Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hiram Walkers in Peoria --- World's Largest Distillery

Howard Keil shared from Peoria Historical Society
I knew Illinois made a lot of beer. It is not uncommon when researching the industries in a town to find breweries. For example, Peru, IL. But I think of Kentucky and Tennessee when I think of hard liqueur. But it looks like Illinois also cranked out barrels of booze.

(Update: Peoria’s Hiram Walker was once the largest distillery in the world and BourbonFool)

PHS comment:
4x5 Medium Format Photographs of Hiram Walker & Sons Distillery, Peoria, IL, taken by Ken Regele, Plant Photographer for 31 years.
Ken, worked at Hiram Walker's from 1948 until he retired in 1979. Ken was very proud of Hiram Walker's, always eager to share all the interesting facts of the liquor industry whether it was where the barrels were made or how many barge loads of grain came down the Illinois River each week. Ken also served as an Army photographer during WWII (1941-1945).
Ken's media set
Howard provides a link to 111 of Ken's pictures. These are a sampling.
Ken's media set

The plant is now owned by ADM and they have done some major changes on the north side.
Bird's Eye View
Howard's comment on above posting
2 years ago from river side.
David Jordan Dennis DeBruler and Howard Keil In the late 1980s, ADM drastically changed the look of the old Hiram Walker & Sons distillery when it installed piping for a "closed loop" system intended to eliminate the notorious odor that prompted numerous complaints, even editorializing against the company by the late PJStar columnist Rick Baker ("After causing stink, ADM should get lost" - 10-27-87). It didn't eliminate the odor, and the cause was eventually determined to be 80' stacks on grain dryers. These were replaced by a 250' stack in 1990. ADM still smells at times, but probably not like it did in the 1980s.

David Jordan The single-story warehouse shown in the main photo was built in 1965-1966.

Steven Johnson shared
A screenshot of Hiram Walkers from the early 1960's film "Peoria Pledged to Progress".
The largest Distillery in the world cost $5,000,000.00; covers 22 acres, grinds 20,000 bushels of grain daily; capacity 100,000 gallons of whiskey and spirits per day

Thomas Dyrek posted
Burlington Northern 5674 at the Hiram-Walker distillery circa 1970. John and Roger Kujawa photo, Thomas Dyrek collection.
David Jordan: BN power wasn't at Hiram Walker, as P&PU switched this side. BN power here was assigned to new (April 1970) coal trains delivered to C&IM. This might be an empty ready for departure from the BN yard. When these coal trains started, the BN-P&PU connection was at South Street, which required inbound coal trains to run up to the BN yard then be dragged across the P&PU bridge. Empties returned in reverse. The connection at Darst Street was probably built in 1971.

Kevin Piper posted
There is a lot to see in this photo. This is the old CB&Q yard in Peoria, IL, during May 1976. Some interesting freight cars, plus ex-GN wood transfer caboose BN 10928, the only one of the class to get full green paint. It was used in captive yard service at Peoria for years. Crews claimed it was much warmer in winter cold than a steel caboose. The scene also begs to be modeled, with the big Hiram Walker distillery nearby.
This would make a great layout background photo.
Jeff Bloomdahl My Grandfather, a CNW engineer and fireman, worked thru Peoria for a period of time. During Prohibition, the HW factory had an armed guard around it.
[I see a GN goat peaking above the white building.]

Kevin Piper posted
Mike Landers Thats ADM today !

A Flickr photo of the rail side of the storage buildings used to age the spirits.

Update: In fact Peoria was the U.S. whiskey capital. "Prior to instituting a national income tax in 1913, about one-third of U.S. revenue was derived from liquor taxes — with the federal district that contained Peoria paying the biggest share....Much of the liquor being taxed was produced here. Between 1837 and 1919, there were 24 breweries and 73 distilleries in various stages of operation across central Illinois, according to the Peoria Historical Society....‒ 1982: Both Hiram Walker and Pabst close plants in Peoria area." [pjstar-capital]

Dennis DeBruler commented on a post by David Jordan
So Peoria used to have two big distilleries? National Distillers Product (red) and Hiram Walker (yellow).
David Jordan Dennis DeBruler More than two. More like four post-Prohibition.

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