Partial Demolition Approved At Gretz Brewery


Photo: Jacob Hellman

Composite photo: Jacob Hellman

The City’s Department of Licenses & Inspections has approved a permit for partial demolition of one of the oldest buildings of the former Rieger and Gretz Brewery in South Kensington.

The permit was issued to address the building at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Oxford Street whose facade and mansard roof are collapsing. The building, originally in use as a tavern, shares its façade with a bottling house that was later constructed next to it on Oxford. Several other locations of the brewery have been flagged for bulging walls and missing bricks, including the taller buildings on Lawrence Street that were originally built as beer cellars.

Gretz building with collapsed mansard roof

Gretz building with collapsed mansard roof | Photo: Christopher Mote

Real estate developer Tony Rufo, who owns the Gretz property, agreed to address the outstanding violations before the L&I Review Board last month. According to the permit, Rufo is to “demolish and remove” the existing second and third floor façade at Germantown and Oxford “as necessary to make safe.” L&I will then reassess the property, giving Rufo 45 days to present a development plan or potentially face fines for outstanding violations.

Begun in 1885, Gretz is one of Philadelphia’s oldest remaining brewery complexes and is on the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s 2012 list of endangered properties.

About the author

Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.

Send him a message at: motecw[at]hotmail[dot]com


  1. A couple of years ago I was told someone intervened and convinced L & I that the building was sound (and they agreed). However, with each passing year, a building with no roof, etc. deteriorates. When I heard the owner was a developer, I was hopeful that something might be done with the old brewery. In fact, there was an adjunct professor at Temple who had students do a project on how to renovate and preserve the brewery/property. At this stage, it’s hard for me to hole out much hope, either for the Gretz or Ortlieb brewery buildings. As many brewery preservation “success stories” that we have in Pennslyvania, there are so many more sites that have been or will be torn down (Schmidt’s)to make way for new construction. In Philadelphia the Bergdoll and Class and Nachod breweries are shining examples of preservation, having been turned into housing. The Ortlieb’s bottling house has recently been purchased by a major architectural firm and is undergoing renovation. The Weisbrod & Hess brewery is now home to Philadelphia Brewing Co. and the Finkenauer brewery stables are in the process of being made ready to house St. Benjamin Brewing Co. See my website for pics and videos from my Philadlephia Brewery Tour, as well as a comprehensive list of standing brewery buildings throughout the nation (and beyond).

  2. More history and beautiful architecture being destroyed in this city. What a disgrace.

  3. Bulging walls, total demolition needed of the entire building. Salvage useful artifacts for incorporation in future brick buildings. To make the developer keep the building is much like making a sick dog walk. To preserve older buildings, a relevant use must be found otherwise it is demo by neglect.

    • James, are you suggesting that there could not be found a “relevant use” for a brick building with an essentially open floor plan? Almost anything could be put in there.

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