An old saloon, the ‘Woods of Glendale’ and local beer history: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Photos from Ridgewood Times archives/Greater Ridgewood Historical Society

Henry Stroh’s saloon stood at the corner of Woodward and Greene Avenues in Ridgewood. It was there as far back as 1898, and possibly earlier.

The Old Timer ran a photo of the saloon in the Dec. 11, 1986 issue of the Ridgewood Times. It’s believed the picture was taken in about 1910, and shows a woman believed to be Mrs. Stroh with her four children.

As the large sign on the front of the saloon states, Stroh’s saloon served Joseph Eppig’s Beer. He also sold “segars,” which was the old spelling of “cigars.”

The Joseph Eppig Brewery, which supplied the beer to Henry Stroh, was founded in 1888 by Joseph Eppig and Frank Ibert as “Eppig and Ibert.” Joseph Eppig, who had previously worked for his uncle, Leonhard Eppig, at his brewery at 22 George St. , worked his way up to brewmeister. He then left in 1888 and went into partnership with Frank Ibert. This lasted only a year, and Ibert went out on his own. Eppig, meanwhile, continued as the sole owner of his brewery.

Just as George Ehret used the picnic parks at North Beach (now LaGuardia Airport to build the volume of his Hellgate Brewery to the largest in the world in the 1890s, Eppig had visions of building a large summer resort at Idlewild Island in Jamaica Bay, where Joseph Eppig beer would be enjoyed by the patrons. He built the Idlewild Park Hotel and was planning on expanding it when, in 1905, the City of New York decided to dump garbage nearby. This ended the viability of operating the Idlewild Park Hotel as a summer resort. Today, Kennedy Airport occupies the site.

Joseph Eppig died in 1907, and his sons, Theodore and John, took over the operation of the business, with Theodore serving as manager and John the brewmeister. The Joseph Eppig Brewery went out of business in 1915.

Many long-lost picnic parks and hotels in our community, such as the Pfleghardt Hotel in Glendale, served Welz and Zerwick beer.

Picnic parks once lined many acres of Ridgewood and Glendale at the turn of the 19th century. They offered families a summer oasis to play and relax away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

One of the more popular picnic parks in Our Neighborhood was Schmidt’s Woods, a 26 acre park that was indeed the largest of its kind in the area.

Schmidt’s Woods occupied an area generally bounded by Myrtle Avenue, 83rd Street, Union Turnpike, 88th Street and Woodhaven Boulevard.

The land for Schmidt’s Woods was owned by John Welz Jr., Charles Zerwick and Henry Roth, the owners of Welz and Zerwick Brewery, which was located on the southeast corner of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues in Ridgewood.

The exterior of the Welz and Zerwick Brewery that once stood at the corner of Myrtle and Wyckoff Avenues in Ridgewood.

In 1897, they built a hotel on their property in Glendale, located near the present day intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Union Turnpike. They then leased the park to George Schmidt, the “woods” namesake.

George Schmidt was 49 years old and had emigrated to America from Germany in 1882. He and his wife, Philomina, had two children: Katherine, 10, and George, 8. They lived in the hotel and employed three porters to help run the park.

When George Schmidt signed the lease, it was with the understanding that only Welz and Zerwick Beer would be served in the park.

The park itself was entirely fenced in. There were swings for children, a substantial number of picnic tables and benches, baseball fields and a soccer field. To gain admission, you entered by a gate near the hotel.

Schmidt’s Woods was used primarily for family gatherings. Typically, a family would order an eighth-barrel of Welz and Zerwick lager for the lofty sum of $1. An attendant would deliver it to the family’s picnic table. Sometimes free pretzels were given out.

Apparently, the lease arrangement worked out well for both Welz and Zerwick, indirectly through its owners, and George Schmidt. Although Prohibition started in January 1920, Schmidt’s Woods stayed open throughout the 1925 summer season. It would be the last of the Glendale picnic parks to close.

Sources: The Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, 1986 Ridgewood Times.

* * *

If you have any remembrances or old photographs of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com. Any print photographs mailed to us will be carefully returned to you upon request.

More from Around New York