Former Distillery For Sale

 

Photos: Theresa Stigale

With its prominent arched windows and terracotta signs that say “Wm. Mulherin’s Sons,” this long-vacant building under the El at Front and Master is one of the most intriguing in Fishtown. Now the building is for sale, which gives us an excuse to peek inside and look up the company. Turns out, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons was a distillery, and an old Fairbanks scale (the second photo above) is still in there, perhaps a remnant from its original use.

We couldn’t find much on Mulherin. He  was an Irish immigrant who started his distilling business in 1887 and passed it along to his two sons.  This undated image shows a far plainer facade–perhaps the company remodeled at some later date  (the arched windows can be seen in a 1916 photo) which might explain why the signs say  “Wm. Mulherin’s Sons” rather than “Wm. Mulherin & Sons.”

Mulherin produced several brands of rye whiskey, and had interests in Mutual Distilling Co. of Uniontown, KY and the Philadelphia Rye Distilling Co. of Eddington, PA. The building seems small to have produced alcohol on premises; perhaps it served as offices. Then again, 68 Philadelphia companies are listed as distillers in a 1914 industrial directory, so maybe production did occur on that small a scale.

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.



10 Comments


  1. I know there was a zoning notice on there for a while, there was talk of making it into a cafe — I take it that’s not happening anymore?

    • Hi Mike–I checked and you are correct that is doesn’t look like a cafe is happening now with the current owner. Thanks!

  2. A distillery doesn’t necessary need a lot of space. If the end product is clear (vodka, gin, rum), it’s pretty much ready to ship out after the distilling process is finished. If it’s whiskey (rye or barely), then it needs to age in a barrel for usually not less than 3 years and that’s where you wind up with space issues. But even then, if it is a small scale distillery, you might not be talking about a lot of space. Stranahan’s Whiskey in Denver is in a building about the size of Philadelphia Brewing.

    Also there could have been a separate warehouse building for the distillery nearby. Sort of like how there is the old brewery building across the street from Philadelphia Brewing (which is housed in what was the old brewery’s bottling house).

  3. I’ve always wondered about that building. Thanks for the info and great images Peter and Theresa!

  4. Thanks for the info — I saw a few timelines offered at:

    http://www.pre-pro.com — a searchable biz database

    Their reference is at http://www.pre-pro.com/midacore/view_vendor.php?vid=PHL1601

    and it tracks the evolution of the business name.

    Love the stories and the website!

    Vol

  5. THe original photo does not show arched window. Was the an addition at a later point?

  6. Andrew J. Mulherin IV

    It is my understanding that no liquors were distilled there, but off premise in Bristol Pa and KY. Blended and bottled Winner Rye Whiskey until Prohibition. The The sons, one of them my great grand pop,opened a garage on Baltimore ave,repairing and selling automobiles.
    BTW it is a highly rated Italian restaurant and boutique hotel,though I rarely can afford to eat there…
    A.J. Mulherin IV

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