Local News

Sunday, Dec 01 2013 07:36 PM

Pile of rubble was century-old brewery, city history

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    By Sunday, the 101-year-old Bakersfield Brewery on Union Avenue was well on its way to being demolished.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Given the city's reputation for not preserving its old buildings, people Sunday were only surprised that the demolition of the Bakersfield Brewery Co.'s brick building on Union Avenue hadn't occurred sooner.

All that remains of the 101-year-old building is a few walls behind piles of rubble.

Sunday, an idle backhoe loader and a second construction vehicle were parked in front of it.

"It's a building that in other communities would have been given historic recognition," said Stephen Montgomery, whose interest is in preserving the city's architectural heritage.

"I was disappointed but not the least bit surprised" to see the demolition, which he believed began two days before Thanksgiving.

The building, which once stood four stories tall and included an office tower, was considered among the most modern breweries in the country when it was built in 1912.

Its finest beverage was Lion Brew, the crafting process helped in part by a deep water well on the 1.25-acre site.

The brewery was closed by Prohibition after just nine years. It did later house an ice manufacturer and then, part of Hopper Steel.

But its office tower and fourth story disappeared decades ago, and its arched windows had been bricked up for years.

There had been scattered talk about saving the buidling or pursuing adaptive reuse, but the costs of retrofitting the unreinforced masonry structure were considered too high, the economy was too low and nothing ever happened.

Building owner William Reyneveld of W. Reyneveld Construction could not be reached for comment.

Montgomery compared the demolition to what happened to the 85-year-old Family Laundry Service building on the northeast corner of P Street and California Avenue in 2009.

Despite urging from both local preservationists and even the state to reconsider its destruction, the city argued the site would be a perfect part for the South Mill Creek project.

Today, it remains an empty lot.

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