Filed Under Industry

Gund Brewery

One of Cleveland's Most Influential Families Began with Beer

George Gund brought his business skills to Cleveland's competitive brewing industry in 1898. Through the years, his family prospered through their brewing, banking, and investments, creating a fortune that became a pillar of Cleveland philanthropy.

Brothers Martin and Michael Stumpf opened Cleveland’s first known brewery on Hamilton Street between Muirson (East 12th) and Canfield, just south of Lakeside Avenue. The proximity to rail service and ice from the winter lake made the area an ideal site for a brewery to supply local saloons (before bottled beer, local commercial distribution was the standard method of the times). During the next 15 years, the brothers split as partners but each continued brewing independently in the same near-east Hamilton Street neighborhood.

In 1859, Michael Stumpf sold his operation to the newly-organized Lyon Brewery, formed by Paul Kindsvater, a popular local saloonkeeper, and brewmaster Jacob Mall. By this time, Cleveland’s brewing industry was thriving. Like most breweries in the city, Lyon was operated by a German brewmaster. They produced the lagers preferred by Cleveland’s large Eastern European ethnic communities, replacing earlier common ales. The business and facility expanded rapidly and thrived into the 1890s as Mall’s leadership role was passed to his son-in-law. In 1896, in pursuit of greater production capacity, a new larger plant was built on Davenport Street.  In the mid-1800s, Davenport Street connected Canfield Street (East 14th) with Briggs Street (East 22nd) along the edge of the downtown bluff— about 70 feet above the rail tracks along the Lake Erie shore. While local competition was fierce, growing demand generally meant there was enough business to go around. However, a new challenge was emerging as consolidated national brewers threatened local brewers’ market shares.

Meanwhile, George F. Gund (b. 1855) grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he later worked as a banker and with his father in the John Gund Brewing Company. George Gund relocated to Seattle in 1890, bought a local brewery, and expanded it. In 1897, he moved to Cleveland and purchased and renamed Jacob Mall’s Lyon Brewery to The Gund Brewing Company. Amidst all the competition, Gund refocused his business model on the individual consumer and away from the traditional saloon distribution. He built a bottling plant, upgraded working conditions and methods, and packaged three-bottle cardboard cartons in lots of eight to distribute to homes near and far. Gund’s Crystal Lager satisfied thirsty Clevelanders. The brewery continued to thrive into the 20th century under George F. Gund’s leadership while he cultivated other business interests in beverages, banking, mining, insurance, and real estate. Gund died in 1916, leaving his chair to his son, George F. Gund II.

George F. Gund II arrived in Cleveland from Seattle having finished Harvard Business School and a banking position. He personalized his arrival with Gund’s "Clevelander" beer, which sold for the next few years. In early 1919, Ohio enacted statewide prohibition rules and Gund ceased brewing beer and transferred his reserve inventory to the Pilsner Brewing Company of Cleveland to exhaust the inventory of Gund beer. During Prohibition, the Gund family refocused business away from brewing towards real estate management, banking, and various other business endeavors including decaffeinated coffee, later sold to the Kellogg Corporation and re-branded as Sanka. In the process, George F. Gund II became one of Cleveland’s foremost bankers as Chairman of the Cleveland Trust Company. His sons maintained the family’s Cleveland presence with philanthropic efforts (The Gund Foundation) and professional sports interests for the next century.

Gund Realty continued to own the Davenport property throughout the Prohibition years. The pre- and post-Prohibition eras also saw constant tensions within the industry between large national brewing conglomerates and smaller local operations in cities throughout the country. With the repeal of Prohibition came a rebirth of the local brewing industry. Gund Realty leased the Davenport facility to the Sunset (later Sunrise) Brewing Company. The new managers renovated and resumed the reliance upon bottled and canned beer with emphasis as a shipping brewer. More federal legal challenges forced another ownership change and product evolution. Sunrise emerged with its premier brand Tip Top Beer by the end of the decade. In 1939, Sunrise Brewing, still operating at the Davenport facility, was renamed Tip Top Brewing Company. More controversy ensued into the first half of the 1940s with rumors of the company’s connection to organized crime. By utilizing wartime rationing regulation loopholes, Tip Top Brewery added hard liquor sales to their beer business to gain market advantages in Cleveland saloons.

