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Beer, Blood and Bones: 1917

Beer, Blood and Bones: 1917

Washington, D.C., circa 1917. "National Capital Brewery." The National Capital Brewing Co. plant at 14th and D Streets S.E. The company, which owned a number bars in downtown Washington, switched to making Carry's Ice Cream with the onset of Prohibition. The brewery's boiler room furnace figured in a sensational murder case in 1912. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


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The beer that built Washington

Albert Carry was my great-grandfather also; my grandmother was Louise ("Lou" or "Weesy") Carry, his youngest daughter.

Capitol Hill was quite different at the turn of the last century, lots of green (in more ways than one), wonderful community teeming with work, new business, old businesses and people from all walks of life getting it done.

My great-granddad ("Grospapa") came with coins in his pocket to help with the horses in a Cincinnati brewery and ended up the owner of one of the largest and most successful breweries in Washington, D.C. -- no inheritance, no handouts, just hard fair work for himself and those he hired. Many families along the Eastern Seaboard owe their start to Albert Carry, a German workaholic who knew a good product and appreciated those who helped him with the payback to become Americans.

Philadelphia Row

Philadelphia Row is in the 100 block (between A St. & Independence Ave.) of 11th street southeast, Washington D.C. The architectural style is patterned after the rowhouses of old Philadelphia. Charles Gefford built the row to comfort the homesickness of his wife for her native Philadelphia. Gefford teamed with builder Stephen Flanagan to construct the row of brick buildings in 1865-67.

The potential destruction of Philadelphia Row during the freeway-building-craze of the 1960s is partly responsible for the formation of the Capitol Hill Historic District which has preserved much of the Victorian architecture of the neighborhood.

View Larger Map

Grandmother and the Carrys

My grandmother Mildred Lithgow (1894-1990) used to tell of her best friend Louise Carry. Mildred was an only child and got along well with the large Carry family. Their families lived in an area called Philadelphia Row, which I guess was 12th and B, C or D Streets S.E.

Louise would invite Mildred for outings to the Carrys' summer home in Suitland. The Carrys' groom would take them by carriage out Pennsylvania Avenue and stop and allow the horses a rest about half way up the hill. At their summer place, Red Gables, the kitchen had a large walk-in pantry with a beer tap. The children helped themselves to food and beer, as that was all there was to drink, and no one made a fuss.

Mildred always fondly remembered the Carry family and the brewery and ice cream business. Hopefully some other stories will emerge. Shorpy has been a great discovery for me, growing up in Brookland. Thanks.

Brewery Ad

Just curious about the source of that Brewery Ad. Washington Star? Thanks very much!

[Washpost. - Dave]

Antisocial Safeway

I live two blocks from there. The Safeway where the brewery stood is among the worst grocery stores I have ever shopped at. But now this is no surprise. Clearly it's haunted and that's why the dairy products go sour by the time you get them home.

I would have gotten away with it, too...

...if it hadn't been for those meddling kids and their talking Clydesdale!

A Relative Comment

That explains it!! Now I know why Beer, Ice Cream & Murder Mysteries are such favorites of mine! I am a great-great-granddaughter of Albert Carry.

Thanks for the picture and history from my paternal relatives.

[You're very welcome! Glad you found us. - Dave]

National Capital Brewing Co

More here at pp. 108-112.

Brewhouse Design

Below is a cross-section of a typical brewery of the era. The height of the brewery was dictated by the desire to harness gravity to do as much work as possible moving the liquids around.

Although the plant did have a refrigeration unit, this was probably in one of the out-buildings, perhaps close to the smokestack since large steam engines would have powered the refrigeration. Considering the design below, the open windows at the peak of brewery would have been at the top of the stockhouse where the Baudelot cooler (or its equivalent) was located. This unit cooled the hot beer wort in preparation for fermentation. I imagine it was all a very aromatic operation.

Brewery design
(click on diagram for larger version)

Navy Yard Brewery

I live on E Street and recently discovered that this brewery used to be the Navy Yard Brewery owned by John Guethler as per this 1884 map.

A Big Brewing Establishment

Washington Evening Star. July 25, 1891



A Business Enterprise That Has Been Very Successful in Washington



A brewery that turns out 100,000 barrels of first-class pure beer every year for local consumption solely is a big institution for any city, and yet Washington has recently had just such an addition made to its business enterprises in the National Capital Brewery. Organized by Washington men, officered by Washington men, and with every share of its stock owned here at home, it would seem to be a local enterprise first last and all the time.

This business is the result of the combination of two of the oldest and most successful breweries in this part of the country, and that the new firm will be even more successful is a foregone conclusion. People who have had occasion recently to traverse D street southeast have noticed a splendid new building on the south side of the street between 13th and 14th streets. This is the new home of the National Capital Brewing Company, and it is by long odds one of the most substantial and imposing buildings of the sort to be found anywhere. Although it has been completed hardly more than a month, it has about it already that well-kept appearance and air of bustling activity that always denote prosperity following upon enterprise.

