- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an era when beer was as local as fresh baked bread, a German immigrant served his brew to presidents.

Now Christian Heurich’s grandson is leading efforts to preserve his grandfather’s opulent Victorian mansion, known as the Brewmaster’s Castle. It now operates as a museum, but Heurich House Foundation must raise almost $250,000 to keep the building from being sold and converted to a restaurant, office building or foreign embassy.

“Christian Heurich dominated the Washington area brewing scene. He ran the brewery from 1873 until he died at 102 in 1945,” said Gary Heurich, president of the foundation, which acquired the building in 2003.

Christian Heurich sold beer and fermented apple cider to the White House as late as 1918. His Senate brand beers, ales and lagers were among the few local brands to bounce back after prohibition was repealed in 1933.

“Somebody had to brew the beer for the federal workers, so this became known as the house that beer built,” said Gary Heurich.

Located near Dupont Circle in Northwest, the 12,000-square-foot, 31-room mansion resembles the Bavarian castles where Christian Heurich’s parents worked before their deaths in 1856. By 1866, Mr. Heurich, then 23, had immigrated to the United States, settling in the District six years later.

Constructed of concrete and steel, with masonry interior walls, the mansion was the first fireproof home built in the nation’s capital.

Though the facade of the 112-year-old Victorian mansion has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969, Gary Heurich and other preservationists are still concerned about its interior, still furnished with items the old brewer bought on steamship trips to Europe.

“It is the story of an immigrant success,” said James M. Vaughan, vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The mansion was completed in 1894, and the walls of some rooms are decorated with bronze fleur-de-lis.

Ceiling canvases, painted by craftsmen who worked at the White House and Capitol, still display their vivid pastels. The boudoir and formal dining room are filled with French revival furnishings. Porcelain plumbing fixtures installed before the turn of the 20th century still glisten in the master bath.

Hand-carved mantels frame the 15 marble and onyx fireplaces in the home. Their bronze-plated, cast iron fireboxes are still polished, unused because Christian Heurich feared fire. Three fires at his 20th Street breweries prompted him to build a fireproof brewery in 1894 on the site of what is now the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The house was the home of the Historical Society of Washington from 1956 until 2003. The Heurich House Foundation arranged a five-year $5.5 million loan to prevent a restaurateur from buying the home, selling off its furnishings and turning it into a pricey Dupont Circle eatery.

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