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Meet the beer barons who built Muhlhauser Barn
Happy birthday Gottlieb Muhlhauser!
Gottlieb Muhlhauser, a pre-Prohibition Cincinnati beer baron, would be 183 years old. Today, his family’s namesake is reflected on West Chester street signs and through the preservation of the Muhlhauser Barn.
“It’s old – as the 1881 date on the roof testifies – and it was built by Gottlieb Muhlhauser, whose name also graces the slate roof,” writes local artist Robert Kroeger (pictured right), who recently chronicled and painted the historic landmark as part of his Ohio Barn Project series showcasing old barns in all 88 of the state’s counties.
“This barn, rescued from dismantling by West Chester Township, introduces a colorful page of Ohio history – the breweries of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine and their farms in Butler County,” says Kroeger.
Introducing the Muhlhauser Family
The eldest Muhlhauser was born January 24, 1836 in Muggendorf, in the Bavarian region of Germany, to parents Sebastian Friederick and Christina Tuerck. They immigrated to America in 1840, settling in Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1842, Gottlieb’s brother Heinrick (Henry), who would later become his business partner, was born and the family moved to Cincinnati three years later in 1845.
Gottlieb was thrust into the role of family provider at the age of 13 when his father died in 1848. He took jobs in the pottery and mineral water businesses before saving enough money to start his own mineral water company in 1854. Just five years later, after expanding operations to Hamilton and Chillicothe and bringing Henry in with him, the Muhlhauser brothers sold their company to investors to embrace their German heritage and brew beer.
The Muhlhausers started by constructing a mill to crack and grind malt for local brewers. After the Civil War, the Muhlhauser men sold their mills and joined forces with Conrad Windisch to found the Windisch-Muhlhauser Brewing Company (a.k.a. the Lion Brewery) in 1866. Gottlieb and Henry brought significant business experience and entrepreneurial skills, while Windisch – also hailing from Bavaria – brought a lifetime of brewing experience. He previously served as a partner in the Christian Moerlein Brewery and worked in various breweries in major cities across the Midwest.
By 1871, the Windisch-Muhlhauser Lion Brewery was out-selling all other Cincinnati malt beverage manufacturers. It remained one of the largest beer producers in Cincinnati until the onset of Prohibition.
Building the Beer Barn
The Muhlhausers and Windischs farmed for many years in what is now West Chester Township. They, in addition to the Moerlein family, maintained summer homes in Butler County and operated some of the largest farms in the area catering to the production of beer. These farms were used to grow some of the barley and hops needed for the beer making process, to rest and rejuvenate the teams of horses that pulled the brewery delivery wagons, and also as summer retreats for the owners.
In 1881, a timber-frame barn was constructed on the Muhlhauser property on Seward Road. The railway – which stopped at Seward Road and Muhlhauser Road – was the preferred method of transportation back and forth from downtown Cincinnati for the Windischs, the Muhlhausers, and the brewing ingredients that were grown on the farm.
Conrad Windisch passed away in 1887 at age 62. Gottlieb Muhlhauser died in 1905 at age 69 and his brother, Henry, died in 1914 at age 71. All three beer barons are laid to rest at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Preserving Muhlhauser Barn
The original barn stood on the property of the Seward Road farm from 1881 to 2004. The land and property was acquired by the Ohio Casualty Group circa 1998. Ohio Casualty donated the barn to West Chester Township circa 2002.
Through the generosity, cooperation and backing of the Muhlhauser family, the barn and its tile roof were dismantled by renowned barn restorer David Gaker and moved to Beckett Park, 8558 Beckett Rd. The barn was reconstructed using nearly all original beams and a combination of traditional and modern construction methods. It opened as a community rental facility in 2008.
Adjacent to Muhlhauser Barn on the grounds of Beckett Park is the Moerlein Gazebo. It is a very popular location for outdoor wedding ceremonies.
The Moerlein family was also synonymous with the Greater Cincinnati region’s rich beer-making industry. The stately Moerlein family home once stood on Port Union Road near the West Chester Township border. Built in the late 1920s to replace the original 1827 Moerlein home, the house was home base for the Christian Moerlein family. The home was torn down in the 1990s, but a charming copper-roofed gazebo was donated to West Chester Township and moved to Beckett Park to accompany the Muhlhauser Barn.
Toasting Muhlhauser Barn Today
The Muhlhauser Barn and Moerlein Gazebo celebrated its 10th “re-birthday” as a community rental facility exactly one decade after its grand opening on March 30, 2008. The barn has been reserved more than 1,000 times since then, playing host to parties, reunions, meetings, nuptials and more.
The rental season runs from April 1 through November 15 each year. In the off season, the barn plays host to the West Chester Farmers Market on select winter Saturdays and offers a series of open house dates for interested parties.
Information for this article was compiled from sources including: “A History of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio,” by Virginia Shewalter; “Images of America: Cincinnati’s Brewing History,” by Sarah Stephens; “Over the Barrel: The Brewing History and Beer Culture of Cincinnati,” by Timothy J. Holian; and “The Beer Baron’s Barn,” by Robert Kroeger.