This fine new building, standing as it does in a very desirable location for such a business, with almost an entire block of ground about it, is a five-story structure of brick with handsome stone trimmings and surrounded by a graceful cupola. It covers a plot of ground 94 by 136 feet, and owing to the unusual height of the several stories the building itself is quite as high as an ordinary seven or eight-story building. Attached to the main building are several roomy and substantial outbuildings, including an engine house, stable and cooperage shop, all pleasing in appearance and forming a handsome group.

To make a good pure quality of beer for local use so that it can be drawn from wood and not adulterated with any chemical whatsoever in order to make of it a "beer that keeps well," this is the purpose of the National Capital Brewing Company. They do not make beer for shipment, and hence their beer is not treated with any salicylic acid or deleterious substances that are sometimes used with bottled beer to keep it clear and lively. Pure beer is generally considered a healthful drink. The president of the National Capital Brewing Company told a STAR reporter that any person with a proper interest in the matter might take the keys of the entire establishment at any time, go through it thoroughly, and if he found anything at all used in the making of their beer that was not pure and wholesome the company would give him $1,000.

Beer drawn from the wood is almost certain to be a purer and better quality of beer than the bottled. The National Capital Brewing Company does not bottle. It serves its customers fresh every day with beer that has reached its prime in the immense cooling rooms of the brewery. F. H. Finley & Son, the bottlers, however, have a contract with the company for 20,000 barrels a year of their pale extra beer, and this they bottle and serve to customers in Washington. They get their beer early every morning, as needed, so that people who buy the bottled variety of the National Capital Company's beer are using beer that left the huge casks at the brewery that very day. J. F. Hermann & Son, Wm. H Brinkley and Jas. A Bailey also acts as agent for the company.

A STAR reporter, accompanied by Mr. Albert Carry, president of the brewing company, recently made a complete inspection of the buildings of the brewery, spending several hours seeing how beer is manufactured from the time it comes in in the form of malt and the raw materials until it leaves the building a clear, cool, foaming beverage inclosed in stout kegs and casks. How much beer there is that leaves the building may be judged when the statement is made that the company uses 10,000 kegs and barrels of all sizes simply in supplying the Washington trade. Nine huge wagons and thirty big horses are used steadily in carrying beer from the brewery to the consumers.

In truth this is no small business. But what strikes the visitor, be he a casual or an interested one, first and most forcibly of all is the absolute cleanliness and neatness that prevails everywhere. The walls and stairways, for the most part of stone and iron - for the building is fireproof throughout - and the floors are all of iron or concrete and immaculate. On all sides there is hot and cold running water, and indeed the wards of a hospital could scarcely be cleaner or more orderly than the various departments of this brewery. There are no secret chambers into which one may not go. Everything is open and above board, and the fact that the company has no objections to the beer consumer examining every branch of its manufacture is a pretty good sign that they know that everything is honest and fair.

As a proof of this the company intends giving a public tour Tuesday, July 28, from 8 to 8 p.m., when everything will be in running order and everybody is invited to visit the brewery and inspect it thoroughly from cellar to roof. A handsome luncheon, consisting of all the delicacies of the season, will be spread. Everything will be free, and the National Capital Brewing Company intend to prove that they are as liberal in their hospitality as they are enterprising in their business. It is needless to say that beer will be plentiful and none need to go to bed thirsty Tuesday night.

Connecting the main building with the engine house is a handsome arched gateway leading into the big court yard, where the wagons stand while they are being loaded. The entrance to the offices is through this gateway. The offices consist of a number of connecting rooms on the main floor in the northwest corner of the building. They are handsomely finished in oak, and are fitted with the most improved office furniture for the convenience of the officers of the company and the corps of bookkeepers and clerks required to transact such an immense volume of business.

Opening from the main office and adjoining it is the ice machine room, containing an ice machine with a refrigerating capacity of fifty tons and an eighty-horse-power steam engine, used for grinding and mashing malt and for general hoisting purposes. The ice machine on that hot summer day was almost covered in with ice and snow, and in fact the temperature of the larger part of the brewery is kept down in the neighborhood of freezing point all the time. On the second floor is an immense refrigerating room, and separated from it by an iron door is a room for cleaning and automatically weighing malt, and arranged on the principle of a grain elevator is a store room for malt with a capacity of 20,000 tons.

