I am excited by the recent explosion of craft brewing. During Covid it has been fun to visit small breweries in the DMV area, trying new flavors and outdoor establishments. Beer brewing has been known to happen at my house every so often, and in the past (before this museum project) I even tried to brew my own version of Vermont’s Otter Creek Copper Ale, using hops from our yard. Fun hobby!
A few weeks ago I learned that one of our early Jewish Washingtonians (maybe) also liked beer: Simon Wolf! Wolf knew many people in the late 19th and early 20th century here in DC. Like many Jewish Washingtonians, Wolf left a bigger city (Cleveland) and moved to DC as a young lawyer in 1862.
Christian Heurich, 6 years younger than Wolf, also a German immigrant, came to DC in 1866 via larger cities (Baltimore and St. Louis). In DC and in building his business, Heurich provided jobs to many new German immigrants and Black Washingtonians. His brewery quickly became a leading beer supplier across the city, including to the White House and Congress.
One of the most awesome things about the museum profession in DC is how collegial we all are. With some amazing assistance from the Heurich House Museum (Christian Heurich’s former Dupont Circle home), I can place Wolf and Heurich together! Thank you to their Education Manager, Jenna Febrizio!!
The German-American community in Washington in the 1860s was small. Heurich and Wolf were on the board of the German Orphan Asylum together, and secured a site in Anacostia that was more rural, less urban for the orphans to grow in a safer, calmer environment in the early 1880s. In 1902, a nearby site was dedicated for aged and infirm Washingtonians (they were also both on the board), the Ruppert Home.
In 1908, they were together at an event hosted at Heurich’s home, where I have to guess they were drinking some beer. Wolf begins the meeting of the Orphan Asylum board to pitch younger and newer members to not be shy or skirt their philanthropic gifts. He toasts to the host: “Christian Heurich. He has remained one of the people, thoroughly democratic and public spirited. His charity is as boundless as the demands that are constantly made, and it is therefore an honor to be his friend- and guest.” In 1913, together, they protested the coming restrictions on alcohol sales in DC, via letters of petition to Congress: HJR 168, SJR 88, and SJR 50.
Heurich and Wolf clearly found common ground, served together in the community, were both philanthropic in Washington, and likely toasted some steins of beer together. This birthday tribute Heurich wrote in Wolf’s anniversary book reciprocates their appreciation of each other:
“If there were more Simon Wolfs in this world, humanity would be the gainer. His many years of hard and faithful work have secured him a place in History; all human races, all denominations of religious creeds have profited through him. I sincerely hope that his health may be preserved for many years yet to enable him to continue his good work for humanity’s sake.”
Hearty congratulations to your seventieth birthday.
Heurich House keeps the Chr. Heurich Brewing Co. history alive through their exhibit about the brewery called HOME/BREWED, and by selling Senate Beer and Liberty Cider, two historically accurate revivals of the brewery’s original products.
The Heurich House is now a historic house museum, exploring the American Dream through the legacy of German immigrant Christian Heurich and his Washington, DC brewery and creating a just path to success for local small-scale manufacturers. Be sure to check them out online (heurichhouse.org or @heurichhouse). Right now, the mansion is closed for tours, but their garden is open to the public during the day and a few days a week for evening happy hours, and is available to rent for special events. Cheers to spring, post Covid times when we can toast our museum colleagues and elder statesmen in person!