The Phoenix Brewery

This is an August 27, 2019 rewrite of what appeared in the Strip District page of this work. It contains new material now resides in this location.

August 27, 2019

Phoenix Brewery Location in Kensington

Gorman’s Brewery
Kensington was along the north shore of the Monongahela River where the present-day Allegheny County Jail sits. The brewery was put up for sale or rent in 1830. The brewery is identified as the Kensington Brewery in the 1826 Pittsburgh Directory, which indicated that there was only one brewery here in 1826. The brewery originated on this site a Gorman’s until 1815 when it went to Thomas Baird & Son, who held it until 1926. The brewery was known as the Monongahela under Gorman and Baird, acquired by Baird, and was sold to Coltart & Silvery.

Gorman in 1810
Gorman’s brewery was known to exist in 1810 as it was noted to be below Eichbaum’s wire mill.

A House erected for the drawing of wire by the power of steam, situated on the Monongahela River, a little above Mr. Gorman’s brewery, built and to be conducted by William Eichbaum, sen. The mill, when it gets into operation, will be the first establishment of its kind in the United States.
The Bulletin of the American Iron and Steel Association, Volume 23, American Iron and Steel Association, James M. Swank, 1889.

The World's Richest Neighborhood: How Pittsburgh's East Enders Forged American Industry, Quentin R. Skrabec, Algora Publishing, 2010.
Skrabec says the same about the wire mill but places it near O’Hara’s brewery, which was at the Point operated by Shiras. Skrabec is incorrect.

1813 Fire
As. Reported in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 17 December 1813 (Friday), the brewery caught fire the previous Friday. There was no loss other that a frame house that had the office. The books and papers were removed and saved. This may be the fire often mentioned as being renamed the Phoenix but the brewery continued as Gorman’s Monongahela Brewery

1815 Baird’s Brewery
Thomas Baird and Thomas Baird Jr. were noted as general brewers in the 1819 Pittsburgh Directory. Baird Sr. was a director of Pittsburgh’s first bank and the United States Bank. It is reasonable to conclude that Baird Sr. and Jr. were owners simply for investment.

1826 Coltart & Silvey Kensington Brewery
Coltart & Silvery were brewery owners in Kensington from 1826. The Pittsburgh Directory noted the brewery as the Kensington. In 1833 or before, the company went into administration and eventually sold in 1833. As noted below, the brewery was known as the Phoenix when it was sold, but when the name came to be is unknow to me.

1833 Newspaper Clipping
The Phoenix Brewery, situated in Kensington, Pittsburgh, is offered for sale on reasonable terms. The Brewery and Buildings attached to it are in good order. For terms, apply to Walter H. Lowrie, Esq., Pittsburgh, or to the subscriber. William Joyce, East Liberty. Feb. 12, 1933 – wtf.

I do not know when the property was sold but the new owner leased the brewery to Wood, who remained here until the fire of 1845.

1837 Note
After the sale of the Phoenix Brewery in Kensington, Joseph Coltart (Coultart in the city directory) partnered with William Dilworth and formed the Franklin Brewery on Second Street between Grant & Smithfield. Joseph Coltart was a stone mason and contractor. William Dilworth was a carpenter and contractor.

1845 Fire & Relocation
The fire was known to have travelled down Second Street but I do not know the extent. It was documented in newspapers that the brewery was destroyed by fire in 1845.

Donald E. Cook Jr., in
The Great Fire in Pittsburgh in1845 notes on page 134 that Woods factory fell, as did the brick house next to it. I assume that Wood wanted to stay remain in brewing and looked for another location. As we now know he ended up with Hughes in the Fifth Ward.

A Full account of the great fire at Pittsburgh, on the tenth day of April, 1845,
Page 43: The amount of loss to individuals were assessed Mrs. Sarah Wood 50. William 450 and Abram Wood 225, Joshua Wood, 200. William, Abram and Joshua were listed as brewers.

