Col. Nahorn at the Old Spring – “The Old Spring still flows” The stone backdrop was completed in 1914 for Amherst’s “Old Home Week.” The arches were built by local construction owner A. Nabakowski during the Great Depression.
Although the large sandstone Braun Brewery is long gone, its beautiful arched sandstone cellars still remain today. Most residents had no idea that only a shallow layer of dirt covered these unique structures, but on March 22, during construction activities for a city storm sewer project, workers uncovered one of the cellars that has been sealed for around 80 years. I soon learned of this find, and research began. Only a week before, I was down at the Old Spring, working to unplug the drain and preparing to restore the Spring site once the City project was completed. My work on the Spring however was abruptly halted, and my research shifted to the Braun family.
William (“Wilhelm”) Braun (1834-1904), the son of Justus and Emilie Braun, emigrated from Bremen, Germany and arrived at port in New York on August 2, 1852, with his parents, three brothers, and one sister. Genealogical documents reveal his destination was Ohio, and it looks as if the family initially settled in Brownhelm. He was only 18 at the time, and his occupation was listed as “brewer.” William first appears in Amherst tax records in 1860.
A 1954 newspaper article in the Amherst Historical Society’s files provides some insight, stating that Braun leased water from the Old Spring from Mr. Beesing, who lived directly across the street. (Interestingly, the Beesing house, built c. 1862, was later moved to near the corner of Cleveland Ave. and Jackson St.) This was before Milan Avenue was filled and raised, when the Spring was at road-level. It is believed that at this time, the Spring was tapped on the north side of the road, and later, this giant seep spring was tapped on the south side, the present location of the “Old Spring.” But during Braun’s early years, it looks as if the water was piped to the south side of the road for use in his brewery. Of course we all recognize the Spring site as one of the most historic spots in town – where Judge Josiah Harris settled (1818) and where our town’s first Fourth of July was celebrated between Harris and founding father Jacob Shupe.
Located in the valley was a large stone building, which served as Braun’s brewery. A 1963 newspaper article provides more of the story, as we learn directly from Phillip Braun, William Braun’s son, that there are two arched sandstone cellars parallel to each other and a third located just to the east. These structures, along with Braun’s house, still exist today. The house has been restored by the Timko family as Five Corners Bed & Breakfast. We are still working to determine the age of the house, but it does appear on an 1874 plat map of the downtown area, along with a notation of “Brewery” denoting the large building nearby. The sandstone brewery was demolished after Braun disbanded his brewery sometime between 1892-94, when the railroad acquired part of Braun’s property, but the cellars were not sealed until the Depression years.
The 1954 newspaper article we found in files at the Amherst Historical Society states, “…the old cellars are still there. One wonders what people will say years from now if they ever uncover these cellars and try to determine what they were used for.”
The area around the Town Hall, encompassing Beaver Court and Milan Avenue, is steeped in history. Having begun to delve into the history of the Braun Brewery, it is clear that a small volume could be written just on the history of this small section of our town. My file folder of information on this topic is now quite large.
Pictures and documents at the Amherst Historical Society and New Indian Ridge Museum served as invaluable sources of information to piece together the shreds of this story. I have been compiling a document on the history of this important story, which at present is 30 pages long. Once the research on this immediate project is completed, I will donate the document to the Society for our records.
A very special thanks to Joan Miller Rosenbusch, Erin Holvoet, Charlie Marty, Maxine Miller, Ralph Zilch, Jim Wilhelm, Orville Manes, and Missy and Paul Timko for their help in numerous ways in the preparation of this article.
Click on photos to enlarge
X marks the Old Spring, and Braun’s Brewery, a sandstone building, is on the far right. The Spring House is to the right of the Spring. This is before Milan Ave. was filled in and raised. Photo detail from a wider view, courtesy Amherst Historical Society.
Enlarged photo looking east, Milan Ave. is on the left. Note marked structures. Photo courtesy Amherst Historical Society.
Braun Brewery cellar – photo courtesy Amherst SSD
One cellar is uncovered during construction in the area. Courtesy Amherst SSD.
Before and after views of the Old Spring as members of the New Indian Ridge Museum, Col. Nahorn and Diane Nahorn, worked to unplug the central drain. Our rehab plans include restoration of the arch that was located above the Spring.
A link to Col. Nahorn’s interview on NewsChannel 5 may be found here:
Old Spring with stone arch to the right built by A. Nabakowski. Also note arch along Milan Ave. to the left. Courtesy Fay Van Nuys Ott.
Check out the Old Spring after we were able to unplug the central drain – nice flow:
Old cobblestone walkway, a portion of old Milan Ave. before it was filled and raised.
The restoration project is ongoing – we are encouraging people to stay away from the site at this time, for your safety, as construction activities are active in the area.
The Old Spring at present time, after we cleared the obstruction in the center drain:
Old Spring 4.3.2013