MILWAUKEE – It’s been an icon in Milwaukee since 1890, but soon the Schlitz brew house will no longer be standing. The massive demolition of the Brew City symbol is nearly complete but pieces of it’s ‘hoppy’ history are being salvaged.
"It's a landmark," Rich Northouse tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka. And watching the old Schlitz building being torn down brick by cream city brick, stirs up more than dust for Northouse, "Brings back a lot of memories from when we were kids."
But memories and photographs will soon be all that’s left of the Milwaukee marker, at least from a glance.
Schlitz Developer Gary Grunau explains the demolition is part of a larger scale, multi-million dollar renovation that’s been underway since 2011. And taking down the Brewhouse is the third phase of that plan Grunau says, “The brew house was a building for 30 years we've been trying to find a usage for and we finally decided that it just had to come down, there was just no practical way to do it.”
Having grown up around Milwaukee, the decision to demolish disappoints Northouse, "This area used to be so vibrant with business and activity and so it's kind of sad to see how things are changing."
But it doesn’t necessarily mean dark times for Schlitz Park, Grunau thinks the planned green space will brighten up the area, “This will be a public square, it's going to be called Brewhouse Square, it's going to be grassy, it's just over an acre. We're also going to re-open up the street out here, Galena, when we get this done."
But it’s a slower process as they attempt to fulfill their pledge to recycle or reuse more than 98 percent of the material. “The bricks are being palatalized they're being cleaned, they’re all cream city bricks, the steel is going to be melted down of course and recast into other things,” Grunau continues. They plan to use 70 palates of cream city bricks in Schlitz Park, donate another 10 to the Brewers Hills Neighborhood Association, while another 70 palates are available to other area construction projects (nearly 75,000 bricks total). The building’s concrete is expected to be ground up to be used for a base for Brewhouse Square.
And plenty of pieces are being preserved to be placed around Schlitz Park: 1,500 artifacts were pulled from the historic site before the demolition began in September. Grunau confirms that the old relics have been photographed, categorized and stored until the work is complete, "There's beautiful Terracotta, there's railings, there's columns, column caps, etc.” Pieces of Schlitz’s long-standing history that may just bring good memories and people back to the Brewhouse site. Even Rich and his buddy plan to return when the job is done, "What do you think Cliff? Yeah, I think we'll be back."
Grunau expects a bit of the former glory of Schlitz Park to return once the entire project is complete, “We'll have probably twice as many people working in Schlitz Park that they had when it was an operating brewery, so that's close to 5,000 people a day around here that will be able to come out and enjoy it.”
Demolition is expected to be complete by the end of November. Developers plan to begin working on the green space early this spring and have Brewhouse Square open to the public by June or July of 2014.