Page 40: George W. Smith, brewer, 1,800; (F?) Straub & Long, coopers, 350; David Sutton, liquor merchant, 1,800

Elias Baldridge was a brewer in the Northern Liberties in 1826. The Pittsburgh Directory listed three breweries in Pittsburgh at the time; the Point, Pittsburgh and the Kensington. I cannot say where he worked.

Phoenix Brewery Location in the Fifth Ward

The Fifth Ward was established in 1837 when the Northern Liberties was annexed by Pittsburgh. Harrison Street was in this Ward. The Fifth Ward was split into the Ninth and Tenth Wards with the division line in the middle of Fifteenth Street. Harrison was in the Tenth Ward. This area today is known as the Strip District.
Harrison Street is now 17th Street
Wilkins Street is now 24
th Street
Morris Street is now 26
th Street

Note: The directories and other publications often used Wood and Woods interchangeably.

Harrison Street Location
Harrison Street is now 17th Street (Fifth Ward); Wood Brewery 1847. Confirmed in Harris's general business directory of the cities of Pittsburgh & Allegheny: with the environs, Isaac Harris, 1847.

We know from a court case between the minor children of the late Edward Hughes and the guardian of Hughes’ estate that Edward Hughes was, in fact, the owner of the brewery on Harrison Street. This is not identified in any of the Pittsburgh Directories. It is taken to be true the Woods & Hughes was established in 1845. Wood moved here after the fire and appeared to have partnered with Hughes. Hughes was the owner of the brewery but I have never seen that documented.

The 1847 business directory places the Phoenix Brewery of Woods & Hughes at Harrison Street. The entry did not include the word Steam. Adam and Abraham Wood were the brewers. Adam was living at the brewery but Abraham was on Spring near Carson. Edward Hughes was a brewer living on Pike Street, Lawrenceville.

The 1852 directory had A & A Wood, brewers at Liberty & Harrison. Abraham lived at 730 Penn and Adam at 633 Penn.

Messrs. A. & A. (Adam & Abram?) Wood rented the (Edward Hughes) brewery in the Fifth Ward for four years, from 1852 and ending on October 1, 1856. The brewery failed after Hughes died Wood moved out without paying for the last two quarters. A suit was filed against them on January 28, 1857. Rhodes and Verner offered to rent the brewery in 1856 or 1857, as did W. H. Garrard. Wood left the brewery in disrepair and the guardian made no attempt to fix the damage.

Location of the Brewery
A notice in an 1858 Pittsburgh newspaper gave the location of the brewery.
The notice read:
All. The right, title, interest, and claim of said Elizabeth Kelly, being her dower or thirds of, in and out of all the certain lot of ground situated in the Fifth Ward, Pittsburgh, and bounded and described as follows: Beginning at the corner of Harrison and Liberty Streets, and running north along Liberty Street 100 feet to Spring Alley; thence in a Southerly direction 100 feet; thence by Harrison Street 100 feet to the place of beginning, on which is erected a large brick brewery, known as the “Phoenix Brewery.” Seized and taken in execution as the property of Elizabeth Kelly, at the suit O’Connor Bro. & Co.
O’Connor & Bro. & Co. were bankers on Wood Street. Traveling along Liberty Street from the Point towards Lawrenceville is a north-east transit. North in the description above would mean that north is traveling Liberty from 17th Street to 18th Street.

St. Patrick Church
This is the site of the present-day St. Patrick Church. The original church was built on 11th Street in 1800 but was destroyed by fire in 1854. The parish bought land on 14t Street and a new church was dedicated in 1858. Requiring a larger church, the present-day church was built at 17th Street and Liberty Avenue, and dedicated by Bishop Michael Domenec in December 1865. Source: Pittsburgh Catholic.

Morris Street Location
Morris Street is now 26th Street. Wood moved from here in 1856.
Wood moved here from Harrison Street after Hughes died. It could have been in 1856 when their lease was up or before when Hughes died. The brewery was only here a few years and what caused the move to Wilkins Street is unknown to me.
S Wood, who was living at Spring, north of Carson Alley. Adam was living at Smallman, north of Penn. The Directory identified Alex Wood
brewery, Penn and Morris.

Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, (1856-1857), by George Henry Thurston lists Alex Woods Brewery at Penn & Morris Streets (26th St). Page 158 listed Adam and S Wood as brewers as well as the brewery.

Wilkins Street Location
Wilkins Street is now 24th Street.
The 1857 directory listed the Phoenix Brewery located at Wilkins and Smallman. It was owned by Abram Wood, who was living at Penn, north of Baldwin St, Ninth Ward. Adam was living at Smallman, north of Baldwin. A Mr. A. Wood obtained a patent for a brewer’s cooler: September 15, 1857. The 1858 directory identified the Phoenix Steam Brewery, Ninth Ward.

Phoenix Steam Brewery
The brewery was identified as a steam brewery in 1858 and I suspect it occurred when Wood moved here.

The Spencer Company

Spencer was partners, or in partnership with, Garrard, McKay and Liddell and to a lesser extent, Robert Watson. Third party authors have given ownership to the brewery using various combinations of names but I do not specifically know the exact name of the company, or companies. After the fire at the Phoenix Brewery the name Spencer & McKay was used during court proceedings.

The paper,
Descendants of Joseph Spencer, has Spencer buying the Adam Wood Steam Brewery at 24th and Smallman Streets in 1859. Prior to that he was the owner of the Bull’s Head Hotel for 21 years. The hotel was lost in the Pittsburgh fire of 1845. The building was 56’ X 154’ and produced 8,000 barrels in 1873-1874. At the time this was double that of other breweries in the area. The Spencer paper dates the destruction of the brewery by fire in 1865 and being rebuilt and renamed the Phoenix. See Phoenix Brewery fire under Spencer & McKay, below.

Spencer moved to Homewood Station in July, 1869, having a farm on Lincoln Avenue. Lincoln Avenue became Apple Hill and now called Apple Avenue or Spencer Avenue.

1859 Spencer purchased the brewery from Wood
Polk’s Directory of Pittsburg and Allegheny cities lists Spencer & Garrard as proprietors of the Phoenix Brewery in 1860 at Wilkins & Smallman. Industries of Pittsburgh has Spencer & McKay founding the brewery in 1862.

Adam Wood stayed on with the brewery after the sale as brewer and general manger.

1859 Spencer and Garrard Phoenix Brewery
Spencer & Garrard Partnership
Pittsburgh Daily Post, January 12, 1864, page 4.
The partnership between Joseph Spencer and W. U. Garrard was dissolved on August 20. W. H. Garrard was authorized to settle the business in the office of the brewery. The brewery continued as Spencer and McKay. Robert Watson, of Liberty Street became (or continued) as manager of the brewery.

Spencer & Garrard Malt House
The Pittsburgh Directory of 1860 listed Spencer & Garrard as having a malt house at 17 Water Street.

Spencer and Garrard dissolved their partnership in 1862.

William H. Garrard Malt House
Garrard had a malt house on Penn as of March 3, 1866 but became insolvent in 1871. The malt house was sold to Spencer & McKay in July 1, 1871. Joseph Spencer, James McKay, Robert Liddell and Robert Watson were trading as Spencer McKay & Co.

1862 Spencer & McKay
Industries of Pittsburgh, by Richard Edwards, 1879, has Spencer & McKay partnering in 1862. There is no mention who owned the brewery before 1862 and no mention of Garrard.
Noted in Hopkins’ Historic Map Group 1, 1872, Table of Contents. Joshua Spencer and James McKay, maltsters and brewers of ale, porter and lager beer, went to court to recover insurance money resulting from a fire at the brewery on June 5, 1865.

1865 Fire destroys the brewery
A fire at the brewery occurred on June 5, 1865. At that time Joshua Spencer and James McKay were the owners. They filed a claim of loss with the People’s Insurance Company, which was denied. In court (in 1866) the insurance company defended their action on the basis that the Spence and McKay were distilling and storing spirits without a license. Read the court action in the report illustrating People’s Insurance v Spencer.

Spencer & McKay & Co. (Rebuilt)
The brewery was advertised in the newspapers in 1867 as the New Phoenix Brewery.

