Reymann Brewery is an abandoned brewery in Wheeling, West Virginia. The city was once known as the “Beer Belly” of the state for its 130 taverns and robust German community.
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, formed the Franklin Brewing Company, 3 the first brewery in Wheeling, in 1849. 1 4 Anton enrolled in the local school district until it closed because of a smallpox outbreak. He then began working as an apprentice for the company his father co-founded for four years. The brewery blossomed in size and eventually relocated to 15th Street between Market and Main. 3
George Reymann later retired from the brewery, 5 and in 1863, Beck quit because of health complications. Anton was then named manager of the brewery. 3
After operating the brewery on 15th Street for several years, Reymann erected a larger facility along the north bank of Wheeling Creek in the Manchester neighborhood 1 2 on the site of a tavern in 1865. 3 The brewery soon became the largest in the state, with its caverns in the hill having a capacity of holding between 7,000 and 8,000 barrels of beer. 3 4 Natural springs at the complex provided fresh water and coal from a nearby mine provided a source for electricity. The Reymann brewery offered stock for the first time in 1881, and by 1904, it was producing over 150,000 barrels of beer per year. 5
Reymann later became known as a stockholder in the Wheeling & Elm Grove Railroad (W&EG) and president of the Wheeling Park company. 1 3 He modernized the narrow-gauge horse-drawn W&EG with standard gauge and steam engines 5 and added attractions to Wheeling Park. Reymann 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 later became WesBanco.
Reymann acquired the luxurious 40-room Mt. Belleview Hotel in 1891 and renovated it for Altenheim, later known as the “Home for Aged and Friendless Women.” 5 It was populated with immigrant women who came to work in the United States as domestic servants and worked in the homes of the wealthy; they often had nowhere to live in their later years.
After West Virginia became a dry state through the passage of Yost’s Law in July 1914, Reymann’s brewery was forced to close. 1 2 The Reymann Packing Company was formed by Paul O. Reymann, son of Anton Reymann, and operated in the former brewery until it was purchased by Wilson Packing Company of Chicago. 3 Later, portions of the brewery complex were reused by the Central Beverage Agency.
During World War II, the caves and cellars that extended from the brewery were considered for use as an air raid shelter. 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 in an 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
[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- “Breweries of the 1800s.” Valley Magazine Nov. 2005: 25. Print.
- Hoffmann, Joe. “Lager-Lapping Land.” News-Register [Wheeling] 29 Oct. 1978: n. pag. Print.
- “Ancient cellars once used to store beer may serve Wheeling as air raid shelters.” News-Register [Wheeling] 8 Feb. 1942: n. pag. Print.
- J. H. Newton. History of the Pan-Handle, Wheeling, J.A. Caldwell, 1879.
- Comins, Linda. “Brewer to Join Wheeling Hall of Fame.” Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register [Wheeling] 23 Nov. 2008: n. pag. Web. 18 Dec. 2010.