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What’s the story behind the building that houses Front Street Brewery?

Ben Steelman

You were right to guess that the building at 9 N. Front St. has been around awhile. Sources list its construction date as either 1883 or 1900, depending on whom you ask.

This particular address ,however,  has been a commercial location since at least the Civil War. Press clips note that Thomas H. Wright opened a hat at 9 North Front in 1870, replacing an earlier business operated by “Col. Jno. H. Anderson.” A string of dry goods stores occupied the space until 1895, when Katz & Polvogt launched a dry goods business there.

The following year, C.W. Polvogt had apparently bought out Katz, as the business was now advertising as Polvogt & Co., advertising dress goods, carpents, cloaks, spreads, umbrellas and underwear.

The building was destroyed in a massive fire on March 4, 1897, which at one point threatened to consume the entire block. Property owner Samuel Behrends announced plans to rebuild on the site, and Polvogt was advertising his grand reopening there  by September 1897.

In November 1897, Dr. N.H. Culbreth, a dentist who had practiced in Wilmington for a decade, moved his office into rooms above Polvogt’s store.

In 1900, the Wilmingotn Dispatch reported that Polvogt had just opened “the largest carpet room in the State,” a slogan that Polvogt would repeat in ads foryears.

Polvogt’s was replaced by “The Little Store,” which moved from 114 Market St. to 9 N. Front in October 1906.This was in turn replaced by J.M. Solky in 1913, proud purveyer of Kuppenheimer suits.

The Behrends building was again struck by fire in 1922 and went through several more commercial tenants. In 1929, it was the showroom for Charles M. Stieff, a piano and musical instrument dealer who also sold Crosley radios.

In 1931, Foy, Roe & Co. — which had opened in 1922 on Princess Street — moved into the vacant space at 9 N. Front. The Foy was Norwood Leslie Foy; the Roe was J.C. Roe, who served 20 years on the New Hanover County Board of Education and was also chairman of the board of James Walker Memorial Hospital. The store, which dealt in menswear (a women’s department was later added  upstairs) remained a downtown Wilmington institution into the late 1980s. In 1948, Roe bought the building and lot from heirs of the Behrends estate.

John McLatchy acquired the space in July 1994 and announced plans to launch Front Street Brewery — actually, a micro-brewery and restaurant. The business formally opened in May 1995. McLatchy closed the business over the Memroial Day weekend in 2006 and put it up for sale. It reopened under new management later that year.

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One Response to “ What’s the story behind the building that houses Front Street Brewery?”

  1. On June 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm Tom Parks wrote:

    I believe the photo of Brown’s Dept. store that may or may not still hang in the front seating area at FSB dates from closer to 1883.
    From our demolition during the conversion from Foy &; Roe to FSB, you could also see that the building had burned on at least two occasions. Another interesting note is that the foundation is almost entirely ballast stone from Europe. The building has a lot of stories to tell.

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