Brewing company on Front Street remembered

MARIETTA – Visitors to the Marietta Brewing Company on Front Street often stop to have their photos taken beside a large mural near the back of the establishment depicting 15 people, some seated on beer barrels, painted on one of the micro brewery’s brick walls.

“We’re a big tourist stop in Marietta, and I see a lot of photos posted online with people standing in front of that mural,” said Tony Styer, co-owner with wife, Dana.

Many of those tourists may not realize the mural is a circa 1900 photo of owners and employees in front of the Marietta Brewery located at 613 Second St.

Descendants of those pictured in the mural gathered at the Marietta Brewing Company to present Styer with a plaque bearing a copy of the original photo and a narrative of the Marietta Brewery’s history.

“Although we’re a different entity, the brewery was an important part of Marietta’s history, and we hope the Marietta Brewing Company pays homage to the original Marietta Brewery,” Styer said.

The Marietta Brewery, initially called the Union Brewery, was built at the Second Street location in 1866 by Christian Held, according to Robert A. Musson in his book, “Brewing Beer in the Buckeye State, Vol. 1.”

The Union Brewery plant changed hands several times between 1866 and 1898, when William Feller & Co. purchased the facility and renamed it the Marietta Brewery. The Feller company was owned by three German immigrants, William Feller, August V. Kuehn and Jacob Epple.

“In 1903 Feller sold out to my great-grandfather, August Victor Kuehn, and Jacob Epple,” said local historian Jann Kuehn Adams who, along with other Kuehn and Epple descendants, presented the plaque to Styer Thursday night.

“We wanted to make sure that this photo lives on and that visitors to the Marietta Brewing Company know those in the mural were real people,” Adams said.

Accompanying Adams were Charles Barnes and William Marshall, great-grandchildren of Jacob Epple, and August V. Kuehn’s grandchildren, Norma Jean Kuehn Adams, Evelyn Kuehn Hawn, Rosemary Keuhn Weckbacher, and Charlotte Kuehn, all of Marietta.

“We knew about the mural but didn’t know who in the picture was our great-grandfather until we met Jann and her family a few years ago,” said Barnes.

“I think this is just great-it’s fantastic,” Marshall added.

August Kuehn, seated on a barrel second from the right in the front row of the mural and photograph, was president of the Marietta Brewery when the photo was taken, Adams said. August Kuehn died in 1913 and was succeeded as company president by Epple, who ran the brewery until it closed in 1924 due to the onset of Prohibition in 1919.

Musson wrote that the Marietta Brewery plant continued as a Whistle soft drink bottling plant through the end of Prohibition in the early 1930s. He said the brewery was demolished in the 1940s and a service station built on the Second Street site until that building, too, was torn down and the current medical building erected that houses First Settlement Physical Therapy.

The alley that runs behind the medical facility, off St. Clair Street between Front and Second streets, continues to bear the name “Brewery Lane.”

And some remains of the original brewery can still be seen in the basement of the First Settlement building where a stone-arched former brewery storage facility has been turned into a physical therapy room.

Physical therapist Tom Billingsley said patients always ask about the unusually-shaped room.

“After we tell them what it was, they’ll bring family members and friends back just to see it,” he said. “It’s really neat that they decided to preserve this.”

Back on Front Street, Styer, who has owned the business since 2010, said the Marietta Brewing Company reportedly inherited its name from the Marietta Brewery when the MBC building was renovated back in 1997.

“The story I’ve heard is that the original owners were trying to come up with a name, and while construction crews were digging under this property they pulled up a Marietta Brewery bottle, so they named this business the Marietta Brewing Company,” he said.

Charlotte Kuehn is the only member of the Kuehn family who still bears the last name.

“August V. Kuehn was my grandfather, but he died in 1913, so we never got to know him,” she said. “I feel bad that we’ve lost some of his history, but our family has always enjoyed our beer.”

Her father, Albert Kuehn, is also pictured in the mural as a very young man.

“He was born in 1894 and died in 1959,” Kuehn said. “And his sister, our Aunt Marie Kuehn, is standing next to him in the mural and photograph. She’s hiding her hair under a man’s hat.”

Jann Adams noted two other members of the Kuehn family pictured in the mural, George and John Kuehn, sons of August V. Kuehn, worked at the brewery for a few years and later started the Kuehn Brothers tire and auto parts store in Marietta.

“So when we look at this mural we’re really looking at our family history,” Charlotte Kuehn said.