Category Archives: Breweries

Busch Gardens (1971-1973)


[Original photo on file.]

[Original photo on file.]

[Original photo on file.]

Houston’s Busch Gardens was around only briefly – the park opened in May 1971 and was closed within two years. It was located adjacent to the Anheuser-Busch brewery (775 Gellhorn Dr.), which opened in 1966.

The Galveston Daily News reported on May 23, 1971:

A $12 million amusements park patterned after Florida’s biggest tourist attraction opens next Saturday in northeast Houston. The 40-acre Busch Gardens primarily has an Asian theme except for an ice cave with a temperature controlled environment for several varieties of penguins, polar bears and sea lions. Otherwise there are islands with monkeys, an elephant compound, deer parks, a Bengal tiger temple, a rhinoceros compound, a bear and cat cub arena, and an area where youngsters can pet lambs, goats and llamas. Other animals include . . . antelope, yaks, Bactrian camels, and lesser pandas. A large freeflight cage with walkways houses over 100 species of foreign birds, hidden wire mesh perches are wired to heat the feet of the birds electrically. Benches used by the monkeys also have electrical heating systems. The park is adjacent to the Houston plant of Anheuser-Busch Inc., which also operates the Tampa Gardens . . . . Transportation in the Houston Gardens include a boat route that covers two-thirds of the grounds, including passages through the ice cave and freeflight bird cage. There also is a train modeled alter the early English steam locomotives widely used in Asia during the I9th century. A 950-seat ampitheater features the trademark of all the Busch Gardens, a bird show with trained macaws and cockatoos. There is an admission charge of $2.25 for adults and $1.25 for children from 3 to 12 but there is free beer for adults. The Gardens started out with no charge but the high cost of animals, birds and labor forced a policy change. The Houston Gardens already have had a $30,000 casualty. One of the two early arriving rhinos became ill and died of what was determined to be acute indigestion. Tampa’s Gardens attract some [2.5] million people a year. Houston expects 700,000 to 800,000 [t]he first year with the annual average leveling out to about one million after three years. With a permanent staff of from 75 to 80, the gardens will have some 300 employes in summer months. The gardens are to open with operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but Busch spokesmen acknowledge late summer heat may force some adjustments for the protection of the animals. Saturday’s opening will follow a Friday dedication luncheon to be given by August A. Busch Jr. for several hundred guests.

A Corpus Christi Caller-Times article that also appeared on May 23, 1971, varied slightly:

The state’s newest tourist attraction, Busch Gardens, Houston, will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 29. The 11-million dollar garden and zoo is located adjacent to Anheuser-Busch Brewery. This garden, although similar to the giant complexes operated by Anheuser-Busch in Tampa, Los Angeles, and St Louis, will create a new environment featuring Asian animals, architecture and landscaping. It will actually be two gardens. The large garden and zoo area will cover about 40 acres. Admission fees of $2.25 for adults and $1.25 for children will be charged for this area. A smaller ‘mini-garden’ with various animal and other displays, will be located alongside the larger area. There will be no charge for admission to the mini-garden. One of the principal features of the park will be a canal, in which a series of water-propelled boats provide visitor transportation. Quiet, completely safe and comfortable, the boat ride will take a passenger past about three-fourths of the gardens. Midway in the boat ride guests may disembark to enjoy the animal contact area. For those who want to walk part or all of the way through the entire area, enticing paths allow them to proceed at their own pace. During the summer Houston Busch Gardens will be open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. After Sept 7, the Gardens will operate Saturday and Sunday only. Winter hours will be 9 a.m -5 p.m.

A later Caller-Times piece also mentioned a Sherpa Slide and ferris wheel for children. A Brownsville Herald article referred to the boat-ride canal as the “Ceylon Channel”, stated that the park had “some 30 species of mammals,” and noted that 12 acres of the 40-acre property were devoted to parking.

The park appeared to have been going strong at its one-year anniversary. The Deer Park Progress wrote on June 15, 1972:

Busch Gardens is now open for its second season with new attractions, rides, live talent and extended hours according to general manager Dick O’Connor. The Gardens will be open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a,m. to 8 p.m. and Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. One of the new attractions planned this year is an elephant ride for the children. And there will be a live talent show, with various Houston area groups and other talented performers. A special sound stage has been built in the middle of The Gardens. The always popular Bird Show given three times a day in the amphitheater will be repeated this year. Some of the other popular attractions at The Gardens include the Ceylon Channel Boat Ride, the walk through a Free Flight Bird Cage and viewing the antics of Arctic animals in the dome-shaped Ice Cave. The tiger display will again intrigue visitors of all ages. This Asian-themed family entertainment and educational facility, situated next to the Houston plant for Anheuser-Busch off Interstate 10 in east Houston, will be even more colorful and lush this year because of the growth of the landscaping, most of which was planted just a year ago. New additions to the over 30 species of mammals and more than 100 species of birds and water fowl will be seen by visitors.

