Albin Greiner House
by: chicago designslinger
[Albin Greiner House (1876) /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Albin Greiner was one of thousands of German immigrants who came to Chicago in the middle of the 19th century and made his mark by manufacturing a product that was in great demand in his day, and by building a house that happened to survive into the 21st century.
[Albin Greiner House, 1559 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Greiner was a malter. Malting is a process that involves taking a grain, mainly barley but sometimes wheat or rye, and soaking it in water for a few days. Then the wet mush is spread out on the floor of a warm room so it can germinate, then left to dry in a series of increasingly warmer room temperatures, before ending-up as the base product used to make any and all beers and ales. Greiner had started-out in the business in the mid-1860s with fellow German native Charles Streng. After dissolving their partnership in 1872, Greiner hooked-up with Anton Schuerle and opened a malt house in 1876 at what was then 316 Milwaukee Avenue near Erie Street. It was also in that year that Greiner built himself a house not far from the malt business, in a part of the city that was so sparsely populated it still had very much of the open prairie look to it.
[Albin Greiner House, Wicker Park National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Wicker Park was located on the outskirts of the city's northwestern border and because of its distance from the center of town had been spared in the fire of 1871. After the great conflagration a lot of people started to think that the farther they lived from the central city the better their chances were of surviving another massive flame consuming catastrophe and remote areas like Wicker Park became an attractive housing option. Grenier built his house out of brick even though it was outside the city's fire zone, and chose the popular Italianate style to decoratively trim-out the exterior. It wasn't much longer before other beer industry types began moving into the neighborhood - especially along the Greiner's Hoyne Avenue - building much larger and more substantial single family dwellings.
[Albin Greiner House, Wicker Park Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Although Greiner's fortunes increased as the years went on, even resulting in his taking a seat at the Chicago Board of trade and opening a brewery in 1889, he never left his modest two-story dwelling. After his death in 1893, Greiner's wife and daughters continued to live in the home for several more years and the house was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Albert Martin. The green-painted brick cottage with its original wood side porch and original street number artfully encased in the original stained glass transom window, is now the oldest surviving dwelling in the Wicker Park/ Bucktown neighborhood, and has kept Albin Greiner's name alive and well long after his malt houses have been lost to history.