New Bremen Tour – Bremenfest 2008
The goal of this tour is to provide information about the canal’s influence on the growth and architecture of New Bremen.
The Village of Bremen was established in 1832 in the wilderness of west central Ohio. The original plat contained 102 lots and was officially recorded on June 11, 1833. The settlers of New Bremen were aware that a canal would be arriving in their town soon. Many of the early settlers arrived on a canal boat or were involved with digging the canal. The site for New Bremen was chosen because of the rich farmland and access to the canal. A portion of the site for a town was cleared as a remnant of an Indian village.
New Bremen is located at the north end of the Loramie Summit and is the highest point on the Miami and Erie Canal. Lock One North is in downtown New Bremen.
By 1835 the name of Bremen was changed to New Bremen to decrease confusion with other towns of the same name.
Because the platting of Bremen left little room for expansion, other towns were formed nearby.
1) Amsterdam in 1838 (between New Bremen and Minster but wiped out by the cholera outbreak in 1849)
2) Mohrmansville (north of New Bremen)
3) Ober Bremen in 1853 (east of the canal)
4) Vogelsangtown in 1856 ( west side of canal, south of New Bremen)
5) Lock Two in 1859 (north of New Bremen)
Ober Bremen began to dominate the local economy due to the mills built along the east side of the canal. Ober Bremen was considered an independent town with its own town hall, fire department, mayor, school, business district, and Catholic parish. A great deal of rivalry was built up between the two political divisions. In 1876, the merger of Ober Bremen and New Bremen and the building of the Union School formed the town as we know it today, but the memory of “Frogtown” and “Cheese Quarters” remains. Frogtown was the east side of the canal and nicknamed for the many croaking frogs in Rabe’s Pond. The west side of the canal was referred to as Cheese Quarters because of the large quantities of cheese and butter produced by the Creamery.
Within a generation the German pioneers turned the wilderness into a successful farming community. By the end of the 19th century a number of local businesses were prospering. Many of the buildings constructed at that time still stand and look as they did during the days of the canal prosperity. Along the canal banks, most of the old mills, saloons and barns have been lost but the unique architecture of buildings along Washington Street and Monroe Street has been preserved.
The architecture of New Bremen is significant because it characterizes the wealth that was present at the turn of the century in 1900. New Bremen attracted well educated leaders who became senators and representatives within our government and effective businessmen within our community. The canal brought many visitors and travelers which exposed the small town to the ideas of the world.
The types of local businesses have changed over the years, but the town remains prosperous and unique. Its German heritage is reflected in the style of buildings and the cleanliness of the town and surrounding area. Welcome to our tour and we hope you enjoy seeing our town and its canal.
Start on the corner at the headquarters for MECCA (Miami Erie Canal Corridor Association). Mr. Neal Brady is available there to tell you about the canal, plans for walking trails and other educational information.
On your right, 124-126 S. Washington Street, these buildings were built in the 1870s and were the store and residence of William Rabe and his family. Both are now owned by Crown Equipment Corporation.
On your right, at 120 S. Washington Street, is a Queen Anne style home built by Dr. M.S. Ekermeyer about 1893. He had seen a similar home while visiting the Chicago World’s Fair and had all the construction materials shipped to New Bremen by rail. It served as both his home and office.
At the corner of Front Street and Washington, on your right, is the site of the former Arcade Department Store. The Arcade was formed in 1902 through the merger of four businesses in town: Speckman & Nieter Dry Goods and Groceries, Faehl & Nieter Furniture, Rabe’s Cheap Store, and Wiemeyer’s Cash Clothing. The Arcade had eight departments and was the largest store between Cincinnati and Toledo at the time. A dance hall was located on the second flour. It is now the corporate headquarters for Crown Equipment.
On your left, 45 S. Washington Street, is the New Bremen Public Library, built in 1973 with an addition added in 1990. Its location is New Bremen’s first industrial park. The canal provided water to power the flour and woolen mills along the canal. The mills were demolished in 1968.
20 S. Washington, on your right, is the fire station built in 1897 for use by the New Bremen Cataract and Old Reliable Fire Companies. The building was used by the fire company until 1982 when a new fire station was built at 214 N. Washington. On display is a circa 1870 Ramsey & Co. hand pumper and hose cart that were used to fight fires in New Bremen. The equipment has been restored by Crown Equipment Corp.
2 N. Washington, on your right, at the corner is the J.L. Hoffman building. It was built as a drugstore and residence in 1892. It was purchased by Urban Schwieterman in 1916 and is still operated as a drugstore under that name. Schwieterman’s is one of the oldest operating pharmacies in Ohio.
