Building of the Day: 43 Belvidere Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Machine House for the Ulmer Brewery complex
Address: 43 Belvidere Street
Cross Streets: Corner Beaver Street
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1885
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Romanesque Revival
Architect: Theobald Engelhardt
Other buildings by architect: Most of the brewery and factory buildings in Bushwick and Williamsburg, and half the houses. St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and School, St. John’s Lutheran Church , Arion Hall, Greenpoint Home for the Aged, and many, many, many more.
Landmarked: Yes, entire brewery complex landmarked in 2010.

The story: The story of Brooklyn would be vastly different without beer. Brooklyn once produced an ocean of it, mostly in Bushwick and Williamsburg. Before Prohibition, there were at least twenty-four breweries here. Ulmer’s Brewery was one of the most successful, and the brewery complex is one of the only intact examples of its kind left. William Ulmer, a German immigrant, brought to this new land the recipe, and while working for others here in Brooklyn, gained the experience to brew lager, for many, Germany’s greatest gift to the world.

German lager beer is cooled and aged, and its taste was light and much smoother than British ale, and lager quickly became the drink of choice for America. Because more equipment is needed for lagering, larger and larger breweries were being built. Theobald Engelhardt, himself the Brooklyn-born child of German immigrants, was in the right place, with the right connections, (his builder father) and the talent to seize the day. He soon became the architect de jour of the German American community, totally reshaping the streetscape of Bushwick and the surrounding areas in the process.

His breweries, like many of his factories and other commercial buildings, are designed in the Rundbogenstil, or rounded arch style, a German variation on Romanesque Revival. The style is typified by the running round arch detail found near the roofline on most of his commercial buildings. Brick was the building medium of choice; Rundbogenstil offering an architect the opportunity to show off some nice brickwork, and an elegance of line. Engelhardt was a master of Rundbogenstil at its most intricate and nuanced.

The Machine House housed, among other things, an ice machine to produce ice to cool the beer, as well as other brewing machinery. Engelhardt attached this building to the side of his main factory building, built in 1872. It faces Beaver Street. The machine house looks like it is part of the main factory, but it was built thirteen years later, and shares party walls, it is a completely separate building, designed to seamlessly mesh with the older building. When Prohibition shut down the brewery in 1922, the complex was converted into light manufacturing, and it has been used as a shoe factory, garment factory, and for other light industries. Today, like many industrial buildings, much of the Ulmer brewery is now loft housing. GMAP

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