Historic Structures

Building Description Ahnapee Brewery - Von Stiehl Winery, Algoma Wisconsin

The Ahnapee Brewery is a fine, largely intact two-story rectilinear plan brick Mid- Nineteenth century Astylistic Utilitarian form building that is located at the eastern edge of the downtown portion of the city of Algoraa at the top of the south bank of the Ahnapee River. This vernacular building was constructed as a brewery in 1869, for Wojta Stransky, a businessman from the nearby city of Kewaunee, and Herman Seideman, a brewer who had come to Algoma from Sturgeon Bay. The brewery continued in operation until 1894, after which it served for a time as a warehouse for a Green Bay brewer. In 1909, the building was converted into a fly net manufacturing plant by local businessman George Kelsey. In 1926, the by then vacant building was taken over by another company that manufactured washing machines in the building for several years. Afterwards, the building was used primarily for storage until 1967, when a local doctor, Dr. Charles W. Stiehl, restored it to house the well-known winemaking business that still occupies it today under different owners. The brewery building measures 55-feet-deep by 36-feet-wide and it rests on massive rubblestone foundation walls that enclose both a basement story and a sub-basement story that still houses the original stone barrel-vaulted beer storage vaults. The exterior walls, which rise up to the overhanging eaves of the shallow-pitched hip roof that shelters the building, are fashioned out of locally manufactured cream brick. The interior of the building is also still in largely original condition. The sub-basement and basement stories are now used for the production of wine, the first story is used as a reception room, and the second story is used as storage and office space. When Dr. Stiehl purchased the building it was in dilapidated condition but structurally sound. Dr. Stiehl replaced the few surviving original windows with ones of identical design, and he restored the roof, which had been altered ca. 1926, to its original appearance.

The city of Algoma is sited on both banks of the northwest-southeast flowing Ahnapee River at the point where the Ahnapee empties into Lake Michigan. By far the largest part of the city is laid out on the relatively flat land located on the south side of the river. This area contains most of Algoma's residential neighborhoods and its central business district, the north edge of which runs along the upper edge of the south bank of the river, where the now vacated tracks of the Ahnapee & Western Railroad were once also located. Other residential neighborhoods are located on the somewhat steeper land found on the north side of the river, but this area is only about one-fifth the size of the area to the south.

Traditionally, the banks of both sides of the Ahnapee in Algoma have been given over to buildings associated with manufacturing and other commercial enterprises. Among these was the plant of the Algoma Foundry and Machine Co., historically one of Algoma's most important industries (the much modified remains of this plant are located on the north bank of the river just to the east of the present Fourth Street bridge). Another of Algoma's historically notable commercial enterprises located on the riverbanks was the local fishing industry, which began to develop towards the end of the nineteenth century in order to harvest the abundant fisheries of Lake Michigan. For nearly a century, from the 1880s to the mid-1980s, most of the 600- foot-long stretch of riverbank between today's Fourth Street bridge and the mouth of the river was lined with the wooden docks and the small frame buildings or "shanties" that were associated with this industry.

The Ahnapee Brewery was also sited on the banks of the Ahnapee river, partly because the brewing process required water and lake ice, and partly because the river gave ready access to Lake Michigan shipping, which was Algoma's principal means of sending and receiving goods until the 1890s and the arrival of the city's first railroad. The brewery is located at the top of the sloping south bank of the river on a double lot that originally stretched from Navarino Street down to the river. The northwest-southeast running Navarino Street runs roughly parallel to the river along the top of the bank, and the tracks of the Ahnapee & Western Railroad also ran parallel to the street, but at the foot of the riverbank and below the brewery.