On the third floor is a great copper kettle holding 300 barrels of new boiling beer. The fourth floor is used for hot and cold water tanks and above is a tank for fire purposes. After boiling in the kettle for seven hours the beer is pumped up, strained and left to cool in a big tank under the roof, where a cool current of air blows constantly. To the rear and on the fourth floor is a big store room and a patent cooler. The beer from the tanks above runs down over coils and is cooled to 40 degrees. This and the rooms below are all 76x94 feet and feel like a cold day in midwinter. On the floor below is the fermenting room, and here the beer stays for two weeks in sixty-five tubs, each holding seventy barrels.

After the beer is through fermenting it is piped down below into huge vats, each of a 240-barrel capacity, and here it stays in the rest casks for three or four months, beer four months old being about the best. On the floor below a little new beer is added to give the necessary foam, and after being given about three weeks to clarify it is sent by air pressure into the filling room, where it is run into barrels and kegs ready to be loaded onto the wagons. In neighboring rooms a dozen men are busy all the time cleaning, washing and scouring the kegs so there is no chance for any impurities to mar the flavor of the Golden Eagle and the Capuciner beers.

The National Capital Brewery Company is a combination of the firms of Albert Carry, Robert Portner and the Robert Portner Brewing Company, the latter selling out the Washington branch of the business. The capital stock of the company is $500,000, all paid up. The company has been in operation since last November [1890], but has been supplying from its new brewery only since June. The officers of the company are as follows: Albert Carry, president; C. A. Strangmann, secretary and treasurer. Directors: Albert Carry, Robert Portner, John L. Vogt, John D. Bartlett, Charles Carry, C. A. Strangmann, Frank P.Madigan.

The Ideal Spring Tonic

Washington Post, March 3, 1910

Thanks Stanton!

I found a lecture about the Carry and Didden families, where George Didden cites the lot as "bounded by 13th Street, D Street, Kentucky Avenue and South Carolina Avenue." George should have consulted the Baist Realty map!

Brewery Angle

This seems like an odd angle for a photo. Consulting the Baist Realty maps suggests that it was taken looking to the northeast from the top of the Buchanan Public School on E Street. The houses in the foreground are indicated by the small yellow homes on the alley (now Guetlet Court). The Buchanan school still survives as well as a few of the houses at the SE corner of the block.


For comparison, today's satellite view is here. Where the brewery stood is now a Safeway.

Charred Bones, Bloodstain Near Boilers

October 2, 1912. Gives a new meaning to "You're fired!"

New Carry

At least this solves the mystery of the "New Carry" at the theatre many slides ago, it was ice cream.

[That was Carrie, not Carry. - Dave]

Mystery of the Brewery

Brewery Mystery Involves Suicide and Disappearance.

New Clew For Police.

Confronted by a mystery involving the disappearance on September 17 of Arthur A. Webster, and the suicide on Sunday of Lennte L. Jette, the latter a former employee of the National Capital Brewing Company, and the former and habitue of the same place, the police last night were bending every effort to determine the facts in what they term a most extraordinary case.

Webster, on the evening of his disappearance, told his wife he was going to the brewery, where Jett was employed as a fireman. That he did enter the brewery, and that there ensued a passage of words between him and Jett, is attested by a police witness. From that evening, until the present time nothing has been heard from Webster. His wife is firm in her conviction that he was murdered.

Jett, on Sunday night, sent a bullet into his brain and died a suicide. The police, consequently, are seeking now to fathom the "mystery of the brewery." It is singular, the police reason, that one man, visiting the brewery, and following an alleged altercation, should suddenly vanish, and that within two weeks the other principal should suddenly and his life.

A statement by an important witness, made yesterday to Capt. Mulhall at the Fifth precinct, following a succession of other unusual happenings at the brewery since Webster dropped out of sight, has, in the opinion of the relatives and others, gone a long way toward showing that he met with foul play.

The witness is Michael J. Barrett, of 355 H street southwest, a helper in the boiler room at the brewery, who was on duty there the night of September 17, when Webster went there the last time. Their suspicions already aroused by Sunday's developments, the Fifth precinct police began their investigation all over again yesterday.

Patrolman Kenney, whose post takes in the brewery, found Barrett at his home, and escorted him to the station to tell what he knew. Barrett no longer hesitated to talk freely about the events of Webster's last night in the boiler room. Last night he told a Post reporter what he had told Capt. Mulhall.

"I will tell you just what I told the police," said he. "Webster had been coming to the brewery at night a long time. There was one man in the boiler room, Jett, who, I understood, did not like him. I knew this, and that, Tuesday morning about 2:30, when Webster came along, Jett was right there with me. Webster stopped in the doorway, as if waiting for an invitation to come in. I did not ask him in. But very soon Webster came on in uninvited, and when he got to me I said to him: 'You had better be careful. You know Jett does not think a whole lot of you.' Our men shift around from day to night duty, and a large part of the time Jett was not around after midnight, when Webster was in the habit of calling.

