George A. Weiss House
by: chicago designslinger
[George A. Weiss House (1886) Harald M. Hansen, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
1886 was a good year for George Weiss. His beer and malting business was raking in the dough which provided him with the cash to buy a city lot in an emerging Chicago neighborhood, soon to be known as the Gold Coast. Weiss' architect Harald M. Hansen designed a home for the brewer that stood-out in a community of stand-out architecture, with its pink-blushed Georgia stone and crocket-lined roof.
[George A. Weiss House, 1428 N. State Parkway, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Just three years before construction on the house began, Weiss had made another major purchase. The George A. Weiss Malting and Elevating Company acquired a large piece of property on Ashland Avenue on the city's near west side, where George built a large new malt house and elevator. His business and holdings grew, and the plant became the largest of its kind, in what was then considered the western United States. By 1889, the Weiss company was doing so well that George expanded into the production of beer and opened the American Brewing Company on the Ashland property. Then in 1896 he secured $800,000 in financing through bond-backed loans from the National Bank of Illinois where George Schneider, the bank's president, just happened to be George Weiss' father-in-law. All the capital stock of the Weiss company was then placed in George's hands as sole trustee. Unfortunately he used the cash infusion to speculate in other business ventures, where investments were kept in his name if they were successful, but transferred to the company if they were not.
[George A. Weiss House, Gold Coast National Historic District, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
1896 was also not a great year for Chicago's beer makers. A beer war was going on between the competing interests of Chicago brewers and their nearby competitors in Milwaukee and St. Louis. Although lots of beer was being consumed, prices kept dropping in a shake-out maneuver to see which of the large brewers would be able to take the heat and remain standing in the kitchen. George was caught up in the battle to survive, and everything started falling apart when he couldn't keep up with the payments on the $800,000. Because the loan was so large, it pushed the bank into insolvency leaving bond holders empty handed and mad as hell, and landing George in court. On February 28, 1899 a judge put the American Brewery and George A. Weiss Malting and Elevating Company into receivership and George began liquidating personal assets to cover the losses. That September he sold the summer estate he had built in Lake Geneva in 1893 to fellow Chicago brewer Edward Uihlein, and by mid-1900 the pink marble, many crocketed house on State Parkway was no longer in the hands of George A. Weiss.