The Hamm Legacy in St. Paul

By Joseph A. Taylor
Tile Heritage Foundation

According to legend Theodore Hamm, a butcher by trade who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1854, partnered with his friend, Andrew Keller, in a startup brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota and then staked all of his money on Keller, who left in the early 1860s to seek his fortune in California, leaving Hamm in charge of the brewery. 

Upon Keller’s untimely death in 1865, Hamm lost a friend and everything he’d invested, yet now had an operating brewery to support his wife and three children. He named the brewery the Theodore Hamm Brewing Company. The popularity of Hamm’s brew was truly astonishing. Within 10 years production had increased from 500 barrels a year to 5000, then by 1882 to 26,000 barrels! Hamm worked side by side with his eldest son William, who assumed the reins at the brewery after his father’s death in 1903. By this time Hamm’s beer had a national reputation.

The city of St. Paul, the state’s capital, had grown into a major mid-western metropolis by the turn of the last century. In 1914 a group of investors began construction of a major downtown department store at the corner of St. Peter and Sixth streets, but once the huge steel skeleton was mounted, progress gradually stalled as the United States became increasingly involved in World War I. 

At the end of the war William Hamm saw an   opportunity and purchased the abandoned project, hired local engineers and architects, Toltz, King & Day, who in turn chose the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Company of Terra Cotta, Illinois to provide the decorative cladding for the entire six stories above ground as well as the main lobby. The “pulsichrome” finish, with its subtle color variation adding visual attraction to the building’s surface, coupled with the repetitive sculptural features, resulted in an architectural marvel, the perfect location for the executive offices of Hamm’s Brewery.

* Wikipedia: Hamm’s Brewery
* Berry III, G.A. and Darling, Common Clay: A History of American Terra Cotta Corporation 1881-1966.

(Top Photo) “Pulsichrome” from the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Co.. 

(Bottom Photo) The Hamm Building, St. Peter and 6th streets, St. Paul, Minn. Photos by Joseph Taylor. 

Handmade Tile Association
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

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