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The Neuweiler Brewery

The Neuweiler Brewery

We shape our cities, our cities shape us, and in turn, we reshape our cities. It's a constant flow, driven by our needs, desires, and ideally our aspirations. However, as our cities grow older, we have to be ever mindful that our constant march forward does not inadvertently tear out their hearts. There are buildings in every neighborhood that come to embody the community they stand in. Places that everyone talks about, that generations have known. Their profiles, angles, and peaks define skylines. Buildings that represent entire districts and periods in history. The worn face of the long-vacant Neuweiler Brewery has stood over Allentown for a century, watching as the city has grown and changed. It holds those memories and keeps them tucked away in its bricks and steel.

The six-story tower of the defunct Neuweiler Brewery has been a hallmark of Allentown since its completion in 1913. Much like the spire of the old state hospital that was once poised over Hanover Ave, the copula of the brewery has stood tall over North Front Street for ages, straddling the line between the 1st and 6th ward. A symbol not only of a proud past but of future possibilities, and as the years have worn on it has also come to represent wasted potential. Closed in 1968, the building has been left to the whims of nature for decades now, with many of those living in the nearby apartments having never known the property as anything but overgrown and forsaken. Time hasn't been kind to the place, but neither have people. Though tattered, those who call the old edifice an eyesore are looking at the brewery without truly seeing it.

Though the structure looms tall over nearby roadways and rooftops, within it somehow seems even more immense. At the core of the brewery stands the iconic six-story tower, capped with a copper-trimmed copula easily seen from miles off. This was once the brew house, and it was here that the batches of Neuweiler were brewed in massive tanks before being bottled, warehoused, and shipped. Today it stands empty, a husk with voids several stories tall where once the massive tanks were mounted. It's also in this tower that the offices, laboratories, and public lobby existed. The lobby being the most poignant of the rooms, as it still manages to retain some of the old-world ambiances which have since faded from the greater brewery, though now it sits silent and in endless darkness due to the covered street-side windows. More a grotto than a building, but beautifully embellished with failing plaster and decaying woodwork. On the floor, just a few steps inside the boarded front doors can be found the Neuweiler crest laid out in mosaic tile-work. It stares through years of grime toward crumbling ceilings.

The rest of the property is as impressive as it is enormous. In its earlier days, the Neuweiler plant was several independent structures, but throughout the years many became connected via a series of joining corridors. Though a number of those connectors have been removed after closure in the 1960s, what's left remains a mostly continuous floor plan of halls, chambers, and stairwells. It's almost impossible to imagine what a worker here in the early 1900s would have thought when told that this self-contained city of a brewery would be left to rot. The idea would have seemed impossible, and standing here decades after the last worker clocked out, it still seems an unnatural state.

Though left to decay for decades now, the brewery has rigidly stood against the tests of time. Graffiti coats numerous walls, much of the copper trim has gone missing, and most railings have fallen away, but all told the building stands strong. We've visited numerous places throughout the years that have withered away and died once left abandoned, some within the span of just several years. That said - The Neuweiler brewery isn't a dead building at all, it's still very much alive. If a building could sleep, could curl in upon itself and drift away on memories of younger years, then that is what has become of the Neuweiler Brewery.

So what happens now? What's next for the brewery that everyone knows about but few remember as anything but a disused shell? As of this writing, a redevelopment plan is being put together by Manhattan Building Co. which will dramatically overhaul the property to make way for a commercial/residential redevelopment of the entire block. When we initially heard about the brewery property being eyed for redevelopment, we feared for the worst. More often than not 'redevelopment' is a softened way of saying 'tear down and rebuild', which is a heartbreaking ordeal when it involves the demolition of a historic building. Luckily, this may prove to be an exception to that rule - If the proposal renderings are anything to go by, the project may well stand as an example for others to follow. Manhattan Building Co. seems to have taken great care to not only preserve and renew the most iconic portions of the old brewery, but craft the new construction along North Front Street in a way that flows from the original structure in design and spirit.

Revitalizing a place like the Neuweiler Brewery is no simple task - It's hulking, sprawling, and even a bit intimidating, but the reward for seeing such a task through holds rewards one can find nowhere else. The old brewery is not a single, standalone structure or property. Like an old tree, it has roots which run deep, tying the brewery to Allentown, and Allentown to the brewery. To look upon those red bricks and know that they were looked upon by others a century ago brings closer to those who came before us, and in those same bricks future generations will find closeness to us. However, for that to happen the walls have to remain standing. It's time for the Neuweiler brewery to finally wake up.




 



From behind the brewery you really begin to get a sense of scale.
 



 
 
 The former lobby and front desk. This is the view from behind the public-facing counter.
 


The Neuweiler crest, on the floor of the lobby just inside the front doors.
 



 
 The brewery is an immense place.
 
 
The Neuweiler laboratory.


 

 




Failing, falling ventilation ducts.
 


 
 


 

The removal of the giant brewing vats created voids several stories tall.
 
 

 




Foliage all but conceals the former staircase to the side entrance.
 
 



 



 
The former office and public entrance.
 
 






Ornate details persist through rust and neglect.
 


 


The sole remaining face to cling to the ceiling of the office building.
 



 


The brewery devours a city block.
 


 





 A tiled cold storage room. This room was pitch black so we had to illuminate it with flashlights.
 


 
 

 

 
 
These are the renderings provided by Manhattan Building Co. for their proposed redevelopment plan.
 
(Diseno Urbano Studio / Urban Residential Properties)

(Diseno Urbano Studio / Urban Residential Properties)