In 1944, Tip Top Brewing was sold to the Brewing Corporation of America (Carling Beer) and brewing operations ceased on Davenport Avenue. The building continued to be utilized as a beer and beverage warehousing and distributing facility for the next few decades. From the mid-1970s to the 2010s, the City of Cleveland and the Pennsylvania Railroad, along with several local banking and mortgage agencies and developers carried out property transfers, demolitions, and rezoning initiatives of the Davenport and neighboring properties as urban planning and development transformed the district.

The Davenport Avenue roadway was removed between East 14th and 16th Streets. The area once defined by Stumpf, Lyon, Gund, Sunrise, and finally Tip Top brewing operations is now occupied by Cleveland’s WKYC television studios and the Cleveland FBI headquarters building. The location that played a part in more than a century of the brewing industry’s evolution from a local to a global scale also marked the long arc of Gund family's business and family fortunes, which still resonate in Cleveland today.

Images

The Gund Brewery
The Gund Brewery View from Lake Erie looking toward the east, the Gund Brewery had access to rail service on its upper level tracks. This enabled distribution of bottled beer to a wider market. Source: Western Reserve Historical Society Date: ca. 1910
Cleveland Street Map, 1881
Cleveland Street Map, 1881 The corner of Murisson and Davenport Streets marks the location of the Jacob Mall Lyon Brewing facility. Source: Cleveland Historic Maps, Cleveland Public Library Date: 1881
The Sunrise Brewery on Davenport Ave.
The Sunrise Brewery on Davenport Ave. The brewery facility expanded several times since its original construction on Davenport Street. By 1935, it had reached its full capacity. Source: Cleveland Press Collection, Special Collections, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University Date: February 20, 1935
Gund Brewing Co. Facility
Gund Brewing Co. Facility Viewed from the lakeshore, Gund Brewery stood on Cleveland's eastside bluff. The rail line ran behind the building above the Lake Erie shore level. Source: Western Reserve Historical Society Date: ca. 1910
The 1898 Cleveland Street Map
The 1898 Cleveland Street Map A comparison of the brewery facility with the 1881 map illustrates the facility expansion earlier in the 1890s. George Gund II bought the brewery in 1898. Source: Cleveland Historic Maps, Cleveland Public Library Date: 1898
Gund's Crystal Lager Advertisement
Gund's Crystal Lager Advertisement Local newspaper ads promoted bottled beer for home consumption introduced by the Gund Brewery around 1900. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: September 28, 1904
Promoting the Consumer
Promoting the Consumer Constant advertising portrayed the competition of Cleveland's several brewers in the early 20th century. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: July 10, 1906
Seasonal Beer Advertisement
Seasonal Beer Advertisement Routine advertising touted local beer varieties. Bock beer in early spring made an annual appearance. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: April 10, 1914
The Sunrise Brewery
The Sunrise Brewery Following Prohibition, the Gund Brewery facility was transferred to Sunset, then Sunrise Brewing Company. The corner of East 14th Street and Davenport Street is visible in the foreground. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1935
Gund's Final Brew
Gund's Final Brew George Gund III succeeded his father with Clevelander Beer featuring Moses Cleaveland. "A Wonderful City, A Wonderful Beer". Date: ca. 1917
Tip Top Beer Advertisement
Tip Top Beer Advertisement Following prohibition, the Sunrise Brewery (1933-1944) featured Tip Top Beer for local home consumption. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: July 9, 1941
Alleyway at Gund Brewery
Alleyway at Gund Brewery Nearing its 80th birthday, this 1974 photograph depicts Jacob Mall's facility during its final days on Davenport Avenue. Source: Cleveland Press Collection, Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University Library. Date: January 2, 1974

Location

1401 Lakeside Ave, Cleveland, OH 44114

Metadata

Jim Lanese, “Gund Brewery,” Cleveland Historical, accessed April 13, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/998.