The west end of the roughly triangular block on which the brewery is located is bounded by Fourth Street, which at this point is also a portion of STH 42. A bridge carries Fourth Street across the river, then intersects with North Water Street. This block underwent considerable change in the 1980s. Prior to this time the block contained a mixed group of buildings, nearly all of which were astylistic vernacular form frame construction buildings associated with such commercial uses as a tin shop, a tailor shop, a stone-cutting shop, and a steam laundry. A few small houses were also intermixed with these small commercial buildings. In the 1980s, however, efforts to upgrade the riverfront have resulted in the construction of modern condominium units to the west of the brewery and to the north on the riverbank. Today, only a few of this block's earlier buildings survive. The historic brick commercial buildings across Navarino Street from the brewery are still largely intact, though, as are most of the other blocks of brick commercial buildings that lie just to the south, so a good deal of the historic context of the brewery is still extant.

The main facade of the brewery faces southwest onto Navarino Street, which was known historically as South Water Street. A concrete sidewalk parallels Navarino Street and crosses the south end of the double lot belonging to the brewery. Most of the left-hand (west) lot now consists of a blacktopped parking lot that extends north from the sidewalk down to the edge of the pedestrian right of way at the base of the sloping site. The west side of the parking lot is mostly bounded by a new building that contains condominium units. The main entrance to the parking lot is through a broad gateway that is defined by a pair of tall brick piers that are connected to solid brick walls topped with concrete coping. The east side of the parking lot is bounded by the west elevation ot the brewery and by a solid brick wall that runs perpendicular to the street from the southwest corner of the brewery to the righthand (east) end of the wall that borders the street. 3 The main facade of the building is located approximately 48 feet from the sidewalk and the portion of the lot between the building and the sidewalk consists of a landscaped front yard. This yard is comprised of a lawn bisected by a concrete walk that leads from the sidewalk up to a broad flight of steps that is centered on the principal facade.

The brewery building is free-standing in design, rectilinear in plan, two-stories in height, and it sits in the center of the easternmost lot. The building measures 36-feet-wide by 56-feet-deep and its 1.5-foot-thick American bond cream brick walls rest on two-foot-thick rubblestone masonry walls that enclose the basement story and three-foot-thick walls that enclose a sub-basement story. Because of the slope of the site, most of the side and all of the rear elevations of the basement story are exposed, as is all of the rear elevation of the sub-basement story. The exterior walls rise up to broad fascia boards that encircle the building and these walls are sheltered by the simple overhanging boxed wooden eaves of the gently sloped asphalt-shingle-covered hip roof that covers the building. A single short brick chimney stack with a corbelled cap pierces the west slope of the roof and there are ten smaller brick chimney stacks arrayed around the edge of the roof (two each on the main and rear elevations and three each on the two side elevations).

The main facade faces southwest and it is thirty-six feet in width, two-stories in height, is five-bays-wide, symmetrical in design, and it rests on a raised portion of the basement story. The raised portion of the foundation is fashioned from rubblestone that is lightly covered with a concrete wash that has been regularly scored to imitate the appearance of regular ashlar stone construction. The facade has two identical width bays placed on either side of a center bay that contains the original main entrance to the building in its first story. The raised basement story resulted in the placing of this entrance above grade and it is now reached by ascending a flight of seven steps, each of which has a cream brick riser and a concrete tread. These steps lead up to a concrete landing and they are flanked by simple painted wooden balustrades. The side panels that enclose the space under the steps are also filled with cream brick as well. The double-width segmental-arched entrance door opening is now filled by a pair of carved wood entrance doors that date from 1968. The opening is crowned by a course of soldier bricks that is itself surmounted by a corbeled header course that acts as a drip cap. An "S" shaped cast-iron anchor head is centered in the wall surface above this opening.

The second story of the center bay contains a single segmental-arched window opening that features the same soldier and header coursed decoration as the door opening below (identical brickwork crowns the heads of all the other first and second story window openings as well). This opening now contains a flat-arched double hung sixover- six-light wooden sash window constructed in 1968, that is identical in design to the seriously deteriorated original window it replaced. Just above this window is a small cast iron "O" ring that is located just below the eave at the top of the bay.

