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Authentically Reviving an 1857 Lager Beer Saloon in St. Paul, Minnesota - Legend, Lore, and Definitely Lager!
Authentically Reviving an 1857 Lager Beer Saloon in St. Paul, Minnesota - Legend, Lore, and Definitely Lager!
281 backers pledged $61,665 to help bring this project to life.

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A Saloon with Heart and Soul: 

Hi, my name is Tom Schroeder, and I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Ann and three daughters. In 2008 we went out on a limb and bought this amazing little limestone building near our house to save it from demolition. We soon learned it’s St. Paul’s oldest commercial building, and before the Civil War, it was a German lager beer saloon. (What’s that? Well, keep reading!)

For the past 9 years we’ve worked our hearts out restoring the building and learning about the beers and foods it originally served. Now—154 years after the saloon mysteriously closed—we’re almost ready to re-open it again as “Waldmann,” a brewery, lager house and wurstery named after its original proprietor, Anthony Waldmann. 

Beginning this fall, you’ll be able to come in and enjoy a classic Pre-Prohibition pilsner or dunkel brewed on site, paired with German-inspired locally sourced foods, while sitting on period furniture, next to real woodstoves and by lamplight. And just to make sure our vision never strays, I’ve organized Waldmann as a public benefit corporation. Our mission is not just to preserve a building, but to invite you into its history, to be a part of a warm and vibrant community that welcomes all and values their stories—in other words, to be a saloon with a heart and soul!

The Backstory: 

We’ve lived here in Uppertown, St. Paul for 26 years. It’s a proud, working-class neighborhood—one of the oldest in the City, filled with humble historic buildings, some of which have seen better days. One such building was a mysterious little limestone “house” a block away from my family’s house. It had been vacant for several years and was headed for demolition, but we thought it deserved a better fate—even before we knew what it originally was. 

Waldmann, as we found it in 2008, with the original façade long-since filled in.
Waldmann, as we found it in 2008, with the original façade long-since filled in.

After buying this little fortress, I did what any history geek would do: I went to the library. I eventually learned that a German immigrant named Anthony Waldmann once ran a “lager beer saloon” in the building starting in 1857, but it closed for unknown reasons around 1863. The Germans had just brought lager beer to America and lager saloons spread like wildfire across the country, including all the way to Territorial Minnesota. I know a couple of archeologists, and together with some neighbors we dug almost as much information from the ground as I did from the library, finding Civil War saloon pipes, beer tokens and even Waldmann’s original brass stencil for marking barrels. 

… and the answer is: BEER 

Tom looking thrilled moments after one of our volunteer archeologists found Waldmann's trade stencil about 4 feet underground.
Tom looking thrilled moments after one of our volunteer archeologists found Waldmann's trade stencil about 4 feet underground.

So now it’s about 2012 and I owned a derelict building with a pretty interesting history, but what to do with it? Then it hit me: maybe beer—specifically, the income from a brewery—could help fund the preservation of the building, and in the process inspire others to appreciate the diamonds-in-the-rough in their communities. 

So I formed Waldmann. I incorporated as a public benefit corporation, with a mission to give people the chance to experience first-hand a pre-Civil War German-American lager beer saloon—in a glass, on a plate, and in the sights and sounds of this humble but unique building. What’s a “public benefit corporation”? It’s a new form of corporation in Minnesota (and several other states) that allows organizations other than nonprofits to put public service before profits—while still being able to make a profit consistent with their mission. Every year we report to the Minnesota Secretary of State on how we’ve accomplished our mission, in measurable ways. For example, even before we’ve opened, we’ve sponsored numerous educational tours, two nonprofit fundraisers, three public archeology events, advocated to preserve several neighboring buildings, and hosted several community gatherings—all without charge. In the future, Waldmann will continue to provide tours, presentations, preservation advocacy, a venue for meetings and events, outreach to area schools and community groups, host musicians and other special gatherings, and routinely provide information and access to anyone interested in the building’s unique history and architecture. 

After a lot more research, writing and public hearings we were able to convince the City of St. Paul to designate the building as an official historic site. In fact, we did the same for four other pioneer-era limestone buildings in the neighborhood, all of which are now protected. When the City later enacted a new Historic Use Variance ordinance (inspired by our project) we got the zoning we needed to re-open as a lager house. One of our most eloquent supporters was a then-5 year old boy across the street named Lochlan Swanson, who strode up to the microphone in City Hall to read from this letter. Ever since then, we’ve been working hard to restore the building and complete a new, barn-like addition in the back to house our kitchen and brewery equipment.

