San Francisco Landmarks
When the The Bauer & Schweitzer Malting Company was designated a San Francisco landmark in 1981, it was the last brewing and malting operation remaining in North Beach, the last barrel malting factory west of the Mississippi, and one of only three such operations remaining within the United States.
Historically, North Beach had been residential mixed with some industry and a number of waterfront-centered enterprises. Brewing and malting were important industries. The site had been continuously occupied by brewers and maltsters since the Lyon Brewery occupied the 500 block of Chestnut in 1867.
In 1884, the Lyon Brewery was replaced by the Empire Malt House, operated by John Bauer and Joseph Schweitzer. In 1906, the Empire Malt House was renovated for Bauer and Schweitzer with equipment based on French designs from the 1860's. Following these renovations, the building was almost totally destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Reconstruction using reinforced concrete was completed in 1908.
Adapted from San Francisco Planning Commission Resolution 8865, 5 March 1981.
For the next twenty years, it was sometimes rented, often vacant. For a while, it was a television studio for the series Nash Bridges.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the building was converted into condominiums named North Beach Malt House.
Angelica Pence wrote of the conversion in the 15 June 2002 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Unlike the malt house's original tenants, who worked long hours in the steamy factory when the San Francisco Bay stretched inland between Telegraph and Russian hills, those moving into the reincarnated malt house will do so amid luxury.
Many of the units boast quintessential San Francisco views, from the Transamerica Pyramid to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Echoes of the past are everywhere.
Canvas murals hand painted by French artist William du Pont (circa 1930) - depicting the beer-making process from field to brewery - that once hung inside the house's tasting room now grace the walls of two of the lobbies.
Landscape architect Cliff Lowe likewise salvaged much of the malting equipment to use in his geometric courtyard, including two of the factory's six original grain silos.
One of the six-story hollow structures serves as an echoing, cathedral-like passageway into the landmark's lobby, while a 45-degree-angled flume carries water to a basalt lava stone fountain Lowe designed to mimic a pile of grain.
At night, birch trees, magnolias, Japanese boxwood shrubs and other neatly assembled plantings are illuminated by eight stanchions that once were attached to 12-foot-high roasting drums. Lowe refurbished and painted the nautical-like stacks candy apple red to serve as light fixtures in the courtyard.
"You see the details in the nuances," [head architect Clay] Fry explained. "This is an old warehouse that we turned into homes. But you never forget that it was first a malt house."