Minneapolis / Saint Paul / Twin Cities urban exploration

subliminal message: drinking beer makes you sexy
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Theodore and Louise Hamm, a young German immigrant couple, found a home in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1856. In 1864, entrepreneur Andrew F. Keller, the owner of a small brewery called the Excelsior Brewery (then producing 500 barrels a year) needed money for expansion. Theodore lent the money with the brewery as collateral. When Keller defaulted on the loan, Theodore Hamm was the owner of a brewery. The size of the work force grew, as did the total number of barrels brewed. In 1865 there were 5 employees that brewed 500 barrels a year, which grew to 75 employees brewing 40,000 barrels a year in 1885. In 1894 the brewery expanded to include a bottling works, followed by artificial refrigeration in 1895. In 1894 an open house was held and free samples of beer were handed out, beginning the long tradition of brewery tours. The brewery was incorporated in 1896, giving Theodore the title of president and William the titles of vice-president and secretary. The line to succession of the brewery was thus established, as the brewery remained in domain of the Hamm's family for 100 years.

The brewery continued to expand from 8,000 barrels in 1879, to 26,000 barrels in 1882, to 600,000 barrels in 1915. This growth was stymied from 1919-1933 during prohibition. During prohibition, the plant was kept open and an array of products including near beer, industrial alcohol syrups and soft drinks were produced. Soon after the death of his father, William Hamm Jr. started the greatest expansion effort in the tenure of the brewery. The capacity was doubled and the plant was modernized. EC Nippolt, vice president and general manager of the company, estimated that an increase of at least double the number of employees from 150 to 300 or 400. An estimate from newspaper accounts reveals an expenditure of $300,000 in immediate improvements to be made to the plant.

Production continued to increase until World War II, when the allocation of resources slowed the brewery down. However, the quality of the brew continued, as wives of employees were hired as their husbands went off to war. Between 1946 and 1954 a major expansion effort took place at a cost of $16,000,000, and in 1952 the plant had expanded to cover twenty acres, increased its employees to 1,300 and its production to 1,500,000 barrels a year.

In 1965, with Hamm's celebrating its 100th year as a family-owned business, the brewery was now the 8th largest in the nation, selling 3,800,000 barrels in 1964. Family members were ready to diversify their investments, and a buyer for the brewery was sought. Heublein, Inc. bought the brewery for 65 million. After two consecutive years of losses, the brewery again was sold. A group of Hamm's distributors bought the brewery for $10.4 million in October 1973. This operation was under-capitalized and was forced to sell. A family-owned West Coast brewery, Olympia Brewing Company, bought the brewery for $13.7 million. They operated the plant from 1975-1983. The final buyer was Pabst Brewing Company, who bought the brewery in 1983. In 1983 Pabst traded the plant to Stroh's for a Stroh's plant in Tampa, Florida. In the fall of 1997, the brewery closed down for good, never to produce beer again.


In February of 1998, the St Paul Port Authority at announced its plans to raze the brewery, making way for an industrial park. However, in the midst of the controversy this provoked, a real-estate investor's offer to the Stroh's Brewery was accepted. His plans for the site were for a light manufacturing and warehouse business. However, the majority of the buildings on the site still stand vacant today, and in late 2001 the grain elevators and other structures at the north end of the property were razed. What will become of the brewery? Nobody knows. They might ruin the place by tearing it down, or ruin it by turning it into coffee shops and antique stores, or ruin it by letting vandals wreck havoc. I'll be sad, but at least Action Squad was able to explore and document it during its prime (from an urban exploration perspective); after being abandoned for years, but before it was accessed by almost anyone else.

next: Trip Log 1 >

subliminal message: take off your fucking pants

subliminal message: take off your fucking pants


Action Squad urban exploration