Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Old Crown/Centlivre Brewery in Fort Wayne, IN

A couple of years ago I was trying to remember the name of the brewery that used to be north of State Street between Spy Run Avenue and St. Joseph River. This photo answers that question.
Mark Deprey The old Centlivere Brewery on North Clinton st also made old Crown Beer

(Update: FortWayneBeer includes a photo of the aftermath of the July 16, 1889 fire. FortWayneBeer has a post with lots of photos on Old Crown.)

Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana posted
John Hamm commented on the above posting
 I still have one of their old heavy-heavy cardboard beer cases from the 60's. Wonder if it is a collector's item now. This has been a general tote in my garage for decades.
Update: Kenneth Childers posted 40 photos of the Centlivre and old Crown Breweries. Centilvre also had a streetcar line that went up Spy Run so he could ship his beer to the Nickle Plate and to the downtown businesses. He also had a beer garden that is now the Centilvre Apartments. [Image from Kenneth Childers' posting]

This image is of particular interest to me because it is what I remember seeing whenever we drove north on Spy Run.
Photo from Kenneth Childers' posting
The old Old Crown brewery, c. late mid-century [Great Memories and History of Fort Wayne, Indiana]
Also posted by Donald Brockhaus
Bill Nimmo that was a rail spur inside that dark opening in the buiding

Garry Jones posted a similar view.

These two images are probably colorizations of the same photo. They demonstrate how artists had black smoke pouring out of the smokestack as a sign of prosperity.
Photo from Kenneth Childers' posting
[This postcard is old enough that the artist added black smoke coming out of the smokestack because black smoke was considered a sign of prosperity in the 1800s. The horse&wagons and streetcars are another indication of age.]

Scott T. Vakerics posted another copy of this image
Dave Jehl I see a canal boat, not on the river, would this be part of the feeder canal?Randy Harter Yes, that's the feeder canal and is exactly where it ran. It started out on the St. Joe River behind North Point Woods, and ran through Johnny Appleseed Park, down Spy Run Extended, and right behind the brewery. If you look at where the I & M power towers are between Spy Run and Clinton, behind Classic Stereo, they took the feeder canals place. The feeder canal was 6-7 miles long and joined the Wabash & Erie Canal a couple blocks behind Paula's on W. Main. Railroad tracks now sit on top of the spot where the feeder and main canal joined.
Craig Leonard Tom Castaldi pointed out to me where the feeder canal ran behind the houses opposite G I Joes. The area was platted into lots after the canal was filled in in 1897 by a group of investors that included John Bass.

Debi King also posted
Steve Tiny Michaels There was a feeder ditch built for the brewery behind the bottling buildings, and the brewery itself was butted against the river.
[I didn't have the guts to correct him that it was a feeder canal for the I&M Canal. Now that I think about it, I've never seen images of the aqueducts for the canal and the feeder down by the three rivers conjunction.]

