by Patrick Thompson, Architectural Historian

During the 1880s, a series of high-profile murders and other crimes attributed to drunkenness contributed to a growing public sentiment that the administration of laws against drunkenness and associated crimes (fighting, beatings, etc.) was lax. In addition, many of the states surrounding Nebraska had passed prohibition laws. As a result, the state legislature decided to take the question of statewide prohibition to the voters in November 1889.

The result was an overwhelming defeat of the amendment, with approximately 82,300 votes for it and just over 112,000 votes against.[1] There were charges of election fraud and voter intimidation, but these charges were either disproven or went unproven. After the vote, the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. of Milwaukee, Wisc., was determined to greatly expand its operation in Omaha through the establishment of company-owned saloons.

In December 1890, the Omaha World-Herald carried a story that stated that with the prohibition question settled, Schlitz had begun taking “active and vigorous” measures to increase their business in Omaha. The company previously had a wholesale agent in the city, and advertisements for Schlitz are found in newspapers as far back as the early 1880s. The company’s “scheme,” as the newspaper called it, was to buy corner lots throughout the city that the company felt would make good locations for saloons that would, in turn, sell Schlitz beer exclusively.

The newspaper also pointed out that Schlitz, already established in Omaha with an office and cold storage facility at South Ninth and Leavenworth, would likely have to expand its cold storage and delivery facilities, and suggested the Schlitz investments could have been worth up to $250,000 in new investment before it was over. Two agents of the brewery had scouted prospective locations and left a real estate agent with instructions to secure various parcels. “One by one,” the World-Herald ended its story, “outside firms recognize Omaha’s importance and recognizing it they hasten to take advantage of the opportunities presented to make money.”

What Schlitz and other breweries were doing was creating a network of “tied houses” throughout Omaha, South Omaha and Council Bluffs. Tied houses originated in Great Britain and are thus named because they are required to buy some (or in the case of the Schlitz saloons, all) of their beer from a single brewer. In some cases, the brewery owned the building outright or it merely executed agreements with privately-owned saloons who agreed to buy beer only from that brewer. This provided a steady demand for the brewers’ products and built up brand loyalty among a saloon’s patrons. Another reason cited for the practice was for the breweries to erect their own well-designed and better maintained buildings that contrasted with the “wretched structure occupied by the proprietors of low groceries,”[3] providing for better public order and attracting a higher class of customers.

Each of the large Midwestern brewers (and even some of the local brewers who participated) erected saloons with an identifiable architectural element: Schlitz saloons used the bartizan (an overhanging corner turret that projected over the building’s entrance) and Romanesque arched windows, while the Pabst saloons had square towers, crenellated parapets and Gothic-revival arched windows.

A former Pabst saloon at 2615 N Street in South Omaha. The Pabst Company bought the lot in 1898 and constructed the saloon building a year later. It is attributed to Otto Strack; either a stand-alone design or a variation on one of his designs for Pabst saloons in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The 1892 Omaha city directory indicates that of the numerous saloons, Schlitz owned none (or at least none had direct reference to the company in their names), while the Pabst Co. had one (“Pabst Headquarters” at 1216 Farnam Street) and Charles Storz had one at 1402 N. 24th Street.[1]

By February 1891, Schlitz had already purchased two corner lots in South Omaha and was seeking others in Omaha. Not to be outdone, Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis also sought downtown property – near 14th and Farnam – to build a “merchants’ restaurant” and saloon to promote and sell its beer.[2]

By March 1891, Henry Uihlein, president of the Schlitz Brewing Co., personally visited the city, by which time the World-Herald estimated the company had invested over $100,000 in Omaha real estate. The newspaper suggested the company might construct an Omaha brewery in the future.[3] In April 1891, Uihlein had secured the purchase of the A.D. Jones homestead on the northwest corner of 16th and Harney for his “merchants’ restaurant,” paying almost $75,000, part of an estimated $200,000 investment in city property since December 1890. Uihlein left his company secretary, Eugene Wuesthoff, to attend to further purchases.[4] Days later, the company’s investment was estimated to be closer to $400,000: large lots, with over 100 feet in street frontage, on 20th and Vinton streets; corner lots in South Omaha on 24th and F streets and Q Street and “the viaduct” for future saloons, and two more at 33rd and L and 33rd and Q streets for hotels.[5] Wuesthoff was quoted as saying, “We realize there is a great future in Omaha, and we want to be considered as old citizens and friends, not strangers.”[6]