Waldmann's new 'brew barn' and rear addition to match the old, under construction this winter.
Waldmann's new 'brew barn' and rear addition to match the old, under construction this winter.

Our dream is that someday soon you’ll be able to pull up a steamboat chair at Waldmann in front of one of our wood stoves, and enjoy a classic German-American lager brewed on site as you check the chalkboard for a hearty bite to go with it. We’ve designed a small wurstery kitchen for preparing freshly made sausages, heritage wheat pretzels, hearty soups and what we call “limestone potatoes” roasted under a slab of Platteville bedrock—all using locally sourced ingredients. Waldmann’s journeyman chef and butcher is as passionate about non-clichéd German/American cooking as our Head Brewer is about brewing old world lagers. 

Our menu includes these premises-made sausages and other German-inspired offerings that pair great with lagers.
Our menu includes these premises-made sausages and other German-inspired offerings that pair great with lagers.

From Waldmann’s hand-hewn woodwork to its period lighting, framed maps and engravings—every detail will show the care and craftsmanship at the soul of this restored pre-Civil War original. But whether or not you’re drawn in by Waldmann’s history, you’ll feel a warm welcome when you step inside—because it’s real! 

Our challenge: 

Revitalizing a historically-listed 160-year old building into a brewery and restaurant that meets modern codes is expensive. The building is solid limestone, sitting on bedrock, subject to historic design restrictions and on a city lot so small that we had to build steel scaffolding to stack our lagering tanks on top of our brew house. We’ve restored the exterior, and we’ve paid for the steel scaffolding in the brew barn, new water and sewer lines, fire suppression and energy code upgrades. Now we need help with the most important part of this project: restoring the historic interior. 

Where we need your help--our future front dining room, waiting for the finishes.
Where we need your help--our future front dining room, waiting for the finishes.

How you can help: 

We’ve tallied up $45,000 in additional restoration work that needs to be done on the inside—painstaking, meticulous work that no “normal” brewery/restaurant would face and no bank will fund. Like stripping, repairing and re-installing the original 1850s woodwork, patching and re-laying the wide-pine flooring, building five mortice and tenon doors to match the two original ones that survive, milling replacement picture- and chair-rails long-since lost from the building, and building a new, code-compliant stairway to make Waldmann’s second-story rooms more accessible—including the meeting room we’re making available for neighborhood meetings and nonprofits. We’re using all local woodworkers, carpenter-craftsmen, plasterers and painters, and their hearts are in this—but we, and they, need your help. 

A call to action: 

In 1857, Waldmann was a vibrant community watering hole and that’s what we intend to create in 2017. Even more, with your help, Waldmann may inspire others to improve their communities, leveraging our common history to forge timeless connections. It’s certainly inspired Lochlan, who’s now 8 and living in Seattle—and anxious to return for our opening! (See video). With your help, we can make Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery a reality!  

Want to Know More?  Read on!

... ok, about that Lager Beer Saloon history:

German lager beer took Minnesota Territory by storm in the late 1850s.  First introduced to this country in 1848, lager beer became immediately popular with Americans who had never seen any beer other than the dark, heavy ales brewed by New England Yankees.  By the time Waldmann’s original saloon was built, the lager beer craze was at its height.  Saint Paul had twelve breweries, ten of which brewed only lagers.  And city ordinances granted special treatment to lager beer saloons by licensing them separately from all other saloons, applying lower licensing fees and exempting them from saloon bonding requirements.  

This special treatment was thanks in part to the fact that German lager beer saloons were different from Yankee saloons, which served mainly hard liquor.  German lager saloons served beer almost exclusively, and offered a variety of foods, musical events, and often political debates and other forms of entertainment.  For these reasons, lager beer saloons gained the reputation of being more family-friendly and community-oriented.  Just like we plan to be today!

... the building, and our restoration vision:

The building housing Waldmann was built in the fall of 1857—six months before Minnesota became a state, nearly four years before the Civil War began, and at a time when fewer than 10,000 people lived in the Saint Paul.  It is the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities.  Its rich history and unique solid limestone construction compelled the City of St. Paul to designate it a Heritage Preservation Site in 2015. 

Waldmann’s interior restoration includes wood stoves, virgin pinewood floors, hand-blown glass windows, more than forty 19th century steamboat chairs, period saloon tables, whale oil lamps (burning liquid paraffin) and walls crowded with historic maps, photographs, Civil War recruitment posters, an enormous buffalo head, period wall clocks and other memorabilia.  All the same, this is not a museum, and you'll feel just at home at Waldmann as you would at your own kitchen table--that is, if you had really cool things in your kitchen like maps, buffaloes and Civil war recruitment posters. But you know what we mean.