Liddell was a partner in Spencer & McKay
Joseph Spencer, James McKay, Robert Liddell and Robert Watson were trading as Spencer McKay & Co. prior to the brewery fire of 1865.

Robert Liddell
Robert Liddell ((b. 1837 England – d. December 2, 1893 Pittsburgh). He immigrated to America from England in 1852 at the age of 15. Robert was very successful in many businesses including, manager at a Coal company, partner at Spencer McKay Brewery, owner of Gallatin Glass Works and wholesale Liquor. He is buried in the Uniondale Cemetery in Pittsburgh. In May 1887, Liddell sold his interest in his glass manufacturing company to devote time to his brewing concerns. He became mayor of Pittsburgh, PA in 1878-81 (age 41) and was the last of Pittsburgh’s mayors to hail from another country. Born at Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, England, Liddell immigrated to Pittsburgh when he was 15 years old. Robert Liddell married Joseph Spencer’s daughter Maria (1845 – 1901) in 1861.

Unusual Find: The Newcastle and Gateshead (England) directory for 1782, 83, and 84, contained the names and trades of its towns people. In it was the entry for Spencer & Liddell, fruit dealers.

1889 Spencer & Joseph
Identified as the Phoenix Brewery on Hopkins 1889 Atlas, Plate 6. Spencer & Joseph were the property owners. Hopkins made no reference to Pittsburgh Brewing. Spencer was 75 in 1889 and I speculate as to his involvement in the brewery. Spencer family documents have the brewery being out of business by 1875. It appears that it sat dormant until Tann in 1890.

The William Tann Brewing Company

William Tann
Born in England and came to America in 1854 per The Gazette Times, May 8, 1911 death notice. He was 83 and died on May 7, 1911 in the Home for the Aged Couples, Wilkinsburg. He was president of the Phoenix Brewing Co. and he operated the William Tann Bottling Works in Lawrenceville His death was reported in the American Brewers’ Review, Volume 25, 1911. He became wealthy in the bottling business and was talked into buying the brewery. From that time on he lost a great deal of his money and died poor. The Pittsburgh Press on February 16 & 17, 1900 reported that William Tann was charged with selling liquor without a license on Election Day from his home. He was sentenced to the Allegheny County workhouse for three months.

The brewery operated from 1890 to 1891. I have no firm information on the 1890 date but 1891 is correct based on his death notice. Tann was a wealthy person but lost almost all his money in the brewery.

The Pittsburgh Press on February 16 &
17, 1900 reported that William Tann was charged with selling liquor without a license from his home on Election Day. He was sentenced to the Allegheny County workhouse for three months. He made money in the water business but lost most of it as a shareholder in the Phoenix Brewery, identified in the Pittsburgh Press as the William Tann Brewing Co. He had property on Lincoln Avenue in Homewood.

Spencer & Liddell Stock Company 1890
The brewery reorganized in 1890 with a capital stock of $300,000.
The company was composed of:
Joseph Spencer and Robert Liddell of Pittsburgh.
William Tann, S. & F. Uhlman & A. Magus of New York.
W. J. Meek of Chicago.
John O’Reilly, Joseph A. Stranger, Henry Mosely, Charles McDonald, John Perkins and M. P. Howley of Pittsburgh.
The company announced that the brewery will be enlarged.

The 1890 Pittsburgh Directory listed the William Tann Brewing Co. as well as Robert Liddell, bottler, at 2413 Smallman St. Liddell and Spencer were noted to be with the William Tann Brewing Co. Both Tann and Spencer were living on Lincoln Avenue at this time.

