ST. LOUIS • The former schoolhouse in the center of Anheuser-Busch’s sprawling brewery grounds that once housed the offices of Gussie Busch and four other brewery leaders is taking on a new use, this time as a museum showcasing more than 400 artifacts.
A-B archivists have spent the past eight months transforming the ground floor of the three-story Old Schoolhouse at 721 Pestalozzi Street into a museum filled with historic and seldom-seen objects.
Visitors can view advertising from decades past, Budweiser bottles and cans as they evolved through the ages and a whale oil lamp workers once used to light their way in the caves beneath the brewery grounds.
Multiple examples of the unusual promotional items from the brewer’s early years are on display in the 3,500 square feet of space, including cufflinks, pocket knives and cork pulls emblazoned with the capital letter “A” and eagle brewery logo.
A piece of history many employees may remember is a wooden time clock nearly the size of a washing machine equipped with a large metal wheel with employees’ numbers on a dial. The time clocks made by IBM were used to clock employees’ work hours from the 1910s to the mid-1980s.
The museum will open to the public on Monday. It will be one stop on a new $25 tour that also includes visits to the brewery’s other two National Historic Landmark buildings, the Brew House and the Budweiser Clydesdale stables.
The free brewery tour that’s been available for decades with beer samples at the end will still be offered. Last year, 360,000 visitors took the complimentary tour. As with the free tour, the museum tour comes with complimentary beer, in addition to a commemorative glass.
The renovated space also includes a room with seating for 30 designated as the brewer’s beer school, and a beermaster tour room for visitors.
Tracy Lauer, A-B’s manager of archives, said many of the items on display at the museum — some of which were acquired from collectors and some that were donated — have never been shown to the public and have remained in storage at the brewery’s 3,000-square-foot climate-controlled storage room beneath the Tour Center.
About 10 percent of the brewery’s archived materials are showcased, a relatively high percentage compared with most other museums that show a smaller fraction of their holdings at a given time, Lauer said.
“It’s definitely a dream come true for us to bring things out of storage, showcase them and let consumers see them,” said Lauer, who joined A-B’s archives staff 16 years ago.
The St. Louis brewery, which became the U.S. headquarters for Belgium-based A-B InBev after the sale in 2008 of A-B to InBev, has a staff of four employees who oversee historical artifacts that date to the 1800s.
Marble busts of the brewer’s founders, Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch, greet visitors in the foyer of the Old Schoolhouse.
Several Busch family heirs attended school at the 147-year-old former Lyon School building.
The brewery acquired the building in 1907 and used it as its corporate offices until the One Busch Place office building was constructed nearby in 1982.
August Busch III was the last CEO to have his office in the Old Schoolhouse, and in recent years it has been used for meeting space for brewery staff.
The brewery’s architectural features and brewery industry history are highlighted in dozens of exhibits.
In one exhibit, visitors can hear an audio recording of August Busch Jr. making a speech on the night Prohibition was repealed, April 7, 1933.
In another room, advertisements touting some of the 25 products the brewer made during Prohibition, including grape soda and ice cream, are shown.
The oldest artifact on display is the Bavarian Brewery Tin lithograph, which depicts a scene of the brewery and was created sometime between 1869 and 1875.
The Bavarian Brewery, which opened in 1852, would later become A-B after Eberhard Anheuser took control of the brewery in 1860.
Highlighting Anheuser-Busch history is a way to soften some of the lingering resentment some consumers and St. Louisans may still harbor about the sale of the legacy U.S. brewer to a Belgium-based multinational corporation, said one marketing expert.
“They’ve used heritage branding as part of their branding forever, but there’s a portion of consumers who say they’re not an American company anymore,” said Eric Rhiney, an assistant professor of marketing management at Webster University’s George Herbert Walker School of Business.
“This just demonstrates where they come from.”
A-B has made several recent changes and additions to its local tours, including adding a Biergarten in August 2013 that visitors can stop by before or after a brewery tour.
Last year, A-B added a new fee-based tour at the brewery that gives visitors a bottle of beer brewed that day as part of the $10 tour.
The free brewery tour was also shortened to 40 minutes instead of 70 minutes, in response to consumer feedback, according to Julia Mize, A-B’s vice president of experiential marketing. Nearly 570,000 people visited A-B’s flagship brewery last year.
“Overall visitation increased in 2014 — in part due to demand for our newest programs and growing popularity of the Biergarten — as A-B continues to attract visitors locally and from out of town,” spokeswoman Lisa Derus said.
Lisa Brown • 314-340-8127
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