George Lauer immigrated to America in 1823. Upon landing at Baltimore, Md., he was poor, having just had enough money to pay the passage across the ocean for him and family. The journey was made in a sailing vessel and required three months. He immediately proceeded to Reading, Berks County, where a married daughter, Mrs. Sprenger, resided; and shortly afterward he settled at Womelsdorf and started the business of manufacturing beer in limited quantities. He carried on the business for three years and then located at Reading, where he established a small brewery on Chestnut street near Third, on a rented lot (which he afterward purchased from Marks John Biddle, the attorney for the Penn’s, in 1833), similar to the brewery at Womelsdorf, which had a capacity of five barrels, and was soon increased to ten barrels on account of the increasing demand for his product. There were other breweries at Reading at this time, but the product was of a different character. In 1831 he added the manufacture of porter and ale; and he carried on the enlarged plant until 1835, when his two sons, George and Frederick, became his successors.
Frederick Lauer was the principal brewer at Reading for nearly fifty years from 1835 to 1882. He was born in the town of Gleisweiler, Rhenish Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 14, 1810, and while a boy accompanied his father to America in 1823. He was educated in pay schools at Womelsdorf and Reading, and while growing to manhood learned the business of brewing under the tutoring of his father. He assisted his father until 1835, when he and his brother George became the owners of the plant. The brothers continued as partners for several years, when his brother George retired and removed to Pottsville, where he carried on the same business. The younger brother, as the sole owner, enlarged the brewery and extended the business gradually until he came to send his beer, porter and ale throughout the county and into the adjoining counties. The brewery was situated on Chestnut Street below Third. He established a second plant on North Third Street, beyond Walnut, in 1866; also constructing a large vault in a solid bed of limestone, and sinking an artesian well to the depth of 2,200 feet, which for many years were considered great curiosities at Reading, and the well was then one of the few deep wells in the United States. He was engaged in the business until shortly before his death. He died in 1883, at the age of seventy-three years. He was married to Mary Reiff Guldin, daughter of Peter Guldin, in 1838, and they had two sons, George Frederick and Franklin Pierce. The mother died in October, 1891. After her death 1891, George Frederick Lauer, one of Mary’s sons and chairman of the Lauer Brewing Co., erected an elegant mansion which fronted on South Third, at Chestnut. Not long after the turn of the century, the mansion passed to George’s brother, Franklin Pierce Lauer (born the day President Franklin Pierce was elected).
Below: Third and Chestnut Mansion.
Franklin Pierce Lauer was born in Reading Nov. 2, 1852. He received his preliminary education in the common schools, which he attended until 1866, when he and his brother were sent to Germany for their advanced education, and they remained three years, spending two years in the institutions at Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart, Germany, and one year at Lausanne, Switzerland. He directed his studies more especially toward the scientific manufacture of beer, porter and ale for the purpose of qualifying himself to take charge of his father’s breweries upon his return home. While at Lausanne he showed great proficiency in music, and though still a boy the vestry of the French Lutheran Church elected him as the organist, which position he filled.
Upon returning home his father placed him in charge of the two breweries as brew master and he displayed great skill in the production of malt liquors of a superior character. He discharged the duties of this responsible position with increasing success for twelve years, until 1882, when his father retired, and he organized the Lauer Brewing Company, of which he became the manager and principal owner. In August, 1891, he made an extended tour of three months through the principal countries of Europe. In 1874 Mr. Lauer married Amelia Dora Heberle (daughter of William Heberle), by whom he had six children: Florence, who married William Y. Landis, of Reading; Carl Franklin; and four who died in youth.
Franklin remained at the mansion until 1923 at which time his daughter, Florence (Mrs. William) Landis, moved in who remained there until around 1923 at which time Around 1929, Peter Lysczek bought the property. A year later, while the family was away, fire broke out in the tower. Severe damage resulted, much of it from water. At this time it was decided to convert the 28-room mansion to an apartment complex. Mr. Lysczek erected a structure at the rear of the home to accommodate his Reading Bottling Works. By 1960, Peter Lysczek’s bottling works had outgrown the facilities at 3rd and Chestnut, so the property was sold to an auto-renting agency and very soon thereafter, the mansion disappeared.
Franklin Pierce operated the brewery for many years. The brewery survived the prohibition years but eventually succumbed to the wrecking ball. In October, 1942, the brewery at the Northwest corner of Third and Walnut Streets was demolished. The only structure remaining from the former Lauer complex at (and near) Third and Walnut is the old Lauer mansion at 235-237 Walnut St.