Indianapolis Then and Now: Anheuser Busch Brewing Association and Capitol City Fence Company, 920-24 E. Ohio Street

Written by on January 17, 2013 in Then & Now - 7 Comments
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Many have understandably mistaken this gem of a building for a Carnegie library, but it was built sometime around 1900 as the Indianapolis branch of the Anheuser Busch Brewing Association.

Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Company Collection 26612

German native Eberhard Anheuser, later joined by his son-in-law Adolphus Busch, built their Saint Louis-based Anheuser Busch Brewing Association into one of the most successful breweries in the United States. The company offered lager (from lagern meaning “to rest”), a beer requiring time to age in wooden casks. Budweiser (1876) and later Michelob (1890s), their best known brands, were popular throughout the United States  and the company used innovative techniques such as pasteurization to prevent spoilage and refrigerated railroad cars and railway ice houses to distribute their beer.

In 1891 Anheuser Busch opened an Indianapolis distribution branch located at 920-24 E. Ohio Street, and this brick office was probably constructed in the 1890s or early 1900s. Other branches survive in cities such as Omaha, but they do not appear to have a uniform design.

Behind the office, located on three acres on the banks of Pogues Run, stood large frame buildings to house beer, carriages, delivery horses, bottling works, and an ice house. Refrigerators could hold up to sixteen carloads of beer sent directly from the Saint Louis brewery. A railroad spur on the grounds provided easy access to the nearby tracks to distribute beer throughout the state. At the time this photograph was made in 1911, twenty employees worked at the branch. Times got tough for the company during Prohibition and city directories from the 1920s list this site as “Anheuser Busch, soft drink manufacturers.”

The oxen pulling the covered wagon look pretty funny when we’re used to the Budweiser Clydesdales, but that tradition did not start until 1933. In April 1933, the sons of August A. Busch, Sr. surprised him with a six-horse Clydesdale hitch to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition (or at least the legalization of low-content alcohol such as beer and wine). The horses became a marketing hit when they delivered cases of beer to the governor of New York and President Roosevelt as thanks for their work to end Prohibition. Today the company owns over 250 Clydesdales who star in the highly-anticipated Super Bowl commercial.

Photo by Joan Hostetler, August 2007

Today the old Anheuser Busch building houses offices of the Capitol City Fence Company.

Photograph by Joan Hostetler, August 2007

When photographed in August 2007, the building was receiving a new red, blue, sand, and gold paint scheme. Located in the pediment is a high relief sculpture of the A and eagle logo, used by Anheuser Busch since the late 1870s.

Google Street View, July 2009

Looking much as it did over a century ago, the building has found a great adaptive reuse. The Capital City Fence Company deserves praise for their stewardship and preservation of the building which helps tell the story of our city.

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About the Author

Joan Hostetler and John Harris own Heritage Photo & Research Services. The company specializes in house and building research and historic photograph preservation, interpretation, archiving, and digitization. Since they see so many cool photographs tucked away in attics and basements, they recently created "The Indiana Album" to borrow, scan, and share hidden Indiana images with the public. Like them on facebook or send them an email to share your photographs.

7 Comments on "Indianapolis Then and Now: Anheuser Busch Brewing Association and Capitol City Fence Company, 920-24 E. Ohio Street"

  1. basil berchekas jr January 17, 2013 at 6:48 am · Reply

    Must follow this!

  2. David Brewer January 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the information on this one Joan. I’ve noticed it for years when I drive by on I-70 but never knew the history behind it.

    Reportedly, Busch never cared for Budweiser, calling it “Dot Schlopp” Most of the public back then preferred the heavier, wheatier brews. Busch also ran into legal troubles when he introduced Budweiser. There were two other breweries in the town of Budweis (in what was then Bohemia) that produced Budweiser beers. Beers in that part of Europe were identified with the towns they were produced in (Pilsener beer coming from Pilsen, etc). Eventually Busch agreed to market the beer under a different name in Europe. So it’s just called Bud over there.

    It’s good to see that someone is taking good care of this building. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have one more bottle of Budweiser in my fridge that’s calling my name.

  3. Joan Hostetler January 18, 2013 at 8:04 pm · Reply

    Interesting story, David. I must agree with Busch about his assessment of Budweiser. It tastes a little watery.

    • basil berchekas jr January 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm · Reply

      It does taste that way! Maybe the German immigrant to Mexico that probably hatched Corona (crown) had a better idea! Don’t really know the history of Corona, but that assumption would seem “logical”…

  4. Deborah Daum June 21, 2013 at 7:14 am · Reply

    Nice story! This building was one of my childhood “playgrounds”. At that time it was Daum Overnite Express, Inc. Owned by my Granddad and then my Dad. I’m not exactly sure of the complete years they owned this land but for sure early 1970′s. We found old Budweiser postcards (which maybe my brother still has) in the attic.
    Lots of memories here. Thanks

    • Joan Hostetler June 21, 2013 at 11:22 am · Reply

      Thanks for sharing your memories of the building’s history. If you have any photos of it from that time period, I’d love to get copies.

  5. Ken Maurer December 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm · Reply

    Very interesting Joan. I came by this story via a flickr photographer’s image and wondered about his comment.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimwallace/11297190415/

    I’ve driven past the former AB office in town but never stopped. I’ll be visiting soon. Historic preservation is so important everywhere, and you never know who you’ll influence from Indian to Omaha.

    http://www.cityofomaha.org/planning/landmarks/tax-act-projects/anheuser-busch-office-building

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