Heidelberg Brewery demolition under way

A demolition crew was busy Monday tearing down buildings on the site of the former Columbia Heidelberg Brewery complex in downtown Tacoma. On Jan. 12, the City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the way for the demolition  by confirming the brewery complex is no longer historically significant. The decision allowed the property owner, Strand Investors, to move forward with a demolition application it submitted to City Hall. The commission reviewed the application because the complex, located at 2120 South C Street, is within the Union Station Conservation District, adjacent to the Union-Depot Warehouse Historic district.

The Columbia Heidelberg name has a century-old history in Tacoma, but decades of re-modeling and new construction followed by neglect have left the complex — which includes an office building, brew house, and facilities for storage, tankage, and bottling — stripped of most of its historic significance, according to several studies.

A historic buildings inventory report completed in 2003 noted “expansion has totally destroyed any traces of the old brewery.” In a staff report prepared for the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the city’s historic preservation officer noted that “the earliest buildings present on the site date from post-Prohibition construction in the mid-1930s [and] significant remodeling and construction activities occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.” What’s more, on Nov. 10, 2010, the city’s public works department issued a dangerous building citation after an inspector noted substandard conditions such as “missing roof, unstable walls, open shafts, missing structural elements, lack of utility service, missing windows, loose and dangling building components, unstable equipment, unsafe electrical system, and standing water.” The property owner submitted a historic property report, a condition assessment report, and a structural report to support the demolition request.

The historic property report prepared by Katheryn H. Krafft of Krafft & Krafft Architecture notes that Columbia Brewing Company was established in 1900 when C. August Darmer built several wood-framed buildings to serve as the offices, brew house, bottling facility, and stacking room to produce three brands of Alt Heidelberg beer. During Prohibition, the brewery produced and bottled soft drinks and even a non-alcoholic “near” beer. In the 1930s, a group of Seattle investors purchased the complex and expanded its operation by adding then-modern equipment and doubling its size. A towering fire-proof brew house was the most visible addition. That expansion continued into the late-1930s when some of the original buildings were demolished to make way for a new barrel house, stock house, and cellar. In 1949, the complex was purchased by the Heidelberg Brewing Company but continued to operate as Columbia Breweries. More remodeling, expansion, and modernization followed the purchase. Four years later, the brewery was officially named Heidelberg Brewing Company and continued to expand its physical footprint. By 1954, the brewery covered four acres and was the largest complex of its kind west of Milwaukee and north of San Francisco. That same year, the iconic Heidelberg water tower was hoisted atop the stock house building. The brewery changed ownership several times between 1958 and 1979, when it eventually closed.

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Columbia Heidelberg Brewery to be razed, but branding remains classic forever (01/18/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1909621&more=0

Demolition ahead for Tacoma’s Heidelberg Brewery (01/13/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1907292&more=0

Last call for Columbia Heidelberg Brewery buildings? (01/07/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1904418&more=0