The remaining four bays on the main facade are all identical in design. The basement story of each bay contains a small segmental-arched window opening whose head is decorated with alternating soldier and header coursed bricks. Each ot these openings contains a flat-arched three-light top-hinged wooden sash window. The segmental-arched first story window openings in each bay are slightly broader than the otherwise identical ones in the second story and they contain flat-arched eightover- eight-light double hung wooden sash. The flat-arched six-over-six-light second story windows are identical with the one described in the proceeding paragraph. All of these windows were constructed in 1968, as identical replacements for deteriorated or missing originals. The facade is terminated by two of the brewery's ten chimneys, which are centered between the first and the second and the fourth and fifth bays.

The fifty-six-foot long southeast-facing side elevation is four-bays-wide. The bays are regularly spaced and the first and second stories of the bays each contain a segmental-arched window opening identical to the ones described on the main facade, having eight-over-eight sash in the first story openings and six-over-six sash in the second. Three "S"-shaped cast iron anchors for tie rods are placed at regular intervals at a level between the first and second stories. A single flat-arched window opening pierces the basement wall at the basement story level and it is located between the second and third bays from the left of the story above it. This opening contains a pair of nine-light wood sash casement windows and neither the opening or the sash is original to the building. The opening itself, however, predates the 1968 renovation by many years, although the exact date of its making is unknown. The elevation is crowned by three of the brewery's ten chimneys, which are placed between the first and second, the second and third, and the third and fourth bays.

Above the first story level, the four-bay-wide northwest-facing side elevation of the brewery is identical to that of the southeast-facing side elevation just described. The first story, however, contains only a single window opening, which is located slightly to the right of the center of the first bay from the right. This segmentally arched opening is shorter and much broader than the ones in the second story and it now contains a pair of six-over-six-light double-hung wooden sash replacement windows. A single flat-arched entrance door opening is placed in the second bay from the left at the basement story level. This opening predates the 1967 remodeling and it contains a massive wooden door made of battens that opens out onto the parking lot. A second oblong shape flat-arched freight door opening is located to the right between the first and second bays from the right. This opening (which may be original) contains a pair of heavy wooden inward-swinging batten doors and it was probably used for the shipping and receiving of goods.

The northeast-facing rear elevation is also four-bays-wide and it is terminated vertically by two of the ten chimneys, which are centered between the first and the second and the third and fourth bays. The first and second stories of each bay contains a segmental-arched window opening that is identical in size and design to the ones used on the other elevations and these too are filled with six-over-six and eight-over-eight light sash. A single "S"-shape cast iron anchor head is centered on the elevation between the first and second stories, which position corresponds to the one on the main facade. Both the basement story and the sub-basement story are fully exposed on this elevation. The basement story of each bay contains a small segmental-arched window opening that is identical to the ones on the main facade that were described earlier. These are also filled with three-light top-hinged awning sash. The sub-basement story features two evenly spaced seven-foot-wide by 6- foot-tall three-centered-arch door openings that open into the east and west vaults in the sub-basement. Each of these openings has a roughly fashioned cut stone lintel and both are filled with heavy wood batten doors.

The original interior of the brewery was a strictly utilitarian affair and much of that interior still survives today. The most exceptional space is the sub-basement story. The sub-basement story (also known as the vault floor) has exposed fieldstone walls and concrete floors that were poured in 1968, when the original cream brick floors were removed to satisfy State standards for sanitation conditions in a bonded winery premises. This story is bisected longitudinally into two nearly equal size spaces by a three-foot-thick rubblestone partition wall. This partition wall divides the sub-basement into an east vault room that measures approximately 15-feet wide by 49-feet-deep and a west vault room that measures approximately 12-feet wide by 49-feet-deep. An arched opening placed in the partition wall connects the two spaces. In addition, there is a 15-feet wide by 45- feet-deep south extension to the east vault that is completely underground and that extends out almost to the sidewalk. This vault is entered by another arched opening placed in the south wall of the east vault. All three vaulted spaces are approx. 11- feet-tall and they have masterfully constructed barrel-vaulted two-foot thick ceilings that are fashioned from regularly coursed stones that become progressively smaller in width as they near the apex of the arch. Originally, this story was used to store as many as 2000 wooden beer kegs. In 1967, when the building was transformed into a winery, all of the walls were cleaned and whitewashed. Currently, each of the spaces contains a number of large open stainless steel vats with a capacity of 12,000 gallons in which the wine is fermented.

