398 Duke St, became home to members of the Funk family until 1948.

On March 6, 1893, at the age of sixty-four, the Funk Brewery's owner, Melchior Funk, passed away in his home. Soon after his passing, Funk's sons William and John assumed the responsibility of running the business. At this point, the annual output at the brewery was four to five thousand barrels of beer a year. In 1898, the brothers incorporated the business as the 'M Funk Brewing Company.'

Unfortunately, industry changes soon spelled the end for the brewery. Consolidation and larger competitors made it increasingly hard to stay afloat, and soon after the turn of the century, the M Funk Brewing Company was no more. 1901 was the final year the city of St. Paul listed the business in its local directory.

Remnants of the former brewery remained in the neighborhood for many years. Buildings that had once been considered part of one of the city's most recognized businesses eventually fell into disrepair. In 1920, city officials formerly condemned the malt house and ice house.

Soon after, the remaining structures of the former Melchior Funk Brewery - a mainstay since its opening more than fifty years prior, were torn down.

Sources

  • Brueggeman, Gary. "Beer Capital of the State - St. Paul's Historic Family Breweries." Ramsey County History, February 16, 1981.
  • Daily Globe (Saint Paul). "M. Funk." March 5, 1880, 1. https://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/lccn/sn83025287/1880-03-05/ed-1/seq-1.
  • Hoverson, Doug. Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • "Melchior Funk Brewery." 12th Annual West End Neighbors Garden Tour. July 8, 2019. https://www.fortroadfederation.org/uploads/2/4/6/9/24694447/2019_historygardentour__1_.pdf.
  • The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. "Funk Brewery, Long Landmark in St. Paul, Is Soon to be Razed." May 22, 1920, 24.
  • Neill, Edward D. History of Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul: Minnesota (1881). 1993.
  • One Hundred Years of Brewing: A Complete History of the Progress Made in the Art, Science and Industry of Brewing in the World, Particularly During the Last Century. 1901.
  • The Saint Paul Globe. "Receipts from Incorporation Fees." January 2, 1899, 14. https://newspapers.mnhs.org/jsp/PsImageViewer.jsp?doc_id=5fd16f2b-4eb9-483a-a8f0-1d906ac8f098%2Fmnhi0031%2F1HMADF59%2F99010201.
  • Salem, Frederick W. Beer: Its History and Its Economic Value as a National Beverage. 1880.
  • St. Paul Daily Globe. "Died." March 8, 1893, 8.
  • "St. Paul Minnesota Directories 1856-1922 and 1981." Access Genealogy. Last modified November 2, 2019. https://accessgenealogy.com/minnesota/st-paul-minnesota-directories.htm.

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