Constans v. Schmidt: End of the North Star Brewery and Birth of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co.

Constans v. Schmidt: End of the North Star Brewery and Birth of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co.
Schmidt Brewery c. 1905 MNHS

The business partnership between William Constans and Jacob Schmidt began on August 4, 1884 when Schmidt purchased a fifty-percent interest in the North Star Brewery. With this purchased he replaced Reinhold Koch as part-owner of the brewery located down-creek from Swede Hollow at the foot of St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff.

Unfortunately, over time the relationship between the men grew increasingly acrimonious. Their association ended with the two sitting across from each other as plaintiff and defendant in a series of civil court cases held between 1899 and 1901.

However, to understand how they got to that bitter end point, we need to travel back to 1888. That year Constans, a noted local citizen and prominent St. Paul grocer, wanted to leave the brewery business. He came to an agreement with Schmidt before he left. Under its terms, each man would own half of the North Star Brewery complex. Schmidt became sole owner of the brewery business and agreed to pay monthly rent for an indefinite period at the cost of $100 per month to Constans for use of the second half of the compound.

The agreement continued without significant issue until 1896. Little had been done to improve the over forty-year-old brewery, and Schmidt felt the buildings had become dilapidated to the point of no longer being usable. To remain both a competitive business and safe working environment for its employees, the North Star Brewery needed a new barley house, malt house floor, elevator, dry kiln, and other necessary improvements. Schmidt asked Constans to pay for half of the cost of updates. He refused – unless Schmidt agreed to a rent increase to $150 per month.

Schmidt declined the offer and had the repairs, totaling $3224.57 in work, done anyway. He held back future rent payments from Constans to recoup a fifty-percent portion of the improvement costs.

Arguing he shouldn’t be held financially accountable for repairs he never agreed to have done, Constans sued. In November 1899 Judge Lewis ruled in his favor, awarding him the sum of $1109.62 in back rent. Schmidt appealed, and in July 1900 a local court, understanding the two men’s business relationship was broken beyond repair, ruled the buildings were to be sold at auction. The judge called for the business partners to split the money from the sale —with Schmidt receiving an additional $3224.57 to offset what he paid in repair costs.

Constans appealed and the case eventually reached the Minnesota Supreme Court. On February 6, 1901, the high court ruled in his favor, reversing the lower court's earlier decision. Schmidt soon after relinquished the building to his former business partner to settle the claim against him.

A week earlier, on January 31, 1901, a local paper announced Jacob Schmidt had purchased the former Stahlmann Cave Brewery on West Seventh Street for $75,000. He soon after moved his business from the location near Phalen Creek to the West End brewery. On June 27, 1905, the former North Star Brewery, unoccupied for years, burned to the ground. The property wasn't insured, and the financial loss was calculated at approximately $3000.

The complex was never rebuilt.


Bibliography

  • Brueggeman, Gary J. "Beer Capital of the State - -St. Paul’s Historic Family Breweries." Master Brewers Association (blog). 2004. https://www.mbaa.com/districts/stPaulMpls/about/Documents/DistrictHistory.pdf.
  • Hoverson, Doug. Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • The Minneapolis Tribune. "Old Time Brewery Burns." June 28, 1905, 2.
  • The Saint Paul Globe. "Judgment for Constans." November 19, 1899, 3.
  • The Saint Paul Globe. "Schmidt Buys a Brewery." January 31, 1901, 10.
  • The Saint Paul Globe. "Six Interesting Decisions Were Handed Down Yesterday." February 7, 1901, 6.