Turning left, we can now see LOCK ONE. The lock has been restored to its 1910 state when concrete was placed and the canal was still functioning. Notice the wooden gates and turning bars. These were custom-made by Hoge Lumber Co. in New Knoxville. Gas lights will be placed along the towpath to light the way for an evening stroll through time.
Canal: The Miami & Erie Canal was constructed between 1826 and 1845. The first passenger boat navigated the entire 250 mile length of the canal from Cincinnati to Toledo in June of 1845. The canal served as the primary avenue of commerce and military transport and as a post road (mail route) between Cincinnati and Toledo. New Bremen is the approximate midway point of the canal.
On your left, 7 West Monroe, is a building built by William Schulenberg. Wm. Schulenberg served in the Civil War, was fire chief, postmaster, and mayor. This building housed the ticket and freight office for the Western Ohio Electric Railway also known as the interurban. It now houses the Bicycle Museum of America.
On right, 8 West Monroe Street, is the Lock One Theater. It was built in 1912 as the Crown Theater by Herbert Schulenberg. In 1933 it was renovated as the Roosevelt Theater. Later it housed Bielefeld Printing and then the New Bremen Senior Citizens before being restored to its present use by Crown Equipment Corp.
On your left, at 17 West Monroe, are two connecting brick buildings, built in 1891, called the Schulenberg-Laut Block. The Schulenberg Toy, Patent Drug & Sundry Store was on the east side and Laut’s Saloon and Restaurant was on the west. The Odd Fellows lodge hall was on the second floor. Hotel Central was built in 1896 and was a popular place for salesmen to stay. Hotel Central was later known as Hotel Hollingsworth. The Grille restaurant is located in this building and is a popular place to dine.
On your right, 18 West Monroe, is a building built in 1847 in the German canal warehouse style. For many years it housed Taylor Photography, where generations of New Bremen people had their pictures taken.
102 West Monroe Street, on your right, is an elegant Queen Anne style commercial building constructed in 1898. Note the second floor double-bay windows. This building housed the Henry Schwaberow General Merchandise Store for many years. It later became the Western Ohio Hardware until they relocated their business south of New Bremen on Route 66.
103 West Monroe Street, on your left, is a large two-story frame warehouse built circa 1890. Please note the displays in the windows. Next to this building, at 107 West Monroe Street, is a one-story frame structure which features the “boom town” look. This building was the former site of Schelper’s Old Reliable Meat Market, later Tom Moeller’s Grocery, and now the New Bremen Coffee and Book Store.
On your right, at 112 West Monroe Street, is a two-story canal warehouse built in 1873. It is unique because the gable ends face the street. For many years it was the site of the Finke & Sons Candy Store.
On your left, at 115 West Monroe Street, is the Boesel Opera House built in 1895 by Charles Boesel, Jr., son of early New Bremen pioneer Charles Boesel, Sr. The second floor opera house was used for concerts, plays and school graduations. The west half of the first floor housed the First City Bank. The bank vaults are still in place.
On your right at 116 West Monroe Street is an Italian-villa style home built in 1876 by State Representative Jacob Boesel, the eldest son of Charles Boesel. This type of architecture was popular after the Civil War. The home was purchased in the early 1900s by E.G. Conradi, owner of the New Bremen Sun newspaper. It later became the home of the Woodmen of the World.
Next door at 120 West Monroe Street is the Crown Store. This building was built in 1866 by Charles Boesel (Sr.) as a bank after he withdrew from mercantile pursuits. His home was located across the street where the gazebo now stands. The bank was in his front yard, which was the custom in Germany.
[Explanation of “bank in front yard”: Visualize Monroe Street as more of a path. The Charles Boesel house was on the southeast corner of Main and Monroe. In the front yard was the bank, with the Monroe Street path in between. None of the other buildings were on Monroe Street yet because the business part of town was on Main Street. The house east of the bank was built by Jacob Boesel, son of Charles, in 1876.]
Next to the Crown Store is the building at 124 West Monroe Street, built by Charles Boesel in 1864. It later housed the Boesel and Künning Dry Goods Store. In October 1904, Mueller Brothers Clothiers moved into the building. It is one of the few buildings built in New Bremen during the Civil War.
Straight ahead, at 1 North Main Street, on the corner is a building built in 1892 by Theodore Purpus, editor of Der Stern des Westlichen Ohio, a German newspaper in Auglaize County. It was a music store at one time, as well as the New Bremen Sun Print Shop. The New Bremen Sun was published here, the town’s first English newspaper. The telephone company and apartments were on the second floor. Kroger’s grocery store was later located on the first floor. Howell’s IGA was located here before their relocation to South Washington Street.