One real estate advertisement in April 1891 details the amount and location of parcels purchased by Schlitz Brewing Co. in South Omaha alone, purportedly from a “list of actual sales” since Jan. 1, 1891. The list provides the lot, block number and purchase price for each parcel purchased by Schlitz for a total investment of just over $30,000 in the first quarter of 1891 in South Omaha:

  • Lot 8, Block 356 (NE corner of 33rd and L Streets), $2,200
  • Lot 7, Block 355 (NW corner of 33rd and L Streets), $2,100
  • Lot 7, Block 359 (30th and L Streets), $6,800
  • Lot 6, Block 36 (NW corner of 24th and F Streets), $4,000
  • Lots 1 & 2, Jetter’s Addition (SW corner of 29th and Q Streets), $8,000
  • S ½ of Lot 10, Block 81 (E side of Railroad Avenue between N & O Streets), $3,000[7]

This does not mean the company built saloons on all these parcels, but it at least bought them, perhaps to construct saloons or another commercial building on them later. Schlitz was not the only company that bought property for the purposes of building its own saloons, hotels and restaurants.

This two-story building at 611 N. 16th Street was constructed by Schlitz Brewing Co. for approximately $5,000 circa 1897. It was recently bought to restore.

Below is a non-exhaustive list, in no particular order, of known saloons, hotels and other buildings constructed and/or occupied by the various brewers in Omaha from approximately 1890 to 1910. This does not mean to imply all these saloons were active at the same times, but that the various brewers have been identified with them at least for the years indicated. In some cases, a building may even have been built by one brewer and later occupied by another.

