Our neighborhood as it was – QNS.com

103 years ago – of the January 16, 1919 something happened halfway across the country that would forever change Ridgewood and Glendale in a profound way.

On that date, the Nebraska Legislature approved what would become the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: banning the mass production and sale of alcoholic beverages. It was the 36th state to do so, and with three-quarters of the states having approved it, the amendment was ratified nationwide.

The 18th Amendment gave Congress the power to enact what would become the Volstead Act, which would go into effect on January 16, 1920. one year from the date of ratification of the amendment. The law defined what constituted an alcoholic beverage in the eyes of the federal government and included limits on the amount of beer and wine that could be produced for home consumption.

Prohibition would impact every corner of this country, but it had a particularly striking effect on Ridgewood and Glendale. Prior to Prohibition, the neighborhoods were home to numerous breweries that employed hundreds of local residents; restaurants, taverns and inns that served locally brewed beer; and some of the remaining bucolic picnic parks that were popular among city dwellers for weekend getaways away from city life.

After the ban which will be repealed in 1933 many of these breweries, establishments and picnic parks have disappeared or are slowly disappearing into history.

Why would Americans ban the mass production and consumption of alcoholic beverages? The amendment came from the temperance movement; its proponents believed that intoxication led to a myriad of social problems, including poverty, violence, and lewdness.

While the origins of the temperance movement date back to the early 1800s, the movement gained momentum in the years immediately preceding and following the United States’ entry into World War I, which occurred in 1917. Many state legislatures had already enacted their own forms of prohibition. legislation prior to the ratification of the 18th Amendment.

The aforementioned Volstead Act defined an alcoholic beverage as one containing 1/2 of 1% or more alcohol by volume (which is about 4/10 of 1% by weight). The Volstead Act allowed the production of a limited amount of beer and wine for home consumption.

In 1918, American breweries produced 32 million barrels of beer; in 1919, with the breweries closing at the end of April, only 7.4 million barrels were produced. Local brewing companies either drastically changed their recipes, recreated their entire business, or simply closed.

S. Liebmann’s Sons, which brewed Rheingold beer, and Obermeyer & Liebmann moved into producing soft drinks and close beer, the latter being classified as a grain drink with less than 1/2 of 1% alcohol in volume.

Almost beer was a relatively bland drink and had limited appeal. In 1921, several consumers tried it and the equivalent of 9.7 million barrels was sold. However, in 1932, which was the last full year of prohibition, it had fallen to 2.7 million barrels. The quasi-beer resembled today’s so-called non-alcoholic beers which actually contain a small amount of alcohol.

In 1924, Obermeyer & Liebmann was merged into S. Liebmann’s Sons, and the parent company’s name was changed to Liebmann Breweries Inc. Rheingold would be resurrected after Prohibition.

The Diogenes Brewery, which was located at the corner of Wyckoff Avenue and present-day Decatur Street, went out of business once the ban went into effect. The company attempted to rename itself Malt-Diataste Company. He produced malt syrup for home brewers, as Volstead law permitted such a practice.

Diogenes brewery staff at a reception in the early 1900s.

Another brewery that succumbed to Prohibition was Frank’s Brewery located on the corner of Cypress Avenue and Hancock Street. The City Brewing Company would reactivate the business after Prohibition, but it would only last 17 years thereafter.

Changes in the local brewing scene have also impacted the businesses of local restaurants and taverns. Samuel Liebmann’s Sons Brewing Company had operated a saloon at 770 Onderdonk Ave. to Ridgewood to serve their beer which eventually closed due to prohibition. It found a second life after the repeal of Prohibition as a Two Kioodles bar.

The Brockmann brothers’ hotel and saloon at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and present-day 69th Place in Glendale converted their business into a Brockman Brothers restaurant and survived prohibition.

But prohibition sounded the death knell for the local picnic park. In the years before Prohibition, these parks which offered a place of relaxation and nature to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city disappeared as Ridgewood and Glendale became residential communities. You could say it was only a matter of time before picnic parks disappeared, but it’s no exaggeration to conclude that Prohibition certainly hastened their demise.

Take, for example, Schmidt’s Woods, which covered 26 acres of Glendale off what is now the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and 83rd Street. It was a place designed for families who wanted to hold large weekend gatherings. The park included swings for children, a large number of picnic tables and benches, baseball diamonds and even a soccer field.

One of the big sellers at Schmidt’s Woods was, naturally, beer. An eighth barrel of Welz and Zerwick lager cost $1 and was delivered by an attendant to the family picnic table. Sometimes free pretzels were provided; the salt, of course, kept the adults thirsty for more beer.

It wouldn’t be long after Prohibition for Schmidt’s Woods to become a memory. It closed in 1925, one of the last Glendale picnic parks to close. The land has been redeveloped into housing.

Another picnic park that died during Prohibition was Cypress Hills Park, located at the southwest corner of Cypress Avenue and Cypress Hills Street, which was an especially popular attraction for the area’s German community. The park included “Banzer Lake”, a 600-foot-long U-shaped lake perfect for boating in the summer and ice skating in the winter. After Prohibition took effect, Cypress Hills Park hung on, surviving on family outings and numerous functions held by local fraternal, volunteer, and religious organizations.

Cypress Hills Park closed in the late 1920s and Banzer Lake was drained and refilled. Part of the land was used as cemetery land, while the remaining part was included in the construction of the Interboro Parkway (now Jackie Robinson).

While prohibition proponents had good intentions, it turned out that banning alcohol paved the way for another kind of hell: organized crime. The gangsters began lucrative smuggling operations, smuggling alcohol into the United States for sale in local speakeasies. More than 100,000 such underground bars popped up in New York during Prohibition. The sense of lawlessness, combined with the economic losses felt locally and nationally due to Prohibition and the Great Depression, led to the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933. which repealed the 18th Amendment.

It wasn’t long before the foam was flowing again in Ridgewood. In May 1915, The Ridgewood Times reported that the City Brewing Company in the old Frank’s Brewery was producing 750 barrels of Tally-Ho beer each day and had installed new storage tanks holding 290,000 barrels of beer. This allowed the company to produce 1,400 barrels of beer every day in October.

The Frank Brewery on the corner of Cypress Avenue and Hancock Street in Ridgewood.
The Frank Brewery on the corner of Cypress Avenue and Hancock Street in Ridgewood.

Ridgewood’s place in beer brewing wasn’t the same after Prohibition, but the neighborhood‘s love of beer never wavered. The tradition lives on in the many micro-breweries that have sprung up in our region in recent years.

If you have memories to share with us, send an email to the editorial staff[@]ridgewoodtimes.com (subject: Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was) or write The Old Timer, ℅ Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361. All mailed photos will be carefully returned to you at request.

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