Joseph Steppacher, Jacob Hohenadel, and Philip Guckes Were Early Brewers
Nearby Springs Supplied Water and Ice for Product
Thirty-five years ago the section where winding Warden Drive makes its graceful curves on the way from Midvale ave to School House lane was entirely different. The roadbed of the present thoroughfare follows what was once a natural valley through a thick stand of trees, mostly chestnut and beech. The little vale skirted the rear of several splendid School House lane properties.
Halfway up the Drive, about what is now the end of the golf course of a rest sanatorium, was Philip Guckes’ brewery. This old industrial plan, which was devoted entirely to the brewing of lager beer, was built in 1873, but ended its days about 40 years ago, when a disastrous fire wiped it out. For years afterward, however, the gaunt walls of the main structure sans roof, window casings and practically all timber stood there, to the great delight of the boys of the neighborhood. In its basement, which was always flooded with water, grew large splatter-docks and pond lilies, and great numbers of frogs were to be seen at all times, inviting the stone-throwing marksmanship of the lads who frequented the place.
Nearby was the brewery dam, quite a large body of clear, sparkling water, in which the boys were wont to spend the summer days in swimming.
Philip Guckes was born in 1821 in Hesse, Darmstadt, Germany. He learned the trade of brewer in the old country and in 1842 came to America. He was employed in various breweries in New York and Philadelphia, among which he served for seven years William C. Rudman, until 1850 when he started in the brewing business on his own account. Then he bought the old hotel property along Ridge avenue at the foot of School House lane (the site now occupied by a gasoline station).
Falls Park Brewery, located at the Falls of Schuylkill, 28th Ward of Philadelphia, occupies a site formerly owned by Richard Penn Smith, descendant of the first provost of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. William Smith. The ruins of the old brewery may still be seen on Arnold Street, in the rear of the Reading Railroad Company’s East Falls station.
The buildings were completed by Joseph Steppacher in 1858, and he operated the place until 1870, when Jacob Hohenadel purchased it from Peter Schemm. The property included about six acres, with a beautifully shaded park for the accommodation of picnics and private parties. On one side of the grove stood the brewery, a building about 160 feet by 65 feet; and being built on the side of a bank, with four vaults hewn in the solid rock, each 30 by 152 feet, it varied from three to five stories in height.
Within the brewery were ever-flowing springs of water, furnishing an abundant supply, while upon the premises were other fine springs, one of which was piped down to the old Falls Hotel on Ridge avenue. It was provided with the best appliances of the times for brewing a superior article of beer.
Like Philip Guckes, Jacob Hohenadel was born in Hesse, Darmstadt, Germany on August 19, 1838. He came to the United States with his father in 1852 and worked a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania until 1858, when he entered the brewery business of Berdoll & Psotta at Fairmount. In 1864 he started business for himself at Broad and Cumberland streets, when he purchased the building and grounds at the Falls of Schuylkill. Jacob Hohenadel was known as a man of indomitable energy and untiring industry.