Ober Bremen Tour
Bremenfest - August 1977
Ober Bremen (Upper Bremen) was officially platted in 1853, but Christian Ellerman was Mayor in 1851. The lots in this section of town had earlier been referred to as the "South Addition" and "Outlots between Original Plat (north of Monroe Street) and South Addition”. The "South Addition" was platted in Mercer County in 1837 and covered the area from the canal on the west boundary to the east boundary that began on Front Street, including both sides of Walnut Street, jogging at Cherry toward Washington, then down both sides of Washington to South Street. Later outlots and an extension to the South Addition were added that then covered most of what later was platted as Ober Bremen. "Out lots between Original Plat and South Addition" was the area with Monroe on the north, Front on the south, stretching from Washington Street on the west to Park Street on the east. The land between Washington and the canal was state-leased land and an outlot. These "Outlots between Original Plat and South Addition" were irregular in size and numbered only four along Washington from Monroe to Front. Some of the buildings that were built in the 1840s and 1850s, before Ober Bremen was platted into six more regular lots, straddle more than one lot and are difficult to trace in courthouse records.
New numbers were given to the lots in 1853 when Ober Bremen was laid out, and later renumbering of lots was necessary because by 1857 four different towns are platted separately in the tax duplicates, all with enumeration of lots that begin with number 1. These four towns are: New Bremen, Ober Bremen, Mohrmansville (west of the canal in the Original Plat), and Vogelsangtown (south of Monroe including both sides of Main west to both sides of Herman.
Ober Bremen was considered an independent town with separate town hall, school, business section, and the eventual development of a Catholic parish on the east side of the Miami-Erie Canal.
The town hall was located on the southwest corner of Front and South Walnut Streets, and the school was built on the present Lots 392-395 on East Cherry Street where the bus garage is now. The old Catholic church built in 1872 still stands on its original location, but has been covered with additions built by the present church congregation, Faith Alliance.
Much that is known about Ober Bremen comes in the form of legend and New Bremen folklore. A great deal of rivalry was built up between the two political divisions which has lasted until recent times. Many tricks and games were played on each other by the gangs of "cheese quarters" (west) and "frog town” (east).
Ober Bremen ceased to exist when it was officially annexed to New Bremen in 1876. The 1877 Union School on South Franklin was built when the schools of Ober Bremen and New Bremen merged. That ornate Gothic building was torn down in 1955-56. The Lake Erie and Western Railroad that was put through New Bremen on the west side in 1872 was instrumental in the decision to merge.
Many of the buildings constructed during the life of Ober Bremen from 1853-1876 still stand today much as they looked when the Miami-Erie Canal was at its greatest influence on the economic development and the architectural styles of New Bremen. Along the canal banks, most of the old mills, saloons, lockkeeper's house and barn have been lost, but many important buildings on the east side of Washington Street display the huge variety of architecture from the earliest frame buildings to the dignified Federal styles, the fanciful Gothic Revivals, Carpenter Gothics, and the elegant Italianates and Queen Annes.
The architecture of New Bremen is significant because extreme wealth poured into this small western Ohio village, highly educated and important political leaders became Ohio representatives and senators, and the influx of canal travelers exposed the small town to the ideas of the world. The overwhelming traditions of the small colony of German settlers can still be seen in the building modes which include buildings set on the sidewalks, the mud and straw insulations in walls, the barns and carriage houses on the alleys, and the cleanliness and pride in the appearances of their homes. When the canal was discontinued in the early 1910s, growth and change virtually stopped for a great number of years. Since the lots in Ober Bremen and the Original Plat had been built upon during the prosperous canal years of the 19th century, few homes were built after the canal faded. Changes began occurring after the Second World War when many of the earliest canal buildings were torn down, and now the west side of Ober Bremen's main street (Washington) has lost its canal town look. Recent efforts by some of the merchants on Monroe and Washington have been more sensitive to the preservation of their canal buildings.
New Bremen's architecture is quite different from other towns in the area who did not have the wealth or influence to develop past the "frame building" stage. Ober Bremen is being studied for its separate contribution to the fabric of the whole town of New Bremen as it was during the years 1853-1876 and as it is today.
New Bremen Historic Association
Mary Ann Brown, Bremenfest Committee
The Ober Bremen tour will begin with the stretch of canal-related buildings that are in the area originally known as the "Outlots between the South Addition and Original Plat." At the intersection of Front and Washington, across the street from the library is the beginning & ending point. (Follow the numbers on the map at the end.)
1-The Arcade (Lot 343 – 40 S. Washington St.) was formed (from 4 stores) in this series of buildings in 1902. The square hip-roofed building on the corner (now covered up) sits on a lot valued at $926 in 1849 with additional $900 being added that same year. Lot was owned then by J. F. Boesche who later promised the town an opera house and then reneged. An addition to the square building formed a gable roof toward the alley. Buildings were constructed of brick to fill in between the square one and the Esquire Shop building. The diversity of fronts and styles of brickwork seemed too formidable at the time when Crown Controls studied the possibilities of restoration, but for a nice view of early canal warehouse appearance, look at the preserved backs of the buildings that face the alley.
