Phoenix Brewery Comparative Notes
th & Smallman Street (Strip District)

April 4 2015

Taking the name Phoenix

I have found documents that refer to the Phoenix Brewery by that name when said documents were written after the brewery took on the name Phoenix but indicating that the name Phoenix was used prior to what is generally assumed.

Phoenix Brewery Owners & Operators

1802 Reference
The book, Industries of Pittsburgh (1879) has Spencer & McKay established the Phoenix Brewery in 1802. Acknowledging that Spencer and McKay were not in Pittsburgh at that time (as brewers, anyway) the book is elusive as to whom the original owners were.

Adam Wood & Hughes

Adam Wood Steam Brewery
Operated by Wood & Hughes, established in 1845, sold in 1859
Thurston indicated that Woods & Hughes established the brewery in 1845, but he does not recognize Coltart & Silvery.

It became the Spencer and Garrard Brewery in 1859.

There is some evidence that I have found that suggests that Woods may have bought the brewery from Gorman in Kensington, who may have acquired it from Coltart & Silvery. Wood may have moved to the Strip District after the 1848 fire in Pittsburgh.

Alex Woods Brewery
The Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, by George Henry Thurston lists Alex Woods Brewery at Penn & Morris Streets (26th St). I would suggest that the name Alex Woods is a misspelling but I don’t know how Thurston got the location wrong. I cannot find any other documents listing this particular brewery.

1854 Cholera Epidemic in Pittsburgh
The Daily Morning Post reported the deaths due of the cholera epidemic.reported of the death on Thursday (September) of a child of Mr. Schwartz, near Woods' Brewery, Fifth Ward. This is essentially the lower Hill District today.

The Spencer Company

Spencer was partners, or in partnership with, Garrard, McKay and Liddell and to a lesser extent, Robert Watson. Third party authors have given ownership to the brewery using various combinations of names but I do not specifically know the exact name of the company, or companies. After the Phoenix Brewery fire the name Spencer & McKay was used during court proceedings.

Spencer & Garrard

Purchased by Spencer in 1859.
The Directory of Pittsburg and Allegheny cities lists Spencer & Garrard as proprietors of the Phoenix Brewery in 1860. William H. Garrard & Co. operated a malt house at 14 Water Street in the downtown area of Pittsburgh as of March 3, 1866 when he lased land for a malt house. This was separate from the brewery. Garrard became insolvent and he may have ended his relationship with Spencer.

Spencer & Garrard Partnership
Pittsburgh Daily Post, January 12, 1864, page 4.
The partnership between Joseph Spencer and W. U. Garrard was dissolved on August 20. W. H. Garrard was authorized to settle the business in the office of the brewery. The brewery continued as Spencer and McKay. Robert Watson, of Liberty Street became (or continued) as manager of the brewery.

Spencer & Garrard Malt House
The Pittsburgh Directory of 1860 listed Spencer & Garrard as having a malt house at 17 Water Street.

William H. Garrard Malt House
Garrard had a malt house on Penn as of March 3, 1866 but became insolvent in 1871. The malt house was sold to Spencer & McKay in July 1, 1871. Joseph Spencer, James McKay, Robert Liddell and Robert Watson were trading as Spencer McKay & Co.

David Fawcett
The Pittsburgh Directory of 1860 listed David Fawcett as an agent for Spencer & Garrard. He may be the Fawcett who partnered to form the Fawcett & (Thomas) Walker Brewery in Uptown.

Spencer & McKay

Unconfirmed opening in 1872
Noted in Hopkins’ Historic Map Group 1, 1872, Table of Contents. Joshua Spencer and James McKay, malsters and brewers of ale, porter and lager beer, went to court to recover insurance money resulting from a fire at the brewery on June 5, 1865.

People associated with the brewery:
Joshua Spencer was from England and came to Pittsburgh in 1843.
James McKay was from Ireland and came to Pittsburgh in 1850.
Robert Liddell was from England and came to Pittsburgh in 1852.
He was a partner. He would have been 34 years old in 1871.
Mr. Watson was from Ireland and came to Pittsburgh in (unknown) and was the manager of the Phoenix Brewery under Spencer & MaKay.
The Pittsburgh Industries document has Phoenix beginning in 1802 in error.

Spencer McKay Phoenix Brewery Fire of 1865
A fire at the brewery occurred on June 5, 1865. At that time Joshua Spencer and James McKay were the owners. They filed a claim of loss with the People’s Insurance Company, which was denied. In court (in 1866) the insurance company defended their action on the basis that the Spence and McKay were distilling and storing spirits without a license. Read the court action in the report illustrating People’s Insurance v Spencer.

Evidence exist that shows the name Phoenix was applied to the brewery’s name before the 1865 fire. Notably it was used in 1859 when Garrard was partners with Spencer. It is easy to see how the Phoenix can rise from the ash but in this case it is false.

Spencer family documents have the building being rebuilt if 1865, which would suggest that it was rebuilt shortly after the fire.

