From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Hot summer days cause our minds, if possible, to turn to cooling thoughts, when the thermometer is registering 100 or more. We think of cooling drinks and cold lunches served in a cool place. We like to go to the parks and lakes, or have our own back yard so landscaped giving rest and comfort with a feeling of freedom these torrid days. Yes, and we should choose reading matter which will soothe the nerves and cool and refresh the mind, so a review of some early day enterprises, namely breweries, soda water factories and beer gardens is meant to cool and refresh and not to fire the imagination with a burning thirst.
Beer gardens and breweries were among the first businesses to be established in Leavenworth. Beer was brought from Georgisn's brewery at Weston, Mo., previous to the latter part of 1855 when the first brewery was opened here by Fritzlen & Mundee, under the bluff of the South Esplanade. The building was two stories of stone and was built with a boilerhouse attached and a vault was cut out of the hill back of the building. Some signs of this old beer storage vault may yet be seen. Fritzlen & Mundee operated their brewery for several years, then business fell off and they sold the place to Elijah Wilhite, a miller of Weston, Mo., and he installed some milling machinery and had a good business for a number of years until fire destroyed the plant.
The Kuntz brewery, owned and operated by Joseph Kuntz, said to be the largest and the second one to build in the city was located on the south side of Three Mile creek. It was reached by way of Fifth street, the brewery being situated back of the Leavel Motor Company's garage. Mr. Kuntz lived in a large stone house on top of the hill. He used part of the house for a malt house. There are five caves or cellars blasted out of the solid rock, extending back into the hill for more than a hundred feet, having depths of from 10 to 12 feet and widths of from 15 to 20 feet, and cooled by many springs, which were used for cooling and storage vaults for the beer. The entrances to these caves can be seen, and the springs feed Three Mile creek, still. These cellars were considered the best natural cold storage plants in the west, and the water from the springs was said to be pure in those days. Draw a mind picture of the hill above Three Mile creek with a beautiful grove, benches and seats under the trees, flowers and shrubs growing in profusion and a band, playing, there every evening. That was in "the good old days". Joseph Kuntz died and his nephew, Charles Kuntz, married his widow. He operated the business at a loss, till it was finally taken over by his creditors. William Ferrell bought the property, and later E. G. and O. W. Rothenberger occupied the place as a flour and grain store.
Beer making was an art, in those days, and no one was better versed in the art than the pioneer Germans. Much care was given to the proper making, ageing and barreling, as well as the storage of the beer. The brewery operator of those days met with many difficulties, and went to much expense to make a perfect product. The John Grund Brewery was an example of that principal carried out. Grund had the financial backing of Henry Foote, and early day capitalist.
The business was first established on, or near, where the Y. W. C. A. now is, in 1857. A large two-story brick building with a cellar and sub-cellar under the entire building was built. These cellars were said to have been built with the best masonry obtainable. This location was soon abandoned because the beer did not ripen properly or retain its flavors after being brought from the cellars. So they obtained a new location, near Lawrence avenue and Spruce streets. They borrowed money and went to a lot of expense to develop this new place. A large stone building three stories high with a large cellar beneath was built, and another large cellar excavated under the hill on the east side. Water was brought from springs at the foot of Pilot Knob, a distance of more than a mile, through wooden pipes into this cellar. There was much money spent for this water system. The business was successful for a while, but owing to the large amount of money borrowed and the depression of 1859 it had to be abandoned in the early sixties.
There was another brewery built in 1857, located on the ground were the Lysle milling company now stands. This was known as, the Kiem and Werhle brewery. Mr. Werhle was a large man an was known to his friend as "Big Frank." He was young and patriotic, so left the business in Mr. Keim's care, and enlisted in the Second Kansas volunteer infantry, and served four years. At the close of the war he returned, to take up his work, but he had suffered from the effects of exposure and contracted a long affliction of which he soon died. There was a good deal of competition in the brewing business, and after Big Frank's death, the business did not prosper as before. Mr. Kiem moved is equipment to a place near Eleventh and Cherokee where he operated a brewery for a time.
David Bock and John Brandon started a Soda Water factory at Second and Kiowa streets. Soda water was received as something new and different and the business was successful for a time, then Mr. Block sold his interest to M. Kirmeyer. Mr. Kirmeyer and Mr. Brandon enlarged the plant and changed it into a brewery. All went well and the Brandon brewery did a good business for several years; then the prohibition movement become strong, the Murry bill, and the "Metropolitan Police Law" was passed, and received the blame for the closing of the business. Some years later, the old brewery was almost destroyed by fire. After the fire, John Brandon and George Beal opened a brewery and a saloon on Kickapoo street, between Second and Main streets. Brandon and Beal's Brewery was the last of the breweries. Tom Walters has the old shield sign, used on the front of their saloon, which is about all that remains of that business, in front of his Second Hand store. It now advertises used furniture and stoves, for sale instead of Brandon's and Beal's Brew.
Leavenworth was like all frontier towns of that period and the hardest and toughest men were the first to brave the wilds; so there were many mule and oxen drivers who freighted the government stores over the plains, who made regular trips and stopovers here. Stahl's Beer Garden, open in 1885, was the first and liveliest of all the gardens opened at about the same time. It was largely patronized by soldiers and freighters. The garden was located at Second and Cheyenne streets. It was the original "first" and "last" chance. An old chronicler said of it. "When in full bloom and perfume, she was a daisy, always wide open from early morn' 'till dewey eve, and early morn' again, "the last chance" to the fort, and the "first chance" to the town, and "always a chance" for those, who wanted fun, a schooner of beer, good music, a dance, and a general good time."
Stahl's was a money making business taking in from $200 to $400 in 24 hours. There was but little restraint and it was allowed to operate day and night and on Sunday, and being removed some distance from the main part of town, its patrons did not disturb the general quiet.
Another garden was located at Broadway and Olive streets and was known as Ebenger's Garden. It was fitted with seats under the trees and grape arbors, and swings, vaulting bars, bowling alleys, and other equipment for a pleasure resort of that time. A band was employed to furnish music on holiday and Sunday afternoons and evenings. Ebenger's was not a noisy and boisterous a place as Stahl's, and therefore patronized by many who would not go to the latter place.
The most popular and the one patronized by the very best people of the town was Washington Garden, located west of Ninth street and south of Quincy street. Washington Garden consisted of several acres of land, and was fenced and laid out with walks drives, and planted with fruit trees, shade trees, arbors, and flower beds. There were swings, bowling alleys, vaulting bars, and other atheletic equipment and there was also a nice bandstand and dance platform.
It was known as a quiet, refined place to go for a few hours recreation. It was used by many societies and Sunday schools as well as many individuals as a place to picnic. Many others just drive out to it of evenings.