An L-plan wooden staircase placed against the north end of the west vault room ascends to the basement story above. The basement story is divided longitudinally into two nearly equal-width spaces by a two-foot-thick rubblestone partition wall and a flat-arched opening in this wall permits passage from the east room to the west room. The east room is now known as the Bottling Room and it measures 16.5- feet-wide by 49-feet-deep while the west room, which is now known as the Finished Goods Storage Room, measures 13.5-feet-wide by 49-feet-deep. Like the sub-basement below, the floor of the basement story is also now fashioned out of concrete poured in 1967. The original interior surfaces of the basement's rubblestone exterior walls and also of the stone partition wall, however, are still visible, having been cleaned and whitewashed like the walls in the sub-basement. The ceiling of the basement story was originally bare wood, it being the exposed subfloor of the floor above. In 1967, though, it was covered over for sanitary purposes with plasterboard that is attached to the bottom of the original 2" by 12" floor joists, which are constructed on 16" centers. At the same time, a small portion of the west room was partitioned off to form a new furnace room. A brick chimney stack ascends from the floor of this new room through the floors above to the roof.

An open straight run wooden staircase placed near the south end of the west wall of the basement story provides access to the first story. The first story now houses the Reception Salon and the Tasting Salon of the winery. So far as is known, this story was originally one large 33-foot-wide by 52-foot-deep open space that featured bare cream brick walls (the interior surfaces of the perimeter walls), a wide board wood floor, and a bare wood ceiling that was actually the exposed underside of the subfloor of the floor above. This ceiling featured 3" by 12" floor joists and it was upheld by a single massive 12" by 12" beam that was centered on the ceiling longitudinally. Two 8" by 8" posts supported this beam and ten wood stoves were arrayed around the perimeter ot the room. Except for the stoves, which were removed decades ago, most of these features are still intact today, although all were somewhat altered in the 1967 renovation. In that year the walls were painted white and the existing wood floor was varnished. In addition, the ceiling was covered over with sheets of varnished and stained plywood that were attached to the base of the joists, and the edges of these sheets were covered over with thin wooden strips, creating a panelled appearance. Also, partition walls were used to form a rectangular space in the southwest corner ot this story that houses two bathrooms. The north partition wall of this space was extended about ten feet to the east, creating both an entrance vestibule and the south wall of a rectangular sales counter area that is located approximately ten feet behind the centered entrance door. The first story's windows are now draped in red velvet, oriental rugs partially cover its floor, and antique display tables and wine serving areas now create an atmosphere that is entirely different than the strictly utilitarian one that preceded it.

the first story provides access to the second story. The second story now houses a full case wine storage area and an office space. So far as is known, this story was original identical in appearance to the one below and most of these historic features are still intact today. This story consists of one large 33-foot-wide by 52-foot-deep open space that originally featured bare cream brick walls (the interior surfaces of the perimeter walls), a wide board wood floor, and a bare wood ceiling that was actually the exposed underside of the subfloor of the attic story floor above. This ceiling featured 2" by 12" joists and it was upheld by a single massive 12" by 12" center beam that was supported by two 8 M by 8" posts. The walls were painted white during the 1967 renovation and the original ceiling is now hidden by fiberglass insulation batts laid between the joists. Also in that same year two new partition walls were also constructed in the northeast corner of this story to create a 24-foot-long by 14-foot-deep office space.