Spencer & Liddell

Joseph Spencer, James McKay, Robert Liddell and Robert Watson were trading as Spencer McKay & Co. prior to the brewery fire of 1865.

Robert Liddell
Robert Liddell became mayor of Pittsburgh, PA in 1878-81 (age 41). He immigrated to America from England in 1852 at the age of 15. Robert was very successful in many businesses including, manager at a Coal company, partner at Spencer McKay Brewery, owner of Gallatin Glass Works and wholesale Liquor. He is buried in the Uniondale Cemetery in Pittsburgh. In May 1887, Liddell sold his interest in his glass manufacturing company to devote time to his brewing concerns.

Liddell & Spencer Marriage
Robert Liddell married Joseph Spencer’s daughter Maria (1845 – 1901) in 1861.

Unusual Find: The Newcastle and Gateshead (England) directory for 1782, 83, and 84, contained the names and trades of its towns people. In it was the entry for Spencer & Lidell, fruit dealers. Liddel had a slightly different spelling and it was one hundred years earlier but this is unusual.

Spencer & Joseph

Identified as the Phoenix Brewery on Hopkins 1889 Atlas, Plate 6. Spencer & Joseph were the property owners. Hopkins made no reference to Pittsburgh Brewing. Spencer was 75 in 1889 and I speculate as to his involvement in the brewery. Spencer family documents have the brewery being out of business by 1875. It appears that it sat dormant until Tann in 1890.

William Tann

William Tann (d 1911)
Born in England and came to America in 1854 per The Gazette Times, May 8, 1911 death notice. He was 83 and died on May 7, 1911 in Home for the Aged Couples, Wilkinsburg. He arrived in Pittsburgh sometimes after coming from England in 1854. He was president of the Phoenix Brewing Co. His death was reported in the
American Brewers’ Review, Volume 25, 1911.

He operated the William Tann Bottling Works, Lawrenceville location unknown. He became wealthy in that business and was talked into buying the brewery. From that time on he lost a great deal of his money and died poor.

The brewery operated from 1890 to 1891. I have no firm information on the 1890 date but 1891 is correct based on his death notice. Tann was a wealthy person but lost almost all his money in the brewery.

The Pittsburgh Press on February 16 &
17, 1900 reported that William Tann was charged with selling liquor without a license from his home on Election Day. He was sentenced to the Allegheny County workhouse for three months. He made money in the water business but lost most of it as a shareholder in the Phoenix Brewery, identified in the Pittsburgh Press as the William Tann Brewing Co. He had property on Lincoln Avenue in Homewood.

Note: If the 1891 date is correct, then I could suggest that the brewery sat vacant for 8 years until the 1899 sale to Pittsburgh Brewing. But after the sale PBC operated the brewery and with the large number of breweries they controlled, why would they refurbish this one? It is possible that Tann was removed as president but the officers continued with the brewery. Obviously the name remained but I do not have other ownership information. A deed search is warranted.

Phoenix Brewing Company – Garfield Neighborhood

Property was identified as belonging to the Phoenix Brewing Co. in the 1899 Hopkins Atlas, Plate 8, but not in 1890. I have found nothing to say why the company had this property. William Tann was active with the brewery prior to this time but he had no known connection with this area.

William and George Tann had adjoining properties on Lincoln Avenue near the intersection of Lemington Avenue as shown on Hopkins Atlas 1899, Plate 22.

The publication
Bradstreet’s Weekly, Business Digest, Volume 5 of 1882 indicated that the sheriff closed George Tann’s saloon.

Pittsburgh Brewing Company

Became the Phoenix Brewery plant of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 1899 and operated until 1920 when it was closed due to prohibition. The 1918 Brewmaster was Bernard Gutbrod. William Tann retired as president of the Phoenix Brewing Co. in 1891 but I have no information if the brewery sat dormant or was in receivership prior to PBC’s acquisition.

Otto Milk Company

Otto formed in 1927. Otto merged with Keystone Dairy of New Kensington in 1973.

Current Status

The main building was converted into apartments

The bottling house was converted into a Wigle Whiskey distillery.
The building is on the northeast corner of Smallman whereas the brewer was on the southeast corner.

Hopkins Atlas Reference

1900 Atlas (Volume 3), Plate 19: Pittsburgh Brewing (Strip)
1872 Atlas, Plate 40: Phoenix (Strip)
1906 Atlas (Volume 3), Plate 15: Phoenix/Pittsburgh Brewing (Strip)
1910 Atlas, Plate 2: Pittsburgh Brewing, Smallman St (Lawrenceville)

Allegheny County Lot & Block Identification

25-N-40 2401: Smallman Street, Wiggle Whiskey building.
25-N-76: formerly Phoenix Brewery property.
25-N-80 Series: This is the building with the Phoenix Brewery name on the side.
The 80 series consists of the individual condo units.

The deed book and page can be found on the assessment page for these properties should researchers wish to trace back ownership. I plan on doing this at a future date.