Sadly, though, as the Victoria Advocate reported on December 23, 1972, “attendance the first year fell far short of the expected 800,000.” Busch Gardens “will shut down most of its wild animal displays next year because of low attendance and high costs,” the article stated. On January 4, 1973, as reported in the Deer Park Progress, August A. Busch, Jr. announced that Houston’s Busch Gardens had been “unprofitable,” that “[a]ll efforts to improve the situation have been unsuccessful,” and that the park would be converted into “a sales promotion facility for the company’s beer sales division.” The Baytown Sun, in a June 3, 1973 article, called the park a “disaster” – noting that “[t]he brewery people lost $4 million on the project in a recent fiscal quarter.”

American Brewing Association


[1910′s – American Brewing Association building – Houston History]

Adolphus Busch founded a brewery in Houston in 1893, as part of his American Brewing Association business. (The American Brewing Association is sometimes reported to be connected with, and sometimes reported to be independent of, the Anheuser-Busch Companies – however, an October 28, 1892 article in the Houston Daily Post refers to the planned brewery as the “Anheuser-Busch brewery”.) In 1894, the brewery held an opening ceremony at the brewery, to introduce its product to the public, and 10,000 people reportedly attended. The brewery covered an entire city block at Railroad and 2nd Streets, and remnants of the brewery and a related building have been uncovered during construction at the University of Houston’s downtown campus. Also discovered was a tunnel leading from the site to Buffalo Bayou.

An 1897 American Brewing Association advertisement featured two brands of beer – “Dixie Pale” and “Hackerbrau”. The cost – $1.00 for 12 pint bottles, $1.50 for 12 quart bottles – included delivery “at your residence.” The ad also listed the brewery’s “Houston ‘Phone” number… 73.

More Information:
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).

Frantz Brogniez, Brewmaster

brogniez.JPG
[Frantz Brogniez - Houston's Premier Brewmaster]

Frantz Brogniez was the Belgian-born brewmaster who turned the Houston Ice and Brewing Company into the largest brewing company south of Milwaukee, and later operated Howard Hughes’ Houston-based Gulf Brewing Company. In 1913, while he was serving as brewmaster at Houston Ice and Brewing, Brogniez beat out 4,096 other brewers around the world to win the Grand Prize at the International Congress ofBrewers. The beer for which was honored was Houston Ice and Brewing’s most popular, Southern Select. During Prohibition, Brogniez moved to El Paso and worked with brewing interests in Juarez. At the end of Prohibition, Hughes coaxed Brogniez back to Houston to oversee the operations of Hughes’ Gulf Brewing Company, which produced Grand Prize beer. Brogniez’ son, Frank, operated the brewery after his father’s death.

More information:
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com

Gulf Brewing Company

grandprize.jpg
[www.brauwesen-historisch.de]

grandprize2.jpg

grandprize10.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize5.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize4.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize2.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize1.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

Howard Hughes’ connection with the Houston-based Hughes Tool Company is fairly well-known. It is less well-known that Hughes started a brewery in Houston, on the grounds of the Hughes Tool Company, called Gulf Brewing Company. Hughes opened the brewery at the end of Prohibition, and its profits helped the tool company survive the Depression.

Gulf Brewing Company produced Grand Prize beer, which for a time was the best-selling beer in Texas. It has been reported that a beer called Grand Prize beer was also produced prior to Prohibition, by the Houston Ice and Brewing Company. While that may be accurate, any confusion is likely connected to the fact that Hughes’ Grand Prize brewery was operated by the man who served as brewmaster at Houston Ice and Brewing before Prohibition. In 1913, while he was brewmaster at the Houston Ice and Brewing Company, Belgian-Houstonian Frantz Brogniez was awarded Grand Prize at the last International Conference of Breweries for his Southern Select beer – beating out 4,096 competing brewers. Brogniez left Houston during Prohibition, but Hughes convinced him to return to serve as brewmaster for the Gulf Brewing Company. Brogniez’ son operated the brewery after his father’s death.

More information:
Barlett, Donald L., and Steele, James B., Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com

charro.jpg

charro2.jpg

Update: The above are photos of a can of Charro Beer, which appears also to have been a Gulf Brewing product.

Houston Ice & Brewing Co.

houstoniceandbrewing.jpg
[Houston Ice and Brewing Company's Magnolia Brewery and (on right) its executive offices (now the Magnolia Ballroom) - magnoliaballroom.com]

brewingmagnolia.jpg
[Brewing Magnolia Beer - magnoliaballroom.com]

magnolia.JPG
[Magnolia Beer sign – Center for American History]

deleterich.jpg
[1909 newspaper advertisement]

While some of the historical facts appear to be in dispute, the story goes something like this…

The Magnolia Ballroom building on the Franklin Street side of Market Square (715 Franklin) was built in 1912, on the foundation of an older building (the Franklin Building), and once housed the taproom and executive offices for the Houston Ice and Brewing Co.’s Magnolia Brewery. The building was the first in Houston to have refrigerator-style air conditioning. In 2006, it became the first commercial building in Houston to receive the Houston Protected Landmark designation.

