Art installation offers rare look inside Bushwick’s historic William Ulmer Brewery

April 13, 2023

Image courtesy of Aaron Asis

A new immersive art installation in Brooklyn lets visitors inside New York City’s first landmarked brewery building before it undergoes a major restoration. Located in the abandoned William Ulmer Brewery in Bushwick, the experience by artist  Aaron Asis, dubbed Ulmer: Conveyance, invites guests to tour the “raw and dormant state” of the brewery through several installations and performances both on the upper levels and the rarely accessed basement levels. The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place on April 15, 16, and 22 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Accompanying the art installation will be an ambient sound and light experience in the brewery’s lager storage subbasement located 30 feet below the building. Written by Justin Rivers, Conveyance: Below includes spoken word performances by Brandon Thomas Martin and Jon Noto with musical performances by Danny Mark Asis and Joshua Kopit.

Once submerged in the sub-basement, visitors will hear the voices of Brewer William Ulmer and the building’s architect Theobold Englehardt. As guests travel through the beer vaults, they will listen as Ulmer and Englehardt discuss the site’s 1885 expansion, according to Untapped New York.

“Immersive public art has a profound ability to change the way we see ourselves in the world — and this new work at the William Ulmer Brewery is a rare opportunity to see ourselves as part of the past, present, and future of a seldom experienced piece of New York City history,” Asis said.

The art experience allows guests to see the rough interior of the historic landmark before it undergoes a major restoration this summer. New York based architecture firm DXA Studio has been tasked with giving the brewery new life and will restore the building in a two-phase process.

As part of a recently approved rezoning for the building, the top four floors will become apartments, with four floors of commercial space on its ground and cellar levels, according to Yimby.

The process will begin with a restoration of the building’s exterior, which includes a new roof with a “copper-clad one-story gable-formed” penthouse, according to a press release. The use of copper is inspired by the large copper vats that are used in the brewing process.

For the interior, the design team will work to retain most of the original building’s features, including intricately designed timber posts and cast-iron columns that can be found throughout. The project includes new hardwood floors and a restoration of the brewery’s decorative tin ceilings.

Image courtesy of DXA Studio

Rendering courtesy of DXA Studio

Built between 1872 and 1890, the William Ulmer Brewery complex is made up of four separate buildings—an office, brewhouse, engine-machine house, and a stable-storage house. An adjacent building that served as the office for the brewery was converted into a two-family mansion; it hit the market for $4 million in 2020.

The Ulmer Brewery was one of 45 breweries that were built in Bushwick during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The brewery was the site of a tragic event on October 30, 1871, during its construction. Three workers were digging out beer vaults for the new brewery when the surrounding dirt and sand began to shift and eventually caved in, trapping one of the three workers who ended up losing his life.

After prohibition was enacted in 1920, all of Bushwick’s breweries ceased operation. The Ulmer family sold the property once the Volstead Act was enacted, and since then the brewery has undergone numerous changes in ownership. The property received landmark status in 2010 despite sitting vacant for decades.

The William Ulmer Brewery is located at 81 Beaver Street. Admission is free. Register for the event here.


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