Ortlieb’s, The Last Brewery In NoLibs, To Be Demolished

October 4, 2012 | by Hidden City Staff


Photo: Hidden City Daily

Photo: Hidden City Daily

The vacant Henry F. Ortlieb Brewery, long a Northern Liberties landmark, will soon be demolished. The four building complex between American and Third Streets at Poplar closed its doors in 1981 when the Christian C. Schmidt Brewery purchased Ortlieb’s and moved production to its plant on 2nd and Girard.

Real estate developer Bart Blatstein’s Tower Investments explored rehabbing the buildings in 2007 but those plans didn’t progress beyond the review process of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association. “The market is so different than it was three or four years ago,” said Blatstein. “I would have kept the buildings if I would have felt it was a marketable commodity, but the condition of the buildings is such that it’s just not worth it.”

Blatstein said that market tastes in Northern Liberties have changed and now there is more of a preference for new construction. He said that plans for the property are “unclear.”

Photo: Hidden City Daily

Brewing at that address dates back to the 1860s when Philip Gukes produced ale and porter in several small buildings facing American Street, then called St. John Street. Trupert Ortlieb, a Civil War veteran, purchased the brewery in the 1880s and the business grew steadily until Prohibition, eventually taking up the entire block. The company managed to get back on its feet after Repeal, and was a fiesty regional player through the 1970s despite consolidation in the beer industry and national marketing campaigns from Budweiser, Miller and Schlitz.

The brewery complex was the last of the large properties that gave Northern Liberties its industrial character. The nearby Schmidt’s Brewery, (now the Piazza at Schmidts), a much larger complex with 26 buildings, was purchased by Blatstein in 2000 and torn down over the following two years despite strong neighborhood opposition. In July, the L.H. Parke Coffee Company buildings on Front Street just a few blocks northeast of Ortlieb’s, which were also owned in part by Blatstein, burned down.

Photo: Hidden City Daily

In 2002 a demolition company employed by Blatstein’s Tower Investments tore down one of the Ortlieb’s buildings facing 3rd Street without obtaining proper permits. According to a 2005 Philadelphia Weekly story, the City of Philadelphia cited the contractor and Blatstein for demolishing a building containing asbestos and Blatstein later paid a $2,500 fine.

The Ortlieb’s Bottling House on the east side of American Street, which has housed the Poor Henry Brew Pub and Fringe Festival events, is owned by a different developer and will not be torn down. Likewise, Ortlieb’s Lounge on Third Street will be spared the wrecking ball.



  1. Shawn Evans says:

    $2500? Pathetic. Why wouldn’t every developer take that course of action?

    1. David says:

      Exactly what I was wondering.

  2. MissKah says:

    Good riddance! Such an eyesore and dangerous property.

  3. Ethan says:

    Good. Whatever they decide to build there will be an improvement. That building, although historic, is now just an ugly ruin right in the center of the neighborhood. It would’ve been nice to do something with it, but it’s too far gone now. I’m glad is going.

  4. Jeff says:

    I guess the homeless people that squat there will need to move on.

  5. Nathan Fried says:

    Please don’t replace it with shitty looking 3 story tall condos. Please oh please oh please. The neighborhood topography thrived with the height and style of this building. Please replace it with something of interest.

    1. jean says:

      totally agree. that is what will replace it, shitty looking three story buildings. it’s too bad because the historically-preserved buildings attract a different population than the crappy little condos will and instead of thriving it will become a boring CVS Walmart neighborhood.

  6. The following is from Northern Liberties: The Story of a Philadelphia River Ward, coming out from the History Press in about a month…
    The other famous Philadelphia brewery of the last century was Ortlieb’s. In 1869, German immigrant Trupert Ortlieb established a brewhouse at Third and Poplar, near the site of John Wagner’s lager brewery. Ortlieb sold it to Charles Blomer in 1885, but Blomer’s business folded in 1892. The facility was bought by Trupert’s son, Henry F. Ortlieb, and reopened a year later.
    The Henry F. Ortlieb Brewery produced 500,000 barrels of beer annually after World War II and won the Premium Quality Medal at the 1954 Munich International Beer Competition. However, by the 1970s, the television ads for “Joe’s Beer”—pitched by company president Joseph Ortlieb—epitomized the plight of the local brewer competing with national brands.
    Schmidt Brewing, four blocks away, bought Ortlieb’s in 1981 and shifted production there. After Schmidt’s closed, the Ortlieb name passed from one brewer to another; the beer is currently brewed in Baltimore.
    Parts of the Ortlieb’s complex were dismantled in 2002, yet much of the old brew house still stands. It is, however, in poor condition and may be knocked down. Then again, the bottling house may become residences if a pending redevelopment plan takes form.

    Well, so much for a “a pending redevelopment plan”…

    1. Well, the bottling plant is separately owned and not part of the proposed demolition.

  7. Dean says:

    First Schmidt’s now Ortiebs; Blattstien must have something against historic breweries.

    1. Ortlieb Kid says:

      I’m an Ortlieb proud of the name I wear it with pride and hate that it is true Blattstein WHY?! DUDE CHIILL WE LOVE BEER KEEP OUR HISTORY OF THE BREWERY WILL YOU THE FUTURE ORTLIEB KIDS MIGHT HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THEIR LAST NAME THEY CAN LOOK TO THIS and show their class an AMAZING picture of what is CURRENTLY there, or they might just be like “yeah this was here.” People will ask what happened they should say this, “some person hated historic breweries and was a douche and got rid of it” so thanks Blattstien past wont be as well remebered because of you.

