Prost! Brewing History in Davenport: Thiedemann’s Brewery Tap

Breweries in Davenport and across the Quad Cities are experiencing a renaissance. As these businesses add themselves to the impressive list of local businesses, we are inspired to research some of the history of the breweries and other establishments where one would partake in refreshing beverages. Some of the new breweries and drinkeries are found in the locations of former breweries, saloons, and liquor establishments from the past while others are forging their own marks on our cities’ built environments.

From our cities’ beginnings, the citizens have imbibed at local breweries. The profession and activities surrounding brewing has played an important role in the development of Davenport and the Quad Cities. As stated in The Breweries of Iowa by Randy Carlson, the start of brewing in Davenport began with Mathias Frahm’s The City Brewery in May 1850. He established his brewery on the corner of 6th and Harrison Streets. According to Carlson, brewing reached its zenith “in 1870 when the tenth annual convention of the United States Brewers Association was held in Davenport” (Carlson 18). Unfortunately, the brewers streak ended in 1956, a 106 years after it began. In Franc B. Wilkie’s well-known history of Davenport entitled Davenport: Past and Present, he notes in a “Census of the City of Davenport, Taken March 1858” that 14 individuals claimed brewer as their occupation and in comparison 65 individuals claimed saloon keeper (Wilkie 319). These two brief histories only scratch the surface on Davenport’s annals of brewing history.

With this history in mind, we delve into the history of one location acquainted with saloon keeping and brewing.

1910 Sanborn Insurance Map of Davenport.

1848 West 3rd Street secured its place in brewing history in 1890 with the opening of John Schnack’s grocery and saloon. Mr. Schnack was the proprietor of the “First Ward Hall.” His establishment spanned the address of 1848-1850 with the saloon residing at 1848. He was ran the business at two different time period from 1890-1899 and 1912-1915 (Burggraaf 690). He advertised in the local city directory in 1890 as a proprietor of a grocery store and saloon. According to his obituary published in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on March 11, 1919, Mr. Schnack was born in Germany on May 22, 1848. He married Miss Elizabeth Stark on September 17, 1872. He held the office of alderman and was a well-known figure in the community. He unexpectedly died March 10, 1919 of heart failure.

Advertisement from the 1890 Stone’s City Directory.
“John Schnack.” The Daily Times. Published on March 11, 1919 on page 7.

In The Saloon & Liquor Trade of Davenport, Iowa & Scott County 1836-1933, Burggraaf notes that from 1916 to 1932 Fred Thiedemann operated a soft drink parlor at 1848 West 3rd. He also makes the point of stating that, “The Thiedemann family maintained the business at this location throughout Prohibition, without any known raids.” (Burggraaf 690)

According to the city directories, the Thiedemann family operated a soft drink parlor and brewery tap at this location until around 1954. The establishment was known by many names such as the Thiedemann Tavern, Brewery Top Tavern, Brewery Tap, and Thiedemann’s Hall. Fredrick William Thiedemann, who took over the business from Mr. Schnack, was born September 27, 1875 to Peter Thiedemann and Adel Bahms. On November 3, 1897, he married Theresa J. Heidt, the daughter of Jacob Heidt and Kate Porth. Their children were Herbert Frederick and Frances A.

“F.W. Thiedemann, Soft Drink Bar Proprietor, Dies.” The Daily Times. Published on April 15, 1930 on page 6.

Herbert was born on December 9, 1900. On May 18, 1926, he married Marion Wolters at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He passed away from on heart attack on March 3, 1960 according to an obituary published in The Daily Times on March 4. His sister Frances married Guy A. Bean on June 30, 1920. Unfortunately, due to unknown circumstances, Frances was free to marry again. In 1927, her second marriage is to Arthur Ehlers. They had two children Arthur N. and Herbert A.

Over the course of their ownership and management, the Thiedemanns’ either lived above or near their establishment. The Thiedemanns’ where involved in a “Tavern Owners’ League,” a baseball team made up of tavern, saloon, and brewery owners. Their establishment was host to political events, dances, and other social events.

“Thiedemann’s Athletic Club.” Image was taken on Wednesday April 12, 1933. http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/digital/collection/scdpl/id/288/rec/1

In 2008, we wrote a blog about this interesting photograph because of its date and the end of prohibition. Read what we learned here in “History’s Mysteries: An Image of Prohibition?”.

“Thiedemann’s Stop Redmen 4-0.” Times-Democrat. Published on June 29, 1963 on page 2.
“Bartender and patrons at Thiedemann’s Brewery Tap.” Image was taken circa 1933. http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/digital/collection/scdpl/id/4821/rec/2

At the end of the Thiedemann’s tenure, they passed on the ownership to Arthur N. Ehlers, their nephew, who ran the business until 1963 when Richard L. Walters took it over until 1966. In 1967, Nilus Koupal took over for a brief period of a year until in 1968 when the Brewery Tap changed its name to Gridiron Tap under the management of Gerald J. Hillebrand. He passed on the ownership to Ralph C. Carr in 1970. Mr. Carr was the owner until 1973 when Ace Reynolds and Joe Carr took over as 1848 West 3rd Street’s last proprietors until 1977. According to the city directories, the address is not listed after this year. In the location today is a medical facility called the Sunderbruch Building.

Throughout its history, it was also Ernie’s Barber Shop and the Carpenter’s Local Union No. 726. We hope to explore more interesting breweries in future blog posts.

Bibliography

Burggraaf, Mike R. The Saloon & Liquor Trade of Davenport, Iowa & Scott County 1836-1933. [Iowa?]: Unidentified, 2016.

Carlson, Randy. The Breweries of Iowa. Bemidji, MN: Arrow Printing, 1985.

Sanborn Map Company. Insurance Maps of Davenport, Iowa, Volume One. New York, NY: Sanborn Map Company, 1910.

Wilkie, Franc B., Davenport: Past and Present; including the Early History, and Personal and Anecdotal Reminiscences. Davenport: Luse, Lane & Co., 1858.

(posted by Kathryn)

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