Summer Learning- Brewers of Cleveland

Jun 12, 2018

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Laura McShane

My Cleveland neighborhood, Brooklyn Centre, has one of the oldest cemeteries in the Cleveland area. It is the distinguished resting place for many of the founders of Cleveland - the early settlers of the region.

The Cleveland Metroparks has an annual tour of the cemetery that highlights the history of beer and breweries in Cleveland. The tour also includes a lot of interesting information about German culture and how the brewery industry influenced real estate and society in America.

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The Brooklyn Centre neighborhood was one of the first areas settled by Germans after the initial settlement by families from the Connecticut Western Reserve. Rural farms gave way to streets and housing for immigrants working to construct the Ohio and Erie Canal. The Brainard farm was purchased for the Riverside Cemetery:

Titus N. Brainard, owner of 140 acres on Pearl Street and Scranton Roads, offered to sell 102-1/2 acres of his farmland containing cropland, wooded hillsides, open land, ravines and waterways in October 1875. The farmland was acquired originally by his grandfather, Asa Brainard, when he came here from Connecticut in 1814.

It was interesting to learn that German beer in the lager style is a different process than the process to make English ale, requiring COLD water!

Ale vs. Lager

German immigrants set up brew gardens and needed cold, clean water to produce the lager-style beer. Ice was drawn from local stream fed ponds, including man-made ponds like the "lakes" designed by E. O. Schwaegerl for the landscape of Riverside Cemetery.

At first, production could only take place during the cold winter months, but the creation of ice cellars staring around 1870 allowed year-round production. The Metroparks tour features the Star Brewery family and also the Leisy Brewery: Isaac and August Leisy, natives of Griedelshein, Bavaria, came to Cleveland from Iowa in 1872 to attend a brewers' convention. They liked the city so much that the following year they took over the old Haltnorth Brewery at Vega and Rhodes Aves.

The last stop on the Metroparks tour (which included many historical detours) appropriately ended with the Schlather family mausoleum. The Schlather family brewery was located near what is now the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

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It is fitting that important founders of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District, later the Cleveland Metroparks, are buried at Riverside Cemetery. Harry Farnsworth, the first board president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District, is buried at Riverside, along with the Schlather family which started the acquisition of land to be known as the "Emerald Necklace" with the donation of three acres of land from his "country" estate in the Rocky River watershed.

The Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie figure prominently in our past and our future. William Stinchcomb, the engineer and first park director, who made the Metroparks a reality, is honored with a memorial in the Rocky River Reservation, but is buried in West Park Cemetery, which was once a much larger cemetery, located along the Big Creek tributary to the Cuyahoga River.

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