Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Beer Battle of 1933

In about 1910, Westchester Brewery constructed and opened a brewery on Sparks Avenue in the Village of Pelham. At the time, the brewery was on the outskirts of an undeveloped village with part of its five-acre premises, according to one account, located in the City of Mount Vernon. From 1910 until the fall of 1918, the brewery manufactured ice for commercial uses and brewed beer.

As the Prohibition movement gained momentum and ratification of the eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution seemed likely, the brewery sold its facilities to the Knickerbocker Ice Company. For a number of years the Knickerbocker Ice Company used the facilities for the manufacture of ice.

In 1921, the Village of Pelham adopted its first zoning ordinance. The area west of Wolfs Lane was designated as an area available for development. Only three years later, however, a Zoning Commission appointed by the Village recommended changes to the zoning ordinance that restricted much of the area west of Wolfs Lane to residential uses (although uses then existing were permitted to continue).

Eventually, the Knickerbocker Ice Company ended its operations at the site. The facility sat unused for some time.

In 1933, however, as it became increasingly apparent that the end of Prohibition was near, The Metropolis Brewing Company leased the facilities in preparation for the full operation of the plant to manufacture so-called "3.2 beer".

The great beer battle had begun. Metropolis argued, in effect, that operation of a brewery was an "existing use" and, thus, was permitted under the Village's zoning ordinances. The Village argued that such a use had been "abandoned" and, thus, was no longer a permitted use. Litigation ensued.

Eventually, the Village prevailed and Metropolis reportedly leased a facility in Brooklyn to brew its beer.

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