The last call : preserving Washington’s lost historic breweries.
Tana, Daniel R.
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Beer and other alcoholic beverages have held an important place in many cultures throughout history, and their role in the history of the United States is similarly important. Before the rise of national and international beverage corporations and the megaconglomerates of late, there were smaller, local breweries in nearly every state and major city in the nation, including Washington, D.C. In fact, the beer that Washingtonians drank for over 100 years was brewed and distributed within the boundaries of the Capital City and the history of these breweries is a microcosm of the city’s history. The commercial breweries that developed in the area during the second half of the nineteenth century were important to the community in many different ways: they provided employment; produced a relatively low-alcohol potable beverage, at a time when clean drinking water was not a guarantee; and created a product that facilitated a sense of community and local pride. However, near the turn of the twentieth century, national corporate breweries began to take market share away from local breweries. When prohibition began in Washington in the fall of 1917, most local breweries closed and many were never able to recover. The few who did were gone by the mid-twentieth century, and their buildings have all been lost. To recapture their history, this study surveys the city’s local breweries between 1850 and 1950, drawing on city directories, historic newspapers and maps, to document the rise and fall of this important industry and preserve this lost history, and considers its context in the history of Washington D.C., and the history of brewing in the United States. The report also examines the modern local brewing industry in Washington, and considers its potential role in helping to interpret the history of the historic breweries that came before it and offers recommendations for an interpretive strategy based on extant structures from the greater cultural landscape of the historic local brewing industry. The ultimate goal is preserving a lost history that was not seen as worthy of preservation when there was still a chance to save the physical, tangible aspects of Washington’s brewing history.
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