Reymann Brewing Company

Reymann Brewery, part of the Wheeling, West Virginia’s rich German heritage that date to the 19th century, was one of the largest breweries in the state. Wheeling was known as an early prominently German community in the northern panhandle of the Mountain State and boasted of its unofficial nickname, the Beer Belly, with pride as it was a city filled with over 130 taverns and saloons.


History

Anton Reymann was born in Gaubickelheim, Germany in 1837, and immigrated to Wheeling, West Virginia in 1853 with his father, George Reymann, who was a school teacher.1 5 George, along with Peter Paul Beck, founded possibly the first brewery in Wheeling, the Franklin Brewing Company,3 dating to 1849.1 4 Anton enrolled in the local school district until it to closed because of a smallpox outbreak. Only 17 years of age, Reymann began working for the company his father co-founded and served as an apprentice for four years. The brewery grew in size and relocated to 15th Street between Market and Main.3

In 1862, Anton married Beck’s daughter, Thusnelda Beck.5

His father later retired from the brewery,5 and in 1863, Beck quit because of health complications and named Anton manager of the brewery.3

After operating the brewery on 15th Street for several years, Reymann constructed a larger, more modern facility along the north bank of Wheeling Creek on the site of the tavern in 1865.3 Located in the Manchester neighborhood,1 2 the brewery became the largest in the state, with its caverns holding between 7,000 and 8,000 barrels of beer.3 4 The main building had a width of 360 feet and built of brick with a stone foundation. Natural springs provided fresh water and coal from a nearby mine was the source of electricity. In 1881, the Reymann brewery offered stock for the first time, and by 1904, the brewery produced over 150,000 barrels per year.5

Reymann Brewing Company
By Wheeling Illustrated

Reymann later became known as a stockholder in the Wheeling and Elm Grove Railroad and president of the Wheeling Park company.1 3 At the time that Reymann purchased the railroad, the narrow-gauge horse-drawn railway was in dire condition, and he modernized it with steam engines and electrified the network.5 He then purchased the park and turned it into a popular amusement and recreation area for the region. He was also president of the State Fair association and co-founder and vice president of the German Fire Insurance Company, and later became involved in the founding of the German Bank, which became known as WesBanco.

Reymann was also responsible for supporting local charities, and was mostly responsible for the creation of Altenheim, later known as the “Home for Aged and Friendless Women.”5 The residence was mostly populated with immigrant women who came to work in the United States as domestic servants, working in the homes of the wealthy and had nowhere to live in their later years. In 1891, Reymann purchased the 40-room1878  Mt. Belleview Hotel, which was a summer residence for wealthy Wheeling citizens, and renovated the facility into a residence for aged women. He offered to bear all the expenses of the home for a year.

West Virginia became a dry state in July 1914 under Yost’s Law, and Reymann’s brewery closed.1 2 After its closure, the Reymann Packing Company was formed by Paul O. Reymann, son of Anton Reymann and operated with success until it was purchased by Wilson Packing Company of Chicago.3 The packing company was later abandoned, and a considerable part of the brewery later became home to the Central Beverage Agency.

Anton died in 1924.5 In his will, Reymann placed $25,000 into a trust, which was to be paid to Altenheim until the institution became self-sustaining.

During World War II, the caves and cellars that extended from the brewery was once considered the site of an air raid shelter for Wheeling.3 Henry C. Miller, of the Wheeling Realty Company, who was also in charge of shelters for the local Civilian Defense Corps, proposed the idea because bombers from the Atlantic coast could reach Wheeling in trying to avoid heavily fortified and defended coastal cities and attempt to bomb inland industrialized regions.

On November 30, 2008, Anton Reymann was inducted posthumously into the Wheeling Hall of Fame for his contributions to Wheeling philanthropy.5

Sources

  1. “Breweries of the 1800s.” Valley Magazine Nov. 2005: 25. Print.
  2. Hoffmann, Joe. “Lager-Lapping Land.” News-Register [Wheeling] 29 Oct. 1978: n. pag. Print.
  3. “Ancient cellars once used to store beer may serve Wheeling as air raid shelters.” News-Register [Wheeling] 8 Feb. 1942: n. pag. Print.
  4. J. H. Newton. History of the Pan-Handle, Wheeling, J.A. Caldwell, 1879.
  5. Comins, Linda. “Brewer to Join Wheeling Hall of Fame.” Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register [Wheeling] 23 Nov. 2008: n. pag. Web. 18 Dec. 2010. Article.

8 Comments

  1. I remember the building on the left as the O'Henry Club in the 1960s and 1970s. My grandparents lived right across the creek on 17th St, and they used to hang out there, I remember attending a New Year's Eve party there in the late 70s! I did not know that it had originally been a brewery!

  2. I have learned that my great great great grandfather, Johann George Weist, was a brewmaster here in the mid 1800s!

  3. wheeling should do more to honor its german heritage..we have festivals for everyone

    except those immigrants who built the city-schmulbach and reymann in particular. not

    to mention steinmetz and good. not even a street is named for one of these people

    who brought so much wealth to this city.

  4. A German Heritage festival would be a great tourist event. Suggestion: A Reymann and Schmulbach beer festival in September – during the Sternwheel festival. And name some streets in Wheeling, WV for these entreprenurial gentlemen. German culture is missing in Wheeling, especially since local and federal prohibition, WWI, and WWII scapegoated their business establishments.

    • Excellent plan. I have mentioned similar ideas for years. The Wheeling city officials need to make amends for the injustices to German culture and heritage.

  5. My two brothers and I, would play hookey in the brewery back in the 40’s.

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