Albert Braun, a German immigrant, opened a brewery in 1890 but was out of business less than three years later. After moving to Illinois, he committed suicide in 1895. His old brewery burned to the ground in 1899.
ALBERT BRAUN arrived from Iowa soon after Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Within a year and a half, the young German immigrant, with financial help from local and Midwestern investors, built a brewery about 2 miles south of Georgetown.
The serpentine Duwamish River is hidden behind the brewery. Directly across the river, on its west side and also hidden, was the neighboring community of South Park. Braun’s name is emblazoned on the brewery’s east facade, and so it was best read from the ridge of Beacon Hill and from the trains on the railway tracks below.
The brewing began here December 1890, and the brewery’s primary brands, Braun’s Beer, Columbia Beer and Standard Beer, reached their markets in March 1891. The 1893 Sanborn fire insurance map for Seattle includes a footprint of the plant that is faithful to this undated photograph. The map’s legend notes that the buildings were “substantial, painted in and outside” with “electric lights and lanterns” and that a “watchman lives on the premises.” It also reveals, surprisingly, that the brewery was “not in operation” since July of that year. What happened?
The economic panic of 1893 closed many businesses and inspired a few partnerships, too. Braun’s principal shareholders partnered his plant with two other big beer producers, the Claussen Sweeney and Bay Views breweries, to form the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. Braun’s landmark was then designated “Albert Braun’s Branch.”
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Of the three partnering breweries, this was the most remote, and it was largely for that reason, it seems, that it was soon closed. The upset Braun soon resigned; sold most of his interest in the partnership; and relocated to Rock Island, Ill. There, he started work on a new brewery and fell in love, but with tragic results: Early in 1895, Braun committed suicide, reportedly “over a love affair.”
For six years after its closing, the tidy Braun brewery beside the Duwamish River stood like a museum to brewing, but without tours. Practically all the machinery was intact, from its kettles to its ice plant, until the early morning of Sept. 30, 1899. On that day, The Seattle Times reported, “the nighthawks who were just making their way home and the milkmen, butchers and other early risers were certain that the City of Tacoma was surely being burned down.” They were mistaken. It was Braun’s brewery that was reduced to smoldering embers. The plant’s watchman had failed that night to engage the sprinkler system connected to the tank at the top of the five-story brewery.
There is at least a hint that the brewery grounds were put to good use following the fire. The Times, on Aug. 11, 1900, reported that the teachers of the South Park Methodist Episcopalian Sunday school took their classes “out for a holiday on the banks of the beautiful Duwamish River, (and for) a pleasant ride over the river to the Albert Braun picnic grounds.”