Last year’s headlines regarding the almost-forgotten “brewery district” in downtown Mansfield, including in this story in 1812Blockhouse, led to increased interest in the history of local breweries, and at least one man had already been digging into the topic. Scott Schaut, curator of the Mansfield Memorial Museum, has been researching and gathering artifacts for several years. He plans to write a book, and currently features an exhibit titled “Breweries and Bottlers of Mansfield” at the downtown museum.
Breweries is self-explanatory, but “bottlers” may not be. Schaut explained that in the nineteenth century it was easier to ship beer in barrels as compared to bottles. Barrels of beer would arrive locally from cities such as Toledo, and then be bottled in Mansfield. A brewery might set up its own bottling plant in Mansfield, and then advertise locally that the barrels were arriving and that bottled beer would be available shortly for purchase. Between 1821 and 1952, nine breweries and 35 bottling companies were located in Mansfield.
The first true brewery in Mansfield was started in 1835; larger breweries – which were located around Diamond Street and Fourth Street – started to proliferate, and this is where the tunnels come in. Those cavernous underground pathways were used both to keep the beer away from sunlight, which can ruin the flavor and smell, and to maintain a cool temperature after the beer has “cooked” in the fermentation process. Hudson & Essex, which recently opened a combination restaurant, winery and deli on the corner of Fourth Street and Diamond Street in downtown Mansfield, plans to open the tunnels an event space later this year.
Back to those bottlers. They were not just bottling beer, but also mineral water and soda. Flavors of soda included orange, cherry and ginger (ginger ale). Mansfield bottlers had contracts to bottle Coca Cola, Pepsi and others. Islay’s, which was started in Mansfield and is perhaps best remembered for its ice cream treat Klondike Bar, also had its own locally-bottled soda for sale.
Schaut stated that the collection includes over 230 bottles. He wants to impress on today’s Richland County citizens how impressive our past history in production and manufacturing is; Schaut estimates that 50 different types of beer came from our local breweries at the height of production.
The author of several books, Schaut plans to publish a book about his research into the breweries and bottlers of the area. In addition to the exhibit at the Mansfield Memorial Museum, Schaut is scheduled to give a talk on the topic at the main branch of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library on Thursday, October 24 at 6:00 PM; the talk is free and open to the public.
To see the exhibit in person, visit the Mansfield Memorial Museum at 34 Park Ave. West in Mansfield; the museum is open Saturdays, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Sundays 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM through November. The museum is closed during the winter months. Visit them online at http://www.themansfieldmuseum.com.
Do you have information to share? The Mansfield Memorial Museum is collecting any artifacts, including bottles, labels, photographs, and brochures related to local soda and beer companies. They are looking for anyone who worked in any of the breweries or bottling companies to interview. The museum is also seeking the help of collectors, historians and people with direct knowledge of the workings of these factories to preserve the correct the history of these companies. Anyone wishing to contribute may contact the museum by telephone at (419) 525-2491, or visit the museum at the location listed above.
Photos: 1812Blockhouse/Kristina Krueger