Photo from Kenneth Childers' posting
This photo seems to be a good study in colorization.
Greg Marlow shared
I found this after seeing Jeff Smith's post about the statue of C.L. Centlivre. Found this to be an interesting read.
John R. Scheele Great read! I'm John Reuss Scheele. Yes that Reuss. John was my grandfather who ran it in the 50s and 60s. I have his rolodex that contain all info on these men in the article addresses and phone #s. The first time I heard my voice on his dictaphone in his office at the brewery.
Joseph Scott That's really strange.
I was born in Fort Wayne in October 1972 just a year before Old Crown closed in December 1973.
In 1991 I graduated from Northside High School at the time I seen a large Martin Crane taking a wrecking ball to the buildings.
All my years growing up it was abandoned with broken windows and it was fenced off. It was a piece of History my mother knew about cos she used to love Old Crown beer.
I only got to see it's dying reprieve.
I wish I could of lived back in the days when they were in operation.
It's really a sad story.
Joseph Scott I do remember back when the year that YES came out with the song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" either 1982 or 1983. Me and some neighborhood buddies went inside the Brewery and decided to climb the stairwell which led all the way up to the roof at least 9 stories. As we climbed the stairs it was a messy climb. There was broken glass and wiring everywhere. I found several bottles and caps along the way. By the time we got to the 4th level we discovered that a section of stairwell was completely gone, at least 5 good steps worth, however there was a railing that was still intact so we did a double dare of who would climb up to see the 5th floor.
I tell you it was scary looking down we had to be over 50 feet above ground. But it was dark as you look up. I could see long hanging lamps from the roof all the way down. There was pieces of sharp metal and glass everywhere. So I decided to go first.
I clenched the railing as I seen the large gap below me and the railing was wobbly as I pulled myself up and finally I climbed another flight and I was on the 5th floor, but the floors were cracked and it was dark up there with no windows. As I carefully walked to the north section I could see plenty of rubarb and concrete literally crumbling away my foot got stuck in a crack in the floor. I yelled at my friend for help but he was too scared to climb up the rest of the way. My foot was tore up from twisting it out of the crack, I remember it was bleeding bad. I got free and made it carefully back to the stairwell and noticed my friend was already at ground level.
I know my bloody foot steps marked the steps going down but I had left my shoe on the 5th floor so as you can imagine Yes! I painfully had to walk on shards of broken glass all the way down until I was on the ground. My foot was so tore up with glass I went to the river to wash out some of the glass out of my foot.
I got home finally. My mom says she remembers taking out over 300 small pieces of glass out of my foot.
[I'm in favor of industrial history. But I'm not in favor of "urban exploring."]
I did a search for the statue post and found it.
Jeff Smith posted three photos with the comment: "I think most people know that the statue of C. L. Centlivre (that once stood atop the Centlivre Brewery) now stands atop the Hall’s Gas House restaurant. I wonder how many know that the metal signs that hung on the front of the brewery now hang on the wall at Hall’s Triangle Park restaurant."
Jack Teeple I've posted this before, but I am the proud owner of the upper half of the window just to the left of the large arched one under the Centlivre sign. Just before the building was to be torn down (in the 80's?), I went in and liberated it. It now resides in Louisville KY. [A later comment provides a photo of the window.]


Tom Centlivre commented on Jeff's post
Here is a picture of me with my Centlivre brother, children and cousins. C.L. Centlivre was my Great Great Grandfather.
Vicki Shepherd where's Heleen
Tom Centlivre This was take 3 years ago. This is the Louis A Centlivre branch, Helen is the Charles F branch. They were both sons of CL.
Tom commented on his comment

Becky Osbun posted two images with the comment:
19th Century lithograph advertising; and an undated photo of a C.L. Centilvre Brewing Co. office interior. - photos courtesy of ACPL. Centlivre was born in France and settled in Fort Wayne, where he founded the brewing company with his brother, Frank. It was also known as the French Brewery, and much later as the Old Crown Brewery. (During Prohibition, the brewery was called Centlivre Ice & Storage Co.)
Nolan Richhart Did the canal also run up past the brewery? I’ve never heard that before, but it looks to in the picture.
Steve Ditlinger Nolan Richhart That is the "feeder canal" that brought water from St Joe River farther north to feed into the canal west of downtown.
Becky Osbun Interesting photos at this link: http://www.fortwaynebeer.com/centlivre-brewing


In the middle background.
Linda Bultemeier Krumwiede posted
Nice aerial view of the north side of Fort Wayne in 1926 or 1927. Full size image: https://drive.google.com/.../1UB_Y-JHoB_-8I9V.../view...

Becky Osbun commented on her post

The body of water on the right in the above images is the St. Joseph River. The body on the left was the feeder canal for the Wabash & Erie Canal. I doubt if it was that wide. Nor do I think it would have canal boats on it.
You can find remnants of the feeder canal because a friend taught me that Indiana & Michigan bought the right-of-way for a transmission line. In fact, it appears AEP/I&M has upgraded the line because this tower is much bigger than the ones I remember along this road. If you look north of the coliseum parking lot, you can still see the depression of the canal. I wonder if the canal began here because this is where the power line no longer follows the St. Joseph River.
One of the 41 photos posted by Kenneth Childers
Jeff Smitt commented on a post
One of the 41 photos posted by Kenneth Childers
Faded but lovely view of Centlivre Brewing Company [Indiana Beer]
Dennis DeBruler Even though it has faded, it retains a lot of information. Back when the "Persia building" was at the end of the line of buildings and we get a clear view of it. They are robbing land from the river. The put the "Persia building on stilts, and then they created an embankment wall and made a landfill. It looks like you can see a machine with its boom down that helped build the embankment.
One of the 41 photos posted by Kenneth ChildersRiver view of brewery no date but 1800s [hoosierbeerstory.com]