Thanks for supporting Waldmann!

 

Risks and challenges

There’s a risk to any start-up business. But our Head Brewer has many years of experience, we have our TTB Brewer’s Notice in hand, our brewhouse and tanks arrive in May and we’re staffing up for a fall opening. I’ve gone through 11 public hearings and worked 9 years to get to this point, so unless the place is hit by an intergalactic asteroid—and Waldmann’s stone walls might survive even that—we’re opening our doors this fall!

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Digital Sticker

    We value your contribution, at whatever level you can give. Receive our email thanks and digital backer sticker featuring our distinctive “double-wick” logo—and the pride of knowing you helped revive Waldmann!

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    Wagon Sticker

    Receive our durable, custom-designed Waldmann bumper sticker proudly bearing our “Lore, Legends and Definitely Lager” slogan. Suitable for sticking on your wagon, ice-box or water bucket.

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    Time Traveling Nail

    One day in the fall of 1857 a carpenter in Territorial Minnesota picked up a square nail cut from a plate of soft iron at a St. Louis foundry and—probably without much thought—hammered it into a virgin pine plank in Waldmann’s saloon. 160 years later, after Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, the sinking of the Titannic, World War I, the discovery of penicillin, the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the Beatles’ arrival in New York, Apollo 11 and the invention of the Internet, we pried that nail from its plank and mailed it to you, for your donation of $25. The nail? Priceless. Comes with a signed certificate of authenticity and a brief history of nails in America. Isn’t history fun?

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    Waldmann T-shirt

    So you like history but would frankly rather have a cool T-shirt? It’s your lucky day! Both history and t-shirt are yours, because the “double-wick” logo on the front of our 100% cotton high quality T is actually a subtle allusion to the double-wick oil lamps commonly used prior to the invention of kerosene in …. Ok, I get it, you just want the T-shirt!

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    Waldmann Baseball Cap

    In January of 1857 the National Association of Baseball Players was founded in New York, and by March of that year it was decided that 9 innings should make an official game, not 9 runs. Waldmann opened his doors six months later. Coincidence? Maybe not. Anyway, this thoroughly modern, quality navy-blue baseball cap bears our snappy white and gold embroidered logo and will keep you from scratching your head wondering.

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    Waldmann Glasses

    The glasses used in Civil War era saloons were small, thin and broke easily. So let’s not take authenticity too seriously. Our glasses are generously-sized, elegantly footed and strong—not to mention fashionably branded with our allusive double-wick logo. A set of 2 are yours for your generous gift of $45 or more.

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    Replica Civil War Playing Cards

    The standard deck of cards has hardly changed at all since its design by French cartiers in the 16th century, but during the Civil War German immigrant-soldiers introduced one innovation that has lasted to this day: the joker. The trickster’s name likely comes from the German word for euchre, “juker,” a game as engrossing in Waldmann’s time as it will be when you deal these cards at Waldmann, over a couple of lagers, in front of one of our wood-burning stoves. This replica Civil War deck includes the joker and is yours for a $40 bid. (Like the real Civil War playing cards, these are printed on uncoated paper.)

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    Waldmann T-shirt & cap

    How’s this for lager beer saloon spirit-wear? A perfectly matched Waldmann T-shirt and baseball cap, described as above, except we’ll substitute our diamond-shaped secondary logo on the cap to add a tasteful touch of variety to your swag—and save you $10 off of the separate T-shirt/cap-level donations!

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    Name on Wall of Supporters

    Swag not your thing, but just want to leave your mark on history? Let us publicly recognize your generous support of $100 or more by prominently inscribing your name or the name of a loved one--or maybe even a Waldmann-era ancestor--on our brilliant blue-painted Wall of Supporters. (All gifts of $100 or more are eligible for this reward.)

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    Waldmann’s Americana Poster

    This gorgeous, full-color, professionally-photographed 24”x36”poster shows the series 1850 American flag bearing 31 stars that flew at the time of presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan—and Anton Waldmann—hung against one of Waldmann’s pre-restoration, bare limestone interior walls, framed by a rustic steamboat chair, wood barrel, tall weissbier and one of the double-wick whale oil lamps that inspired Waldmann’s logo. All of which will be found inside when we open. Unframed. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

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    Hand-Carved Woodblock Print

    St. Paul artist Andrew Hine’s hand-carved woodblock prints of local Twin Cities landmarks have an authenticity no camera could ever capture. Fortunately for us, in 2014 Andrew noticed Waldmann’s recently restored façade, which he meticulously carved in woodblock and presented to us as a gift. Unfortunately, Andrew then moved to Wales—but not before teaming up with Kent Aldrich of the award-winning Nomadic Press to produce an extremely limited-edition series of this same woodcut on archival art-stock paper made in Germany using spent barley grains from a brewery. Hand-numbered and signed by both artists, only 26 of these prints were ever made, and only 15 remain. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Framed; image size approx. 5” x 6”. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Note: Ships only within U.S., and must arrange pick up if you reside within 30 miles.