Stock Sale
In Shields, et. al. v. Casey (1893), J M Shields and John J O’Reilly were trustees for use William S. Pier, receiver of the William Tann Brewing Company against Timothy D. Casey, to recover stock made out to Casey’s wife, Margaret J. (O’Hanlon) but claimed it was for him. O’Reilly and Tann were in New York when they received a telegram from Spencer that Casey was interested in buying stock. When O’Reilly and Tann met with Casey in Pittsburgh the stock transfer went through but the name on the papers was M. J. Casey. The signing was done in another room of Casey’s house out of sight of O’Reilly and Tann. Mr. Casey did not want to sign his own name as he had a license to sell liquor and did not think he could own stock in a brewery. O’Reilly gave testimony that this took place before the company changed its name from Pittsburgh Brewing Company to William Tann Brewing Company. Tann owned the Phoenix in 1890 with Joseph Spencer (son) and Robert Liddell working for him. The company of Spencer & Liddell was in existence in 1889 but apparently the brewery was closed in 1888 or 1889.

Court Auction 1891
The Pittsburgh Dispatch February 5, 1891 reported on the court auction that took place at the Phoenix Brewery on February 25, 1891. The property was in two parcels. The brewery was on the southeast corner of 24th & Smallman and one the northeast corner a stock house.

William Tann bought the Phoenix Brewery from Spencer & Liddell. He is listed as a brewer in 1891. O’Reilly’s testimony suggests that the Pittsburgh Brewing Company was or was going to be, incorporated prior to 1899. It should be noted that O’Reilly was a director the Pittsburgh Brewing Company when it was formed in 1899. His name is not often mentioned but he was central in the brewing business of Pittsburgh for most of his life.

Pittsburgh Brewing Incorporates in 1891
The Pittsburgh Brewing Company was incorporated on January 12, 1891, as recorded by the Pennsylvania Department of State. This was before the 1899 merger. Let us remember that the Iron City Brewing Company was an independent company just like the William Tann Brewing Company. I do not know if forming a trust was a part of their business plan but they certainly took advantage of it after the 1895 Supreme Court decision.

to a new company to be organized
As reported in the
Pittsburgh Dispatch, April 24, 1891, William DeWald applied for a brewer’s license on behalf of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and stated to the license court that they did $100,000 of business last year. The William Tann Brewing Company also received a brewer’s license but transferred it “to a new company to be organized”. Other breweries such as Straub and Iron City received brewing licenses.

1893 – 1894 Petro GG Becherer, vice president

1892 Date on Side of Building

Officers 1892 – 1899
F. W. Mueller, President. Became president of PBC in 1899.
Petro (Gus) C. Becherer, Vice-President
William J. Wright Vice President in 1898, 1899
Frank Drabner, Secretary & Treasurer. Became manager of Phoenix in 1899.

Fred W Mueller was president of the Phoenix Brewing Company in 1895 – 1898; William J Wright, vice president; Frank Drabner, sectary and treasurer.

The Pittsburgh Brewing Company

Became the Phoenix Brewery plant of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 1899 and operated until 1920 when it was closed due to prohibition. The 1918 Brewmaster was Bernard Gutbrod. William Tann retired as president of the Phoenix Brewing Co. in 1891.

Otto Milk Company

Otto formed in 1927. Otto merged with Keystone Dairy of New Kensington in 1973.

Current Status

In 2010 the main building was converted into apartments.

The bottling house was converted into a Wigle Whiskey distillery.
The building is on the northeast corner of Smallman whereas the brewer was on the southeast corner.

Phoenix Brewing Company – Garfield Neighborhood

Property was identified as belonging to the Phoenix Brewing Co. in the 1899 Hopkins Atlas, Plate 8, but not in 1890. I have found nothing to say why the company had this property. William Tann was active with the brewery prior to this time but he had no known connection with this area.

William and George Tann had adjoining properties on Lincoln Avenue near the intersection of Lemington Avenue as shown on Hopkins Atlas 1899, Plate 22.

The publication
Bradstreet’s Weekly, Business Digest, Volume 5 of 1882 indicated that the sheriff closed George Tann’s saloon.

Allegheny County Lot & Block Identification

25-N-40: 2401 Smallman Street, Wiggle Whiskey building.
25-N-76: formerly Phoenix Brewery property.
25-N-80 Series: This is the building with the Phoenix Brewery name on the side.
The 80 series consists of the individual condo units.

Should researchers wish to trace back ownership, the deed book and page can be found on the Allegheny County assessment page or in the County Office Building on Ross Street for these properties.