Mike Snow posted
The backside of the "C.L. Centlivre Brewing Co." had several name changes in it's 100+ year run. It started as "The French Brewery" and the last name change was to "Old Crown Brewing Corporation"

Tommy Lee Fitzwater posted
Rick Stabler shared a link that has a lot of photos in "You are positively from Fort Wayne, if you remember." with the comment:
Originally the French Brewery from 1861, Charles Centlivre and his family would run this brewery just north of State Street on Spy Run for nearly 90 years before a hostile takeover by eastern investors in 1958. The Centlivre Brewery then became the Old Crown Brewery before being shuttered in 1973. The brewery suffered several arsons before the last remaining buildings were razed in 1991.
Lynn Busche They had a fall out shelter in the basement carved out of solid bed rock with a deep artision well figured that's where I'd go what better place to hide then in a brewery lol
Mary Catherine Wine I love to smell the hops and the foam would come up in the street drains
Loyal Stiverson commented
I came across this picture a ways back. The gas station would be where Haffner paints is now. Old Crown in the background.
[The power line tower would be in the old (1800s) feeder canal to the Wabash and Erie Canal.]

Tommy Lee Fitzwater posted
Linda Graham LeSure Tommy Lee Fitzwater-lol. surely you remember my mom's love of this locally crafted ale! And, I remember living on Curdes Av. --just across the river there & my G'son-Jake & I watched the big equip guys tearing down those bldgs. (early 90's) xxoo
Some comments on another post:
Joseph Scott Tom Centlivre
I have a fondness too for another company that left Fort Wayne in 2014, General Electric. Does your family have any historical ties with GE? I'm sure those workers enjoyed Centlivre brews my family were beer drinkers in the day as I had 2 uncles and my Grandpa Scott he told me Centlivre Beer was the best tasting beer around. He worked at GE from 1929-1969 but he died of a massive heart attack in 1980. He had lots of antique beer cans and bottles from the Centlivre Brewing company. My grandma did something with them but I was only 8 years old at the time. He had a carton that said Old Crown beer on it. Wished I had all his old antiques they'd be worth a fortune today.
I'm sure your grandfather loved all those things that GE made. In fact probably some of the motors switches and light bulbs and radios and TVs he probably owned because he knew GE made very good high quality products.
I'm sure GE had played a part in the electrical aspect of your grandfather's brewery?
It seems like both companies played a major role in Fort Waynes growth.
Tom Centlivre Joseph Scott Possibly. LA Centlivre did a lot of work with electricity. His house was one of the first to have electric lights in fort wayne. During prohibition, he became the secretary of the city and light in fort wayne. (His name is still up at the entrance to science central.) I know the fort Wayne companies really worked together back then. However, I don't have any specific details about any interaction between my great grandfather and General Electric. I do know about the extracurricular activities like the baseball, softball and bowling leagues that played against each other. I'll ask around in the family and do a little research to see if I can find out.
Dennis DeBruler Tom Centlivre Don't forget basketball. The Detroit Pistons started in Fort Wayne as the Zollner Pistons. And GE had their own court.


  1. I have one of the "Lazy Aged" ceramic signs like the icon on the side of the delivery truck. My grandfather G.J. Loos owned the Loos Insurance agency on Fairfield Avenue for 50 years. My father had this sign stored after his death. I have held onto this sign from the brewery ever since. It must date back to the early 50's at least. I have been told my sign is very collectible because it has the spiders web in the back and the leprechaun has a piece of wheat in his mouth. Anyone interested in more info please contact me.

  2. Thank You for posting this info about my family and their business! Stay well! ~ Tom Centlivre

    1. Fort Wayne was my home town, so I pay special attention to it. I just added some info I found from a post by Greg Marlow. I do remember the buildings because as you went north on Spy Run Ave, you could not help but see them before you went around the curves. Let me know if I'm getting too personal.

  3. My dad was laid off from the B&O railroad just after WW2. He got a job as 3rd shift boiler room attendant at Old Crown. In 1947 I was 9 years old. On several occasions I would go along to work with dad. I used to go up past the big open brewing vats and get a pail of beer from the "hospitality" room. I would take it back to the boiler room and dad would boil a pound of weenies in the beer. True story. Can you imagine something like that today. Dal Wolf