2-Wint's Esquire Shop (Lot 344 - 38 S. Washington St.) contrasts sharply with its Italianate hoodmolds around the second story windows, paneled frieze with ornate brackets and dentils on the cornice. Probably from the 1870s or 1880s (1882 – Lot 344).
3-ERNIE PHLIPOT’S BARBERSHOP & HOME (Lot 344 - 36 S. Washington St.) - Around 1850 (1848) Wm. Beckman built this brick with the stepped gables and leaded stained glass windows. Note the elaborate doorway with beveled glass transoms and sidelights. This Federal style building was Rabe's Cheap Store around the turn of the century and also a bakery. North side has probably always been a residence.
4 (Lot 345 – 30-32 S. Washington St.) The large frame house known in the 1880 Atlas as the American House was an early hotel and dates from 1847. These early hotels also were saloons which created great incomes for the owners. This building also served as a cigar store upstairs (Herman Laut, 1890-1910), bakery (Trautwein/Moeller) and novelty shop (Wilbur Hegemier). [This building and the next one were torn down and replaced with the present Carl Dicke building.]
5-Wint’s Restaurant (Lot 345 - 28 S. Washington St.) Small frame has a boomtown front. This building is typical of the many early frame structures that must have lined Ober Bremen's Streets. They are important to study since so few remain. (Replaced with Carl Dicke building.)
6-The American Budget & New Bremen Insurance (Lot 346 – 20 & 16 S. Washington St.) decided to restore rather than remodel. The building has distinctive Victorian Queen Anne twin oriel windows with carved floral swags. Other examples of twin oriels are on Monroe at the old Opera House and the Schulenberg and Laut buildings. The bank that used to sit on the corner was torn down in the 1970s when the highway was widened. Known as the Dierker building, it replaced an earlier one that was destroyed by an explosion in 1905.
7 (5 S. Walnut St.) Now go east on Monroe Street, the pike that ran to Kettlersville, and then connected with Botkins where the Dayton and Michigan Railroad connected Ober Bremen in 1858. The railways eventually caused the decline of the canal as a transportation route. Turn south onto Walnut Sreet, go past the white frame house with the north bay built before 1880, and stop in front of the brick house on the west side of the street that used to belong to Dr. W. F. Woods. The porch was added since the sketch was done in the 1880 Atlas, but this house with the prominent front gable is an example of the most common architectural style (Carpenter Gothic) in Ober Bremen. It attempts to duplicate the castle-like look of towers and peaks that the Germans remembered from the old country.
8 (8 S. Walnut St.) Look across the street to the deep brown Carpenter Gothic with the cut-out gingerbread along the porch. The peak has sharp roof lines. Look for that central peak of varying sizes and slopes along Walnut Street. It seems as work became available in the shops and warehouses in the late 19th century, wage earners could afford this modest adaptation of the more elaborate Gothic Revival.
9 (23 S. Walnut St.) Go to the northwest corner of Front and Walnut where the large brick townhouse with the summer kitchen and central gabled outbuilding is found. It is said that this structure was moved from the lot on Washington Street where the square brick Crown-encased building is. On the 1880 Atlas map, a brick building is shown next to the alley. This could have been the Mousa house. No building is shown on the map for the lot where the building presently sits and yet the building seems to be over 100 years old, or at least a portion of it. Notice the different designs in the stained glass windows that face the south.
10 (109 E. Front St.) Across the street to the south and two lots toward the west is a most interesting garage. We know from the Atlas that the Ober Bremen Town Hall sat on this corner, but it is not known what happened to the building when Ober Bremen was annexed. Study the flat facade with the gabled wings in the rear. Could this have been the old Town Hall? We know that at one time the Stappe Chevrolet Co. had a business in the building, but what was its use before?
11 (22 S. Walnut St.) The two-story frame Colonial style on the northeast corner was already there in 1853. Note the wood shingle roof on the shed in the back. New Bremen has many outbuildings that date from earlier periods than the houses.
12 (209 E. Front St.?) Look east past Walnut Street down Front. Notice the jog which is shown in the original platting, reason unknown. Either the green house with basement entrance or the frame just west of it sits on a lot valued at $578 in 1847, originally known as C. Ellerman's Outlot No. 12.
13 (108,110,114,113 S. Walnut St.) Advance south along Walnut Street and note the Carpenter Gothics at 110, 113 and 114. At the 108 address, the Queen Anne house with the bay window and tower has a metal finial in the yard. You will find a board-and-batten barn in the back yard at 110. Fred Lanfersieck owned the house at 113 (west side of street) in 1880, which is said to have mud and straw in the outer walls for insulation, a German architectural feature.