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    Insider’s History Tour

    Waldmann’s owner, developer and history guide Tom Schroeder will take you and your guest(s) on a one-hour, behind-the-scenes tour of Waldmann, including the building’s unique limestone construction, saloon history, remarkable occurrences, the brewing process, and a presentation of the 160 years of artifacts—some quite curious—discovered beneath, inside and outside Waldmann’s walls. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Maximum 6 persons per group; beverages definitely served. Subject to mutual scheduling; during closed hours only.

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    Dinner and Beverage-Pairing for Four

    Waldmann’s journeyman chef and butcher is as passionate about non-clichéd German/American cooking as our Head Brewer is about brewing Old World lagers. Let them perform their combined magic for you and your guests by preparing a generous dinner platter of house-made weisswurst and nurenburger sausages, our signature “limestone potatoes,” local smoked and cured meats, freshly-baked breads, cheeses and vegetables. And definitely lager. Two beverages per person. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Delivery: Opening through 1st anniversary thereafter; advance scheduling required.

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    Blacksmithing at Waldmann

    Parts of Waldmann’s construction employed hand-blacksmithed metalwork—so not coincidentally our restoration included several blacksmithed pieces made by area artists. Attend a small-group blacksmithing demonstration and lesson by metalsmith designer and Minnesota Guild member John Yust, held around hand-cranked coal-fired forges right in Waldmann’s own side yard. You’ll walk away feeling like a smithy—and with a timeless twisted clothes-hook forged by your own hands. Maximum 4 persons per group; approx. 2 ½ hours duration; beverages served AFTER the fire is out! This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Subject to mutual scheduling; weekends only.

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    Brewer’s Assistant for a Day

    Ever dream about brewing on a grand scale, from recipe development to milling, mashing, lautering and casting the yeast? Follow our Head Brewer for a full brew day and participate first-hand in the process as you learn the basics or refine your existing knowledge. Take home two free Waldmann T-shirts signed by our brewer, then return with your friends in about six weeks and let them taste the results! This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Limit of 3 sessions available, 2 people each.

    Delivery: Opening to 1st anniversary thereafter; advance scheduling required; subject to Head Brewer’s schedule.

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    Private Event for 15

    Same as the “Dinner and Beer Pairing for Four,” but we’ll expand the food platters and beverage offerings to serve up to 15 guests in your own private room on Waldmann’s second floor. Perfect for family celebrations, board retreats, Civil War roundtables, corporate dinners or small retirement gatherings. Two beverages per person. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Limit 4 groups for 3 hours each

    Delivery: Opening to 1st anniversary thereafter; advance scheduling required; excluding Fridays and Saturdays after 5:30pm.

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    ZweiStein Klub

    You’ll receive a traditional stoneware stein bearing Waldmann’s classic “double-wick” logo and two free refills per day—for the rest of your life. Leave your stein on our mug-rail for your next visit, or take it home if you prefer. Either way, we’ll always know your name. Limited to 35 members. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Delivery: Membership cards mailed July 2017; steins available at Waldmann following opening.

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    Private Event for 25

    Same as the “Private Event for 15,” but we’ll expand the food platters and beverage offerings to serve up to 25 of your guests and provide you with the exclusive use of our two adjoining rooms with private bar on Waldmann’s second floor. Perfect for large family gatherings, nonprofit fundraisers, client events, private concerts or euchre tournaments. Two beverages per person. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Limit 2 groups for 3 hours each

    Delivery: Opening to 1st anniversary thereafter; advance scheduling required; excluding Fridays and Saturdays after 5:30pm.

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    It’s All Yours

    Same as the “Private Event for 25,” but we’ll expand the food platters and beverage offerings to serve up to 50 of your guests, and provide you with the exclusive use of the entire premises, upstairs and downstairs, including both bars. Perfect for class reunions, nonprofit galas, campaign celebrations, historic re-enactor gatherings and just when you want to have the whole darn place by yourself. Two beverages per person. This reward also includes your name on the Wall of Supporters, described above.

    Limit 1 group for 3 hours

    Delivery: Opening to 1st anniversary thereafter; advance scheduling required; only on Waldmann’s closed day.

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Funding period

- (34 days)