Historic Structures

Henry Willibrand Brewery, Alexandria Pennsylvania

Date added: April 28, 2016 Categories: Pennsylvania Industrial Brewery

Brewing and distilling, founded as cottage industries, were significant and lucrative enterprises beginning in the Colonial era and continuing into the twentieth century. Western Pennsylvania distilleries found a good market in the rapidly expanding Midwest frontier, with exports down the Ohio River reaching 100,000 gallons annually by 1794.

Whiskey was one of the leading commodities carried on the varied river craft that traversed the Susquehanna, Juniata, and connecting waterways prior to the Civil War. After 1850 the number of small distilleries declined as production centered in larger, specialized facilities such as those in Alexandria. In 1860, for instance, there were 182 producers of malt liquors in Pennsylvania; in 1870 there were 246 breweries in the state. By 1900, Pennsylvania had 281 distilleries and breweries.

In 1824 Willibrand advertised his brewery in Alexandria, possibly at a site previous to this one. In an 1833 Huntingdon Gazette advertisement, Willibrand announced that his new brewery was operating in Alexandria, headed by a brewer from Philadelphia. Willibrand did not long enjoy his new operation, however, for in 1835 he drowned in the canal lock while substituting for a sick lock- keeper.

The succession of men who owned or had an interest in the brewery defined themselves by different professions. According to the 1850 census, two P. Pipers, ages 54 and unknown, were farmers; Henry Fockler, 37, was a brewer; and Jacob Hoffman, 50, a merchant. Yet, in 1860 Hoffman is listed as a miller and Nicholas Isenberg, 38, a brewer; in 1870 Isenberg is identified as an auctioneer. The 1880 census lists 48-yearold Peter Piper as as a carpenter, and 31-year-old Jacob Hoffman as a wagonmaker. In 1873 the business was operated as the Alexandria Brewery. Until at least 1879, the property included a stable and other outbuildings, according to the deed between Benjamin Neff and Peter Harnish. The site may have served as a brewery up to 1880.

The brewery is 81' x 35'. The two front porches, probably added when the building was remodeled into apartments, are both 27' x 5'. The side porch on the east facade is 15' x 7' The rear porch on the southeast section is 16' x 6'. The southwest corner porch is 43' x 6'.