14 (212-214 S. Walnut St.?) At the corner of Plum and Walnut where the New Bremen School sits, walk south until you get to the Christian Alliance Church. The Catholic parish owned all four lots and built a small brick church in 1872. The Catholic parish never established a cemetery and was served by an itinerant priest from the seminary at Carthagena. The parish was dissolved around the turn of the century when the priest's visits became more unreliable, according to memories. Property was sold to Christ Church in 1907. School later bought three lots in 1928.
15 (207 S. Walnut St.) The parsonage across the street at 207 is an example of Gothic Revival with medieval tracery in the long narrow windows. The tower with bell cast roof and finials on the north side is characteristic of this style.
16 (221 & 217 S. Walnut St.) Twin houses on the west side of the street have "Chicago" windows. They are sash windows with square tinted rows of smaller panes surrounding the larger one. Northwest corner of Cherry and Walnut and the house directly north.
17 (302 S. Walnut St.) On the southeast corner sits a small story-and-a-half with summer kitchen that dates from before 1880. Directly east is the school bus barn located on the lot where the Ober Bremen school sat. The foundation on the present bus barn looks as though it may be from an earlier building.
18 (303 S. Walnut St.) A Gothic Revival building with a central tower tucked in the north side has carved bargeboard on the rear gable. A most charming feature is the fancy central gabled barn with the delicate bargeboard and the date 1903.
19 (232 S. Washington St.) Turn and walk toward Washington Street to notice the white square house with the red tile roof built by Herman Laut who ran a saloon and later Laut's Hotel on Monroe Street. Tile mills were an important business to drain the Black Swamp area around the turn of the century, and people used it for roofing.
20 (218-220 S. Washington St.) Walk north on Washington to the apartment house at 218 and 220 built by H. H. Keithan in 1845 and enlarged in 1847 and again in 1854. Note the different colored brick on the gables.
21 (206 S. Washington St.) The large brick Federal building with the deep recessed doorway at 206 had Gothic trim when it was pictured in the 1880 Atlas as Dr. F. W. Schroeder's hospital. It sits right on the sidewalk. Edward Beschel had the lot in 1853 when value was set at $620.
22 (1 W. Plum St.) As you cross Plum Street, look west toward the canal and the brldge which connected Vogelsangtown and Ober Bremen. The white frame house with the snack shop in the rear was the home of New Bremen's last canal boat captain, Billy Combs. [It was torn down in the summer of 2008.]
23 (130 S. Washington St.) On the northeast corner sits the house where Mrs. Wint has lived for 55 years. Owned by Ed Lanfersieck, with basement and attic of hand-hewn oak, iron nails and wooden pegs, the house was moved back off the sidewalk years ago. On the property was a blacksmith shop and hotel of frame buildings which were in an L-shape to the north and east of the lot, according to the 1880 Atlas.
24 (129-125 S. Washington St.) Across the street to the west, all three homes were moved back from the street and sidewalk according to early memories. The corner house was lived in by Gus Faehl, undertaker and part owner of the Arcade. House later owned by Gus Kruse.
25 (127 S. Washington St.) I.J. Speckman also owned a furniture store and was an undertaker in the house at 127. This symmetrical frame house with the later pillared porch could have been built as early as 1849.
26 (126 S. Washington St.) Across the street where the Crown buildings are now, Henry Rabe had a store and residence for years. The brick with the elegant recessed doorway featuring transom and sidelights seems to have been built in 1855. The building used by Rabe as the grocery store was built in 1848 by John Wiemeyer.
27 (120 S. Washington St.) North on the next lot is a dark multi-gabled house built by Dr. M.S. Ekermeyer. After a visit to the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, plans and materials were delivered to New Bremen to construct this "shingle style" for his home and office. Note the floral swag and etched glass doorway in this unique house.
28 (112 S. Washington St.) Little white house of "stick style" at 112 was popular after the turn of the century. There are four or five in town.
29 (109 S. Washington St.) Across the street where the Laundromat is was a blacksmith shop next to the long frame building. Value on that lot in 1853 was $313. It is not known yet which building was first.
30 (102 S. Washington St.) Captain John W. Wiemeyer built the large red brick structure the year Ober Bremen was platted with value set at $1820. Note quarter fan windows typical of many canal buildings. Fireplaces were in each room, original use was pork packing.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
Mercer County Courthouse Records, Tax Duplicates, 1839-1847.
Auglaize County Courthouse Records, Tax Duplicates, 1848-1857.
Atlases of Auglaize County – 1880, 1898, 1917
New Bremen Centennial book, 1833-1933
New Bremen Sun, 1888-1900
German Festival book - May 1968
Misses Irene and Maude Ekermeyer 1975
Mr. James Dicke II, August 1977
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Headapohl, August 1977
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest PhIipot, August 1977
Mrs. Georgianna Wint, August 1977
Tour layout and research - Mrs. Sue Maxson, Mrs. Melba Roediger
Courthouse research - Miss Kim Bushman, Miss Cindy Bushman