      1. Trudi Wright says:

        Is this Trupert? I use to work in the office at the Brewery. The part that’s still standing.

  8. Robert says:

    Its not to far gone. Anything could be rehabbed. As for an eyesore I would rather look at this old structure than some wood and drywall POS all the yuppies love.

    Tearing this down is a disgrace and the city should be ashamed of itself. Buildings like this built the city and neighborhoods and to tear it down it to disregard heritage and history. The owner is a crook who routinely buys historic structures, lets them sit in neglect, then declares them “too far gone” and demos them. He is a criminal and should go to prison.

    1. Johnny Ola says:

      How could anyone want this major eyesore continue to exist? Better to tear it down, and start new, which is what a lot of Philadelphia needs.

      1. Robert says:

        Because an eyesore is an absolutely subjective term. I would rather look at this ruin of a historic building for a few years until it can be rehabbed into something useful. Then the neighborhood is left with an important historic landmark and a handsome piece of industrial architecture.

        A real eyesore is the shapeless, modern, and cheap POS which will take its place, that is of course assuming it is not A: Left a vacant lot or B: made into a parking lot.

        Lets remember, the other part that was torn down has been sitting as a vacant lot for how long? How long will this be a trash filled lot after it goes down?

        Ever wonder why European cities are renowned for their beautiful architecture? People people there value history and preserve it. Buildings like this built NoLibs, not the yuppies and hipsters that rule it now.

        1. Joe says:

          @Robert, I could not agree more! The people who have developed that part of the city have destroyed the architectural heritage of that area. All in favor of the cheap prefab looking garbage that is there now. I am all about progress and moving forward but I also think the past should be preserved. Given the right design the past and the present can co-exist harmoniously. But the all mighty dollar speaks, and if you can save a buck by tearing down and putting up cheap tasteless “eyesores” and convincing fools to over pay for it then I guess that’s progress. It’s a shame.

          1. Whitney says:

            Joe, I COULD NOT AGREE MORE!

            I am not opposed to new construction in theory, but the reality of it here in Philly is a scary scary thing. If I had any confidence that this amazing (though dilapidated) building was going to be torn down but replaced with something equally remarkable I’d say go for it, but unfortunately that rarely seems to be the case. The amount of cheap hideous architecture that is being built here is just upsetting, frankly. Philly’s historic architecture is an amazing thing, and although every building can’t be saved, more of an effort should be made in terms of what to do with it.

        2. Ortlieb Kid says:

          I agree, but really people do stupid things like this and waste their time and money tearing down a historic building that people may be proud of. They don’t think of others and don’t care what others think say or like. We are people who don’t listen to people because we think of ourselves as “better than all, better than everyone else” but we aren’t just because you have all this tech and money means nothing maybe you should put down that tech, set aside the money and look up, because when you really think about it people worked day and night building this building making good memories and putting a smile even on the most miserable face. But others could care less noboody is going to look at what we say and think, “hey, maybe they are right, we should rethink this” no instead they are going to say something like this, “Ha, wow what a waste of time” but they don’t realize this, if you are reading this you are wasting your time. Thanks!

          1. Dave says:


  9. Sameer says:

    Maybe they could rehab the building into a museum dedicated to Philadelphia’s rich brewing history. Or they could turn them into lofts for the artists and musicians who have been pushed out of the rest of NoLibs and to whom the neighborhood owes the majority of its identity.

    But I bet it won’t, and it’ll just turn into some terrible modern condo for yuppies to move in and raise the rents even more, just turning this neighborhood into Greenwich Village.

  10. NoLibs? says:

    NoLibs?! Who comes up with these names? Its like “Carroll Gardens Waterfront District’. Ask any old timer in that hood and they call it Red Hook.

    Thank you Real Estate Brokers for ruining things.

    1. I suppose “Philly” is a no go for you too?

    2. Dave says:

      NoLibs is an abbreviation for NORTHERN LIBERTIES. This name goes back to William Penn and the very “infancy” of the great City of Philadelphia.

  11. Jibreel Riley says:

    I’m an “outsider” but something just feels “odd” how things get demolished in Greater Philadelphia. Even if the building looks like its not fully salvageable, there are “savable” items on this building that could be retained. This has to stop, like seriously. Blogging about it is cute but action needs to be taken. I would do it myself but I’m not there… yet.

  12. mark kobasz says:

    Wow, so weird to see the responses to this… I am amazed and saddened with remorse…..yeah do some folks want to say ok to knocking it all down, what do you define as an eye sore? You should be ashamed at your lack of insite……..look into the potential

    Bunch Hammond was a true friend of mine who regularly performed with his trio at Ortliebs in fact he played a most amazing performance at my wedding september 10, 1998 at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown I owe it to Bunch and his family to ask for a reflective chance of renewal.

  13. reply says:

    Your first picture was taken halfway into demolition, not a true representation.

    1. No, no demolition–but for demolition by neglect–had occurred when these photos were taken.

    2. Robert says:

      It is rare a building every becomes beyond saving no matter what greedy developers want to pretend. Proof? Look at the Pullman Administration Building. It literally burned to the ground then sat as nothing but bare walls for years.



  14. M says:

    Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the fact that this one person gets to strip Philly of its history and what makes it unique. Whatever you build won’t last half as long as this building has stood and it will contribute to making Philadelphia look a little more like every other boring city and a little less like itself.

  15. Bill says:

    Goodbye to the best beer in Philadelphia. Noted for it’s large distribution of draught beer in Philadelphia.

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