Lovely Day for a Guinness, in LIC

    by

    Nondescript. That’s how you’d describe the structure found at the northern side of 47th Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, in Long Island City. You’d probably mention the fading paint of an advertisement for some sort of beer found on the facade, to distinguish it.

    The modern day street address for this 1934 structure is found on the 28th Street side (46-24 28th Street), but mail sent to the offices of “E. J. Burke, Ltd., of New York, Dublin, London and Liverpool” was delivered to a long vanished secondary structure at 47-24 27th Street which was constructed around 1923. The company that resided here, a family business of sorts, built out the entire block from Skillman to 47th Avenue, and from 27th to 28th, after relocating from their digs on West 46th over in Manhattan.

    At either address, you could count on the stout flowing. This was the official Guinness brewery in America, after all.

    More after the jump…

    bsQ_100914_guinness_002

    Arthur Guinness – the progenitor of the Guinness Brewery – began producing beer, in Dublin, in 1759. By the 1930s, the brewery had spawned a dynasty and had become a mass market phenomena. Grandsons of Arthur, Edward and John Burke, had been granted exclusive distribution rights for the family recipe in the United States by 1849, when they founded E&J Burke. In the 1920s Prohibition largely put the company out of business, but in 1934 – after the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition – the company that the brothers founded began to expand into LIC’s brand new Degnon Terminal.

    The company ran into financial problems by the Second World War, when Arthur Guinness & Sons itself bought E&J Burke. The Burke branding was scrubbed away. The first Guinness Brewery outside of Ireland (or the one in London), that’s what you’re looking at.

    bsQ_100914_guinness_001

    My understanding is that things did not work out so great for the Guinness brewery, and the venture was folded up in the 1950s. Burke’s Ale continued for a while, I’m told, and this neat item on ebay seems to be some sort of bar room advertising vehicle from E&J Burke although I’m not certain what era it hails from.

    Also… a fairly educated guess for the exact year that Guinness closed up shop here is 1954. That suggests that the faded ad we see in today’s shots has remained unchanged for… sixty years? Can that even be possible?

    Whew, this post took a lot out of me, it’s time for a cold one.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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