TURN RIGHT ONTO NORTH MAIN STREET
At the beginning of the second block, on your left at 103 North Main, the corner of Main and 1st Streets, is the former Zion’s Reformed Church, built in 1897. This building as well as St. Paul and St. Peter’s churches reflect the late Gothic Revival style with towers and spires much like the churches in Germany.
Next door at 109 North Main is the former Laut Hotel built in 1853. It was one of several hotels and rooming houses built in New Bremen to accommodate the canal travelers.
At 111 North Main Street, on your left, is the current New Bremen Post Office. This was the site of New Bremen’s Town Hall. The Northern Fire Company, established by the Village Council in 1857, was located on the first floor. The town bell announced the fires. (This bell is on display at the firehouse on North Washington Street.) The city park was located behind this building and was the site of the first firemen’s picnics.
Across the street at 120 North Main Street, is the New Bremen Historic Museum. Construction of the building began in 1837 and it was enlarged to its present size in 1846. It is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in New Bremen. It is known as the Luelleman house. It is a timber braced structure lined with bricks, mud and straw. This type of construction was common with the German immigrants. The summer kitchen was added in 1869. The museum has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On your left, 123 North Main Street, is the location for the German Township offices. This building was built in the 1880s and was the location for William Bruns’ marble cutting business.
Turning left onto Second Street we see St. Paul United Church of Christ. This was the first church established in New Bremen. Public ground was designated for the church in the original plat of Bremen in 1832. The first brick church was built on this site in 1891 and nearly destroyed by fire in 1897. The church was rebuilt and dedicated the same year. The cemetery was located on Herman Street where the ball field is now.
107 North Franklin Street, on your right, is an example of a German canal house and typical of New Bremen’s early residential architecture. This house was built about 1860. A brick summer kitchen is located behind the house.
On your left at 106 North Franklin is the former parsonage for St. Paul Church, built in 1852. This brick building was moved from across the street in 1909. It could not be turned so the back of the house became the front.
9-11 North Franklin Street, on your right, is a building that served as a New Bremen school from 1846 to 1878. This building was sold in 1878 for $700.00 and converted to a private residence.
On the corner, on your right, at 304 West Monroe Street, is a Bungalow style house built in 1920. It is constructed of paving bricks made on site in New Bremen.
Crossing Monroe Street we are now entering Vogelsangtown. This was the site of the Vogelsang farm and became the most desirable street for residential development in the late 1800s.
15 South Franklin Street, on your right, is a 1901 Victorian Queen Anne built by George Klanke. Klanke was one of the owners of the Klanke Furniture Company.
Across the street at 16 South Franklin is an 1890 Victorian Eclectic style home built by Theodore Purpus.
On your right, at the corner, 27 South Franklin Street, is a house built by Charles Boesel, Jr., the second son of Charles Boesel, early New Bremen pioneer. The home was built in 1870 and had large gardens and tennis courts. Boesel was the president of First City Bank in New Bremen.
Across the street to your left, 102 South Franklin, is a Carpenter Gothic style house built in 1862. This was one of the first houses built in Vogelsangtown, which had been platted in 1856.
On your right, is the site of the former Union or Central School built in 1878. It was abandoned in 1957 and all that remains are the retaining wall, front steps, and many memories of the students who attended.
On your left, 114 South Franklin, is a Queen Anne house. This house was built by Fridolin and Alma (Boesel) Purpus in 1898. Adolph Boesel built an identical house to the north of this house at 110 South Franklin, also in 1898. That house was moved to the Crown farm on the east end of town in 1986.
New Bremen has more examples of ornate architectural styles than other towns of comparable size in this area. These styles are characterized by multi-gable rooflines, a variety of siding textures and ornamentation, wrap-around porches, second floor balconies, and three story towers.
Turning left at the corner, we are faced with Combs Hill. This hill got its name from the family that lived in the house that used to sit on your right, next to the canal. Billy Combs was a canal boat captain and later ran an ice business from this location. For many years this was the tallest hill in New Bremen. The hill has been graded to provide for the new bridge over the canal. Generations of New Bremen children can remember pedaling up Combs Hill.
We now turn left onto South Main Street. This land was part of the Vogelsang farm and later part of Vogelsangtown. It became a popular residential area after the late 1800s.
The business area of New Bremen was along North Main Street during the canal era. The business area gradually shifted to Monroe Street in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the large brick buildings were constructed. Businesses were also located along South Washington Street until the 1960s-1970s.
Ober Bremen or Upper Bremen was the area east of the canal. Ober Bremen dominated the local economy during the canal era. The mills were located along this side of the canal and the businesses attracted workers from other towns. There was a Catholic parish in Ober Bremen and a school and other cultural groups were present. In New Bremen the residents were all Protestant and German.
This ends the tour. We hope you have enjoyed it. …compiled by Genevieve Conradi