"I noticed that Webster had been drinking. When he got to the rear of the room he drew a flask of whisky from a pocket and invited Jett and me to have a drink. We accepted, and I went back to my work. I was raking the ashes out of the furnace. Presently Webster and Jett disappeared from sight just around the corner of the end boiler. Soon I heard Webster say in loud tones something about an old quarrel between the two of them, and before long I heard more loud words. I could not catch all that was said for the occasional roaring of the furnaces.

"The talking suddenly stopped, and Jett came from behind the boilers. About 15 or 20 minutes afterward I walked back behind the end boiler, and to my surprise found Webster either lying down or sitting on something very low behind No. 6. That is the number of the end boiler. I finally concluded that that drink I had had with him had knocked him out. I went back to work, at at 4 o'clock got ready to quit. I was relieved at that hour. Before leaving I said to Jett: 'Webster is lying back of No. 6.' Jett said nothing. Nor did I say any more to him."

Tells of the Old Row.

Asked who else was in the boiler room from 4 o'clock on, Barrett replied that there may not have been anybody there between 4 and 8 o'clock. "The watchman made his last round at 3 o'clock," said he. "The engineer sometimes drops in once or twice in those four hours, but he is not obliged to, and seldom does. He drops in oftener early in the night."

Regarding the old quarrel between the two, Barrett said, "that occurred last spring in the street right in front of this brewery. Webster knocked Jett down with one blow of his fist. That was all there was to that, but it is well known about here that Jett never forgave nor forgot it, although he subsequently shook hands with Webster at Chesapeake Beach."

The Wednesday after Webster disappeared, Barrett also dropped out of sight, but was found at his home. He reported that he was sick with chills and fever, and did not report for duty again until yesterday afternoon. De said the occurrences of Webster's last night at the brewery had absolutely nothing whatever to do with his absenting himself from work.

On Sunday night, Jett committed suicide at his home, 627 Florence street northwest. He had left no note showing why he had planned to kill himself, but his family still suppose that he did so because he had been discharged from his employment. It was stated that the brewery that he was dismissed because on last Saturday afternoon he refused to work after quitting hour until another fireman came in to relieve him.

Barrett's statement to Capt. Mulhall was more or less involuntary, and is generally credited.

While officials of the brewery all ridicule the idea that the missing man was cremated in the furnace there, none denies that it could have occurred. The fires are never banked there except on Saturday night. All hours of the day and night, and particularly on toward 5 a.m., the hour for beginning of the day's work, the fires are kept raging. The boilers generally carry about 125 pounds of steam. They held that much last night as early as 9 o'clock, and more towards morning. Officials admitted that a human body might have been crammed into any one of the six furnaces by a strong man, and entirely cremated between 4 o'clock that morning, when Barrett left, and 8. The ashes of the dead would have been so mingled with the coal ashes that the difference could not have been detected by an ordinary process.

The ashes of this brewery are all dumped on a lot only a few squares from the place. They are carried out every day, so that if Webster's is among them they are probably buried so deep that they can never be found.

For all this, Webster may still be alive. Some time ago he spoke to his wife of quitting his work here and going to St. Louis, Mo., to accept a position his brother had promised to get him. It is certain that he had about $40 the morning he disappeared, and a few friends still cling to the hope that he availed of that opportunity to go there.

His wife and mother both sent special delivery letters to his brother a few days after he went away, requesting him to let them know if Arthur appeared there. Neither has yet received a reply.

Some of the men about the brewery also inclined to the belief that Webster went West. Joseph C. Carry, who was in charge of the brewery last night, invited the reporter to go through the place and talk with whomever he pleased about the case, and seemed anxious to see the mystery cleared up.

The police say that Barrett's statement, though apparently truthful in every detail, is almost unsusceptible of proof. He alone, they say, really knows anything that bears directly on the point.

Washington Post, Oct 1, 1912

The following day's newspaper contained an even longer article about the event, which by then was no longer a mystery. Two essential 'clews' had been developed: 1) blood stains on the bricks near the boiler, and 2) bone and tooth fragments raked from the ash pit at the brewery. Still unanswered in my mind, is why Webster frequented the brewery so late at night. It would seem he was simply a troublesome drunkard looking to get out of the house. Jett, on the other hand, was described as a quiet, friendly fellow. His friends report drastically altered behavior in the two weeks between the murder and his suicide - he was clearly very disturbed by the action that Webster provoked in him. After this tragedy, Albert Carry announced that the brewery would no longer be open for people to drop in and visit during the night.

Too close

Regarding the upscale houses in the foreground: is that a garden right next to the outhouse?

All gone

If the address is accurate, these structures are long gone. That area is mostly residential working-class now.

I'll get the lights

Yeah, I'd be interested in that info as well. Sounds intriguing.

Popcorn's ready!

Let's have the nitty grtitty details of the murder!

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