By 1915, the Houston Ice and Brewing Company encompassed more than 10 buildings on more than 20 acres located on both sides of Buffalo Bayou. In fact, the brewery even spanned the bayou for some period of time – the Louisiana Street bridge now crosses the bayou at the same location. To provide easier access across the bayou, the brewery built a 250-foot wood and concrete bridge stretching from the Franklin Street bridge toward the Milam Street bridge.

The Magnolia Brewery produced a number of signature brands of beer, including (it is reported) Magnolia, Richelieu, Hiawatha, Grand Prize, and Southern Select (the latter being the most famous). In 1913, brewmaster Frantz Brogniez was awarded Grand Prize at the last International Conference of Breweries for his Southern Select beer – beating out 4,096 competing brewers from around the world. In 1919, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the labeling on one of the Houston Ice and Brewing Company’s brands did not infringe upon a Schlitz trademark. (Having noted that the similarities in the two bottles were limited to their content and brown labels, the Court stated: “If there were deception it seems to us that it would arise from beer and brown color and that it could not be said that the configuration appreciably helped.”)

The company’s decline began during Prohibition, when the Houston Ice and Brewing Company was forced to rely solely on its ice sales. Many of the brewery’s structures were then destroyed in the historic 1935 flood, which was later blamed on the Magnolia Brewery bridge. The brewery struggled to survive, but closed in 1950.

The Magnolia Ballroom is just one of two Houston Ice and Brewing Company buildings that remains standing. In 1969, a high-end restaurant called the Bismark was located on the second floor, and the Buffalo Bayou Flea Market operated out of the basement. The basement has since housed a variety of bars and clubs. The upstairs floors are currently used for special events – much of the ornate interior of the building has been preserved, and it is decorated with historic photos.

More information:
Allan Turner, “Magnolia Ballroom becomes Houston’s first protected landmark,” Houston Chronicle, Oct. 10, 2006
Magnolia Brewery Building,” magnoliaballroom.com (citing additional sources)
Jospeh Schlitz Brewing Co. v. Houston Ice & Brewing Co., 250 U.S. 28 (1919)
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).

wamba.jpg
[Wamba Coffee - see comments below]

peerless.jpg
[Peerless Beer - see comments below]

Frostown

frosttownbirdseyesm.jpg
[frosttownhistoricsite.org]

frost.jpg
[City of Houston map of Frostown superimposed on current map]

Frostown (also seen as “Frost Town”, “Frosttown”, and “Frost-Town”) was located within the large square-shaped bend that Buffalo Bayou makes not too far from Allen’s Landing – Crawford Street once dead-ended at Frost Town. It stands out on early maps of Houston, such as this 1891 map, because its streets are oriented at a different angle than other streets on the downtown side of the bayou. Street names included Spruce, Arch, Race, and Bramble Streets. Some current electronic maps of Houston will still locate Race Street running a very short distance off of McKee Street.

The Frostown area was settled in 1822, years before the Allen brothers purchased the land that was to become Houston. However, it got its name from a family that bought land in the area from the Allen brothers in the late 1830′s. Before that, it was known as Germantown, because of the large number of German settlers (who started arriving in the late 1820′s), and both names may have been used interchangeably for some time thereafter.

Frostown had its own post office, school, churches, and cemetery, and was home to a variety of thriving businesses. Notably, Houston’s first brewery was located in Frostown – it was started by Michael and Peter Floecke in the 1850′s, and appears on some Frostown maps. In 1865, though, a Galveston and Houston Junction Railroad track sliced the community in two. The small town suffered from the loss of its post office in the 1880′s, and the cemetery (the site of which has since disappeared into Buffalo Bayou) stopped being used about the same time.

While many Frostown structures survived well into the next century, it had become a slum by the late 1930′s. The Elysian Viaduct was built through the area in 1952 and, later, Highway 59 was also run through the once-vibrant community. A number of pre-1900 gable-roofed cottages were destroyed in the process. Despite the efforts of preservationists, the last remnants of Frostown disappeared in 1992, the victim of a freeway expansion project. The structures removed included a house that may have dated to the 1800′s.

At the feet of Highway 59, James Bute Park now encompasses parts of the Frostown site. The non-profit organization Art and Environmental Architecture is working to acquire and preserve as much of the surrounding property as possible, so as to expand the park as an historical site.

More information:
Historic Frost Town,” frosttownhistoricsite.org
Aulbach, L.F., “Before there was Houston, there was Frostown,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2001).
Schafer, D., “The truth of a frosty town legacy,” City Savvy (Online Ed. 2005).
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).
Frost-Town Cemetery,” cemeteries-of-tx.com