In 1853 Johann Baier opened one of the first breweries in the Canton area. Baier mastered the brewery trade in his native Bavaria and worked at a Fells Point plant before starting his own business with his wife, Anna.
During the early part of the Civil War Franz Schaeffer joined Baier’s Brewery as brew master. The German-born Schaeffer was expert in the art of lagering beer and introduced the process to Baier. The technique required large cellars at a constantly cool temperature so the brewery expanded into larger premises on the corner of O’Donnell and Dean streets.
Horse-drawn wagons transported the heavy beer barrels to customers throughout the city. At the time, production was up to ten thousand barrels a year.
Baier was only 43 when he died, leaving his widow with a popular and thriving business.
Three years later Anna Baier married Frederick Wunder, a brewery employee. Wunder would have ambitious plans for the Johann Baier Brewery. By 1872 the brewery consisted of extended lagering premises that incorporated the original cellars; a three-storied brew house; new cellars for renting out; and a Tavern, Beer Garden and Pavilion for dining and dancing. These additions were all financed by mortgage agreements with their malt suppliers, H.Strauss Brothers and Bell.
Wunder died in 1881 leaving Anna a widow for the second time. Beer production fell. The Strauss Brothers foreclosed on their loan and established the National Brewing Company on the corner of Conkling and O’Donnell Streets.
Later on the Gunther Brewing Company would establish itself just south of the National Brewing Company on Conkling Street….
H.L.Mencken and the Gunther Brewing Company
Prohibition applies to the period (1920-1933) in the history of the United States during which the prohibition of alcohol was enforced. Prohibition was instituted with ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors in the United States. Congress would pass the “Volstead Act” to enforce the law.
However, most large cities were uninterested in enforcing the law, leaving an understaffed federal service to go after bootleggers involved in organized crime associated with this illegal activity.
Prohibition became increasingly unpopular during the Great Depression. The repeal movement got started and emphasized the enormous sums of much needed tax revenue and weakening the base of organized crime. The Repeal of Prohibition was accomplished with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1933.
In the Memoirs of Michael V.Lardner, Mr Frank Gunther and his brother, George, had a Brewery on Conkling Street just south of the National Brewing Company. They were looking for an office boy and hired Michael Lardner who was then 15 years old. When Michael was 17 years old, he became secretary to both brothers and was sent to school in 1919 to become a bookkeeper for the Gunther Brewery.
After prohibition set in, the Brewery made real beer and then pumped it back to the kettle to de-alcoholize it by boiling it off to reduce it to the required 1/2 of 1% alcohol. Many Gunther workers opted to work on the roofs of Gunther Company to inhale the vapors that were coming up!
With prohibition and good beer at the brewery, the Gunthers found a lot of long lost friends and acquaintances who wanted to come and get some real beer! It was Michael Lardner whose job it became to procure the food for large and small parties during the day and lots of evenings.
Mr. George Gunther would say,”Mike, you take charge and get any of the help from the employees you need.” Mike always had on hand 5 barrels of Chincoteague Oysters, two dozen Diamond Back Terrapins, a deer, a bear, various cheeses, celery by the crate, large cans of pretzels, pounds of raw beef, onions, and a good supply of rye and pumpernickel breads.
The parties began and continued. The dignitaries got wind of the real beer and sumptuous food and came. Governor Ritchie, Mayor Broening, Frank Kelly, Danny Loden……and one afternoon in came H.L.Mencken for the start of many parties to follow. Music and the Saturday Night Club followed. The Parties would last from 9 PM until 3 or 4 in the morning. The singing became very loud, especially the with the German Songs.
H.L.Mencken always led the singing. Then the singing would go round and round the table with lots of hilarity at some of the impromptu compositions. They would always reminiscence about the Days of Canton past which were vibrant days full of fun and adventure. This Spirit has never left Canton. Fells Point may have its ghost stories of sailors being hijacked to far away places and being paid by the boom on return, but here in Canton there are many stories of real men and women, courageous and risk-taking to go along with the real beer!
More history and stories of the past that gives way to the future of this place are yet to come!
Canton Hollow by Raymond Bahr – August 2017
The Land facing the Canton Hollow with ships awaiting their turn to go into the Inner Harbor, was followed by the Pennsylvania RR Yard and the offshore Transfer Bridge, and now because of the efforts of William Donald Schaefer has become the Canton Waterfront Park.
Life in Canton during the early 1800s was interesting and attractive for some, hard and miserable for many others. One of the centers for social activity in the early days of Canton was a white-washed log tavern known as the White House. Located on a corner of what are now Boston and Clinton Streets, it overlooked Canton Hollow (photo) which was the traditional anchorage – first for the Baltimore Clippers (Pride); then for the brigs and barcs of the Brazilian coffee trade; and during the early 20th century, for the Chesapeake Bay schooners and rams.
Canton Hollow was the location where boats would moor before getting their instruction to go into the Inner Harbor, which at that time was Fells Point. In the photo above, you can appreciate the large number of ships in anchorage.
As part of the Industrial Revolution that was taking place in the Canton area, the Pennsylvania Railroad established a yard, including the ferrying of railroad cars between Canton and Locust Point. The structure we still see outside Canton Cove was the terminal point at which railroad cars left the land and went onto the barges that carried them to and fro across the harbor.
Later, Mayor William Donald Schaefer was able to get this valuable piece of land for the City and made it into a waterfront park that looks out into the harbor at the entrance to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor between Fort McHenry on the right and Rukert’s Lighthouse on the left.
The Views from the (Schaefer) Waterfront Park has to be one of the most picturesque views in all of Baltimore. It has always been a treasure ready to be discovered. The 7- mile long Baltimore Promenade that follows the harbor starts here. There seems to be room for all kind of leisure life to forget one’s woes and open up to all that is taking place before one’s eyes and ears. Friendly gestures brightens one’s spirit. Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. would be proud to have this as part of his Baltimore Plan.
First Thursdays (WTMD radio) fill the park with music lovers catching the water views as a background. Pop up Yoga and Sunday morning Yoga with a parade of young couples walking with mats in hand toward the park from all over the Canton, Fells Point and Highlandtown areas. Wedding parties and photo-ops galore fit into the overall mixture of people-friendly activities.
It is important to appreciate what we presently have here in the Canton Waterfront Park. A City Master Plan is being designed this year, and it is hoped that Cantonites step-up and not let the new design get out of line with the spacious tranquility that we now enjoy every day.