Schmulbach Brewery

Schmulbach Brewery, located at 33rd Street and McColloch in Wheeling, West Virginia, was once an integral part of the city’s rich German heritage that dates to the 19th century. Wheeling was an early prominently German communityand boasted its unofficial nickname, the Beer Belly, with pride as it was a city featured over 130 taverns and saloons.

Nail City Brewery

Nail City Brewery, the predecessor to Schmulbach Brewery, was formed in 1861 by Frank Zeigler at 33rd and Wetzel Street.4 5 Several cellars for the beer were dug into the hillside that extended for 400 feet. There was also a fermentation cellar, measuring 60 feet by 30 feet, mash tubs, boiler and a cooler, the latter which was 18 feet by 19 feet and was purchased at the Centennial for $1,000.5 Two inch pipes made it possible to cool 60 barrels per hour with water coming from an adjacent spring.

Twelve years after its founding, a stock company was organized and the property fell out of Zeigler’s hands.5 The first directors were S. Butterfield, C. Siebke, C. P. Brown, R. S. Brown, N. Riester, F. Walters, G. Warner, H. Michael and P. Bonenberger.4 5 The master brewer for many years was Ernest Irion, formerly of the Gambrinus Brewing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.

By the 1880’s, Nail City sold between 7,000 and 8,000 barrels per year.5

Schmulbach Brewery

Schmulbach, born in Germany in 1844, emigrated to the United States with his family to Wheeling at the age of eight.3 Schmulbach worked on packet boats as a teenager and then as a clerk at a wholesale grocery during the Civil War before becoming employed in the wholesale liquor trade in 1867.2 In 1881, he acquired the majority of shares in the Nail City Brewing Company and in January 1882,3 4 he took ownership of the company where he became president and changed the company’s name to the Schmulbach Brewing Company. Schmulbach not only sold beer under the Schmulbach name, but under Nail City Brewing due to brand recognition.3

Modern equipment was installed in 1883 6 and capacity was increased to 50,000 barrels annually. By 1890, due to increasing sales not only in West Virginia but in neighboring states, capacity was increased to 200,000 barrels per year.  In 1899, a bottling plant was constructed.6

Schmulbach became one of the largest breweries in the area; it also operated West Virginia’s largest ice plant, which was used in the brewing process.4

Schmulbach developed Mozart Park into a beer garden.1 He also constructed an incline from 44th Street to the park, and then a streetcar line from Caldwell’s Run, up the hill and to the developing community. Schmulbach was also instrumental in constructing Wheeling’s first skyscraper in 1907,2 the 12-story Schmulbach Building, later home to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation, and an estate at Roney’s Point, which covered several hundred acres.1 The rooms, decorated with hand-made wallpaper imported from France, included a conservatory. The mansion later became home to the Ohio County poor farm and as a tuberculosis sanitarium before being engulfed in flames in 1975.2

Schmulbach retired in 1913 to his mansion at Roney’s Point.2 West Virginia became a dry state in July 1914 under Yost’s Law, and Schmulbach was forced to close.1 3

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.4 Henry C. Miller, of the Wheeling Realty Company, who was also in charge of shelters for the local Civilian Defense Corps, proposed the idea based on the fact that bombers from the Atlantic coast could reach Wheeling in an attempt to avoid heavily fortified and defended coastal cities, and attempt to bomb inland industrialized regions.

The Miller Brewing Company considered the Schmulbach facility as a potential home for a brewing operation in 1978,1 but it was reused instead as storage. The Schmulbach complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.3


  1. Hoffmann, Joe. “Lager-Lapping Land.” News-Register [Wheeling] 29 Oct. 1978: n. pag. Print.
  2. Comins, Linda. “Brewer Causes Brouhaha.” News-Register [Wheeling] 23 Aug. 2009: n. pag. Print.
  3. “Breweries of the 1800s.” Valley Magazine Nov. 2005: 25. Print.
  4. “Ancient cellars once used to store beer may serve Wheeling as air raid shelters.” News-Register [Wheeling] 8 Feb. 1942: n. pag. Print.
  5. J. H. Newton. History of the Pan-Handle, Wheeling, J.A. Caldwell, 1879.
  6. Doughty, Albert, Jr. “Wheeling Breweries.” Huntington Beer. N.p., 2010. Web. 18 Dec. 2010. Article.


  1. In the current In Wheeling magazine (winter 2011) there are some wonderful pictures of the heads sculpted into the building. In fact, the magazine's cover features a viking head from the building. There is a poster of these heads on the building that is sold in Wheeling. They are covered in rust and soot and are just strikingly beautiful. I am not from Wheeling, but I love the city and its architecture. How I wish it could experience an economic revival and be polished up as the historical gem that it is. Thanks for the stories on Wheeling and its breweries!

  2. While walking along the trail by the river in Wheeling, I saw some broken glass on a hillside and unearthed a broken piece of a Schmulbach bottle,very thick glass,jagged edges,but it had the Schmulbach logo intact! What a find!

    • Nice find Kurt!

      @David: I should pick that up when I am there tomorrow. The reliefs and sculptures are amazing – and intact! Where did you find your magazine?

  3. i'm related to hen schmulbach through his wife…

    do you have any photos of the home at romney point?

    by mother use to visit the old aunt pauline there……..

  4. @Sherman: Sorry that I didn't see your request before now. I actually got my copy of the magazine at Taylor's Books in Charleston, WV. They have a website from which you may be able to order a winter magazine at They're really great pictures. I am sure you will enjoy them.

  5. Janet,

    My father lived next door to HS when growing up. He was named after HS and I have since named my son after my father. So, I have a son named after HS. I would be intersted in communicating with you just for some historical interests. My e-mail is


  6. I have a wooden beer case with the name Schmulbach on the front and a co. emblen on each side. It has heavy metel hinges. It has been in my pocession for about forty years.
    Would like to know when it was made.

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