In 1857, six months before Minnesota became a state, German stonemason George Amos built a limestone saloon near St. Paul's Upper Landing. For the next six years, the saloon served lager beer to the city's German community. Between stints in the lumber and grain businesses, Bavarian immigrant Anton Waldmann operated the saloon, which is now St. Paul's oldest surviving commercial building.
Despite its commercial history, Waldmann Brewery served as a residence for most of its life before reopening as a brewery in 2017. When the building was renovated several historical elements were incorporated, including virgin pine floors, wood burning stoves, handblown glass windows, and oil lamps atop the tables. In the mid 1800s, these lamps would have been fueled by whale oil, but Waldmann substitutes paraffin.
In addition to the building itself, other remnants of history were found throughout the site, including a well and the remains of five outhouses, or privies. In urban areas in the 19th century privies were often placed along an alley behind the buildings they served. In addition to serving as the precursors of modern day bathrooms, privies were also used to dispose of household garbage. At the Waldmann site, the privies contained bottles, dishes, a rare beer token, and a stencil reading "A. Waldmann."
A new, yet historically accurate, outbuilding was added during the renovation. Because the site lacked space to brew beer, a brewery was built to resemble a 19th century urban barn. In the mid-1800s, city dwellers often kept livestock such as pigs and cows, which grazed in common areas within the city.
In St. Paul's early days lager saloons served as a gathering place for the German community. Unlike their counterparts from other European countries, Minnesotans of German descent tended to oppose the temperance movement. While others extolled the virtues of total abstinence from alcohol, the Germans viewed beer as a way to drink in moderation and thus avoid the social problems that accompanied hard liquor. Minnesota laws, including the Lager Beer Act of 1860, also gave preferential treatment to establishments that served only lager beer as opposed to hard liquor. The act exempted breweries and saloons from liquor license fees and taxes.
The restoration of Waldmann Brewery brings back to life not only the building's short-lived history as a saloon, but also the wider history of German lager saloons in St. Paul.