The Herman-Laubheimer Brewery lasted only a few years in the 1860s and ’70s at the southwest corner of Amos and Jefferson streets, but a last few vestiges resurfaced — literally — in the 1990s.
The operation began after Frank A. Herman purchased a 1 1/2-acre lot from C.F. Kuechler on April 24, 1865 for $600. Herman built a brewery and sold it the following year to Ferdinand Defenbaugh for $5,000.
Frank Herman is listed as a brewer in the 1866 Springfield City Directory. Very little information is known about his operation. He might have continued to manage the brewery for Defenbaugh. The Illinois State Journal reported that the brewery was destroyed in a fire on Dec. 31, 1867.
Fire – Last night between 6 and 7 o’clock a brilliant light was noticed west of the city. Persons coming into the from that direction state that Hermann’s brewery situated about two miles west of this place was burned at about the time above named. We were unable to learn further particulars.
(Editor’s note: Despite the Register’s spelling, other records show the family name was Herman, with only one N.)
Defenbaugh apparently rebuilt the brewery, because he sold the brewery site to Frederick C. Herman on June 11, 1868 for $5,000. The relationship between Frank A. and Frederick C. Herman is unknown.
Fred Herman sold a half interest in the brewery to John Laubheimer on Oct. 12, 1868 for $4,500. Laubheimer also became responsible for paying half of a $2,000 note owed to Ferdinand Defenbaugh. The deed noted that Laubheimer was to have half ownership of all tools and fixtures connected with the brewery as well as the beer caves.
John Laubheimer, listed in the 1866 Sangamon County Gazetteer as a farmer living in Springfield Township, became the sole proprietor of the brewery on June 7, 1869 when F.C. Herman sold his interest to Laubheimer. By 1870, Laubheimer was listed in the census as a 54-year-old brewer born in Bavaria, Germany. His real estate was valued at $5,000 and personal property at $1,000.
John Carroll Power notes a “John Landheimer” operated a brewery in the southwest part of the city. It did “a small business, however, only for home consumption.” Power might have been confused about the name and location of the brewery.
The debt owed by Laubheimer to Defenbaugh proved to be the end of the brewery. Defenbaugh filed suit against Laubheimer and Herman to get back his money. The court ordered the brewery to be auctioned on May 2, 1872 to pay Defenbaugh, who bought the property at the sale. Laubheimer was apparently unable to pay off the debt and the brewery property was deeded to Defenbaugh on Aug.t 22, 1873.
Laubheimer left Springfield and by 1880 had settled near Nashville, Tenn., where he went back to farming.
The brewery’s buildings were eventually destroyed or removed but the storage cellars remained. Construction work on West Jefferson Street in the 1990s uncovered the remains of the brewery’s underground brick cavern, a reminder of Springfield’s brewing history.
Although the Herman-Laubheimer Brewery is mentioned only in passing (and with Carroll’s misleading spelling) in Fever River Research’s review of beer caverns found off North Walnut Street in 1993, that report – The Industrial Archaeology of Breweries: Archaeological Investigation at the Mid-Ninetheenth Century Kun-Rudolph Brewery, Springfield, Illinois – includes photos of several beer caverns and a review of local brewing history.
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