|The old Schmidt Brewery|
I grew up in the shadows of this great brewing complex and in the neighborhood where working class men and women made a good living plying their trades for, "The Brew That Grew With The Great Northwest". The place always seemed to symbolize more than just a brewery, it was a part of us.
Built by German immigrants, it has stood for more than a century. Looming over the West End like an industrial age castle, it's flashing red sign once a beacon for St. Paulites. It has been sold to several different brew companies beginning in 1958 when it was dealt to Pfieffer Brewing in Detroit and again in 1972 to G. Heileman. After is was bought by an Australian speculator in 1987 it began a rapid decline and the brewery ceased operations in 1990, putting hundreds of people out of work.
New life was breathed into the old buildings in 1992 when it was put back in service by the Minnesota Brewing Co. However, by the fall of 2001 with dwindling sales of its Grain Belt brand the 147 year old brewery was shut down yet again.
The fascinating thing about the brewery for me was and is its enduring symbolism. It reminds us of a time when Americans, new and old, were filled with an exuberant optimism. They didn't just seek to erect monuments to efficiency, they wanted to build functional works of art. It meant something to be a craftsman, to demonstrate your skills on a grand scale. They built art first and buildings second. Just like the Ramsey County Courthouse, these are a few great examples of architecture in its highest form.
The melding of carpenter, steel worker, stone mason, and artist creates a gate through which we can see some of our best human qualities. It is through their dedication that we are left with a sense of wonder.