Pabst Blue Ribbon architecture from Old New York

Pabst Brewing Company, the Milwaukee beer dynasty founded in 1844 by Jacob Best (and his son-in-law Frederick Pabst), became one of America’s best known beer beverage distributors in the 20th century. Part of their strategy for popularizing their brand was by cracking into a market well saturated with beer at the start of the century — New York City.

In New York, the Milwaukee based company was at a disadvantage; saloons sold only locally made products (storage and transport technologies not being quite as sophisticated as they are today) and New York had dozens of its own brewers.

No matter! In 1896, Pabst opened a brewery here at 606 West 49th Street. And, starting in 1900,  they simply built their own operations to sell that beer in the centers of New York’s thriving entertainment districts. Here are four Pabst locations where one could sample their product:

 

  1. PABST LOOP HOTEL, Surf Avenue, Coney Island

Opened in 1900, known as Frank Clayton’s Pabst Loop Hotel.

On July 9, 1908, the hotel burned to the ground. From Billboard Magazine: “In ten minutes, Clayton Pabst Loop Hotel, with its great once hall and roller skating rink, the Culver line station of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company and Vanderveer’s Hotel were a mass of seething, roaring flames.”

Before:

After:

 

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2. PABST HOTEL, 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, Midtown

Built in 1899 and perfectly situated at 42nd Street — right as the Broadway theater scene was arriving to the area — the Pabst Hotel used space in a surprising way. Its second floor restaurant was built out over the sidewalk while its ‘rathskeller‘ stretched below the street. Unfortunately it was no match for the influence of New York Times owner Adolph Ochs who desired the unique triangular space for his own newspaper.

In 1902, the hotel was torn down and One Times Square, the Times’ new headquarters, would help define the entire district.

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3. PABST GRAND CIRCLE HOTEL, Columbus Circle

Back when the traffic roundabout at the southwest corner of Central Park was called simply the Grand Circle, Pabst built another hotel in 1902 after the 42nd Street location was sold and torn down.  It was connected to the Majestic Theatre, the largest theater in the circle, a stage which would have great successes the following years with The Wizard of Oz and Babes In Toyland.  The structure graced the edge of Columbus Circle for many decades before being torn down in the 1950s and replaced with the New York Coliseum.

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4. PABST HARLEM MUSIC HALL AND RESTAURANT, 243 West 124th St., Harlem

Back with Harlem’s 125th Street was a vaudeville haven of upper Manhattan, this hall, which opened in September 1900, was billed as the largest restaurant in the United States with a capacity for 1,400 diners. It closed in 1917 just before the Prohibition era.

Unlike the other Pabst properties, the building still remains. Unrecognizable from he 125th Street, you’ll have to go around to the 124th side to get a look at its former glory.

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