Brewery/Company Address/intersection Year (build/mentioned) Reference Extant
Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. 623 Pacific 1898 Improvement Bulletin, V. 17, No. 12 Feb 26, 1898 (Google Books) N
611 N. 16th 1897 “Schlitz No. 3 Opened,” Aug 8, 1897: 3 Y
3802 Sherman/N. 16th 1898 “Board Increases the Force,” OWH Apr 12, 1898: 6 N
719 S. 9th 1899 “Protest Against Brewing Company,” Omaha Daily Bee, Dec 12, 1899: 4 N
1023 N. 16th 1899 N
1024 Douglas 1898 “New Schlitz Saloon,” OWH, Dec 3, 1898: 2 N
2516 Cuming 1899 “Protest Against Brewing Company,” Omaha Daily Bee, Dec 12, 1899: 4 N
323 S. 11th 1899 N
1014 S. 10th 1899 N
1517 Douglas 1899 N
201 S. 9th 1899 N
30th/Spalding 1899 ?
512 N. 16th 1898 “Schlitz’s New Building,” Omaha Daily Bee, Dec 8, 1898: 12 N
917 Davenport 1899 “Building Projects for the Year,” OWH, Jan 1, 1899: 21 N
1301 Webster 1899 N
29th/Cuming 1899 N
201 N. 16th 1899 N
316 S. 16th (hotel) 1894 Advertisement, OWH, Jan 21, 1894: 4 N
27th/Q (2709?) 1897 “Schlitz Building,” OWH, Jul 30, 1897: 8 N
32nd/Q (SW corner?) 1897 Y (mod)?
1824 S. 20th 1897 “Their Licenses Granted,” OWH, Jan 1, 1897: 5 N
4036 S. 24th 1891 “Magic City Notes,” OWH, Jun 3, 1891: 2 Y (mod)
30th/L 1891 “Magic City Notes,” OWH, May 20, 1891: 3 N
26th/O (NW corner?) 1904 “Storz Will Build…” OWH, Apr 24: 1904: 3 Y (mod)?
2709 L 1910 “Notice,” OWH, May 10, 1910: 10 N
2236 S. 20th (NW corner?) 1905 “Protests are Files by the Brewing Company,” OWH, Dec 5, 1905: 6 Y (mod)?
224 N. 16th 1905 N
2520 Q 1897 “Will Build a Depot,” OWH, Jun 17, 1897: 5 N
325 N. 27th (S. Omaha) 1899 “South Omaha News,” OWH, May 9, 1899: 5 N
24th/Wyman 1897 ?
26th/N 1897 “Will Build a Depot,” OWH, Jun 17, 1897: 5 ?
24th/Missouri 1897 ?
2411 N (prev. existing?) 1897 Y
20th/Q (prev. existing?) 1897 Y (maybe?)
38th/L Unknown N
South Omaha Brewing 607 N. 33rd (S. Omaha) 1899 “South Omaha News,” OWH, May 9, 1899: 5 N
2401 Cuming 1899 “Another Batch of Licenses,” OWH Jan 5, 1899: 3 N
Krug Brewing S. 13th (2601?) 1899 “Building Projects for the Year,” OWH, Jan 1, 1899: 21 N
16th/Izard 1899 N
1314 Harney (music hall) 1899 N
1001 Jackson 1897 “Their Licenses Granted,” OWH, Jan 1, 1897: 5 N
2206 S. 16th 1897 N
22nd/Poppleton 1897 Maybe
2201 S. 13th 1895 Liquor Notice, OWH, Dec. 23, 1895: 7 N
511-513 N. 27th 1903 “Affairs at South Omaha,” OWH, May 7, 1903: 7 N
2524 Q 1903 N
414 N. 16th 1899 “Another Batch of Licenses,” OWH, Jan. 5, 1899: 3 N
16th/Grace 1899 “Building Projects for the Year,” OWH, Jan 1, 1899: 21 N
13th/William (hotel) 1899 Y
16th/Cuming 1899 N
24th/O 1904 “Storz Will Build…” OWH, Apr 24: 1904: 3 N?
Metz Bros. 23rd/Leavenworth 1899 “Building Projects for the Year,” OWH, Jan 1, 1899: 21 N
211 N. 16th 1899 N
3122 N. 24th 1897 “Their Licenses Granted,” OWH, Jan 1, 1897: 5 N
1509-11 Harney 1897 N
26th/Walnut 1895 Liquor Notice, OWH, Dec 23, 1895: 7 N
20th/Q 1903 “Affairs at South Omaha,” OWH, May 7, 1903: 7 ?
21st/S 1903 Y
7th/Leavenworth 1896 “We Win This Time,” OWH, Jan 4, 1896: 1 N
612 S. 12th 1896 N
Lemp Brewing 1517 Nicholas 1897 “Their Licenses Granted,” OWH, Jan 1, 1897: 5 N
Pabst Brewing 203 N. 16th 1902 “Notice,” OWH, Dec 27, 1902: 7 N
1216 Farnam 1902 N
2613 N 1899 “South Omaha News,” ODB, Feb 27, 1899: 5 Y
NE corner of 25th/Q ? Y
Anheuser-Busch 706 S. 13th 1893 “Notice,” OWH, Dec 22, 1893: 9 N

Suspect others? Let us know at or comment below.

[1] Omaha City Directory: 1892 –, accessed Jul 26, 2017: 809.

[2] “Corners for Beer,” Omaha World-Herald Feb 3, 1891: 4

[3] “A Brewery in Sight,” Omaha World-Herald Mar 15, 1891: 8

[4] Title Unavailable (torn), Omaha World-Herald Apr 3, 1891: 1

[5] “Some Schlitz Purchases,” Omaha World-Herald Apr 6, 1891: 1

[6] “Heard at the Hotels,” Omaha World-Herald Apr 10, 1891: 4

[7] Advertisement, Omaha World-Herald Apr 26, 1891: 15

Share This