Brewer And Bottler Brockhaus Built Fine Homes On Poplar Street, Cedar Street

Thursday, August 11, 2022 - by John Wilson

John R. and Matilda Brockhaus had a city view from their spacious bungalow at the north end of Cedar Street. Prior to that they had built a home at 205 Poplar St. - both on Cameron Hill.

John R. Brockhaus, Jr., like his close friend and business associate Charles Reif, hailed from Cincinnati. They both were from German families. Brockhaus married Matilda Mardorf. Their children, who were raised on Cameron Hill, were Elsie, Harry E. and Albert. 

When they first arrived, the family lived for several years in a house on Frazier Avenue at the corner of Barton Avenue in North Chattanooga. They built the Poplar Street house around 1899.  

Brockhaus joined with Charles Reif in operation of the Chattanooga Brewery on Broad Street not far from the foot of Cameron Hill. They operated it until it was closed by Prohibition. Then they turned to "near beer" and soft drinks. Brockhaus had the Welch-Ade Bottling Company and was treasurer of the People's Building and Loan Corporation. While the brewery was still open, Albert Brockhaus was a brewer there and Harry a cashier.

J.H. Brockhaus loved music and was an active member of the Chattanooga Maennerchor and the Chattanooga Turnverein. He was a charter member of the Elks Lodge.

Brockhaus in 1913 built the first house that was in the 200 block at the very north end of Cedar Street. This was just behind the family's earlier Poplar Street home.

The new house was a little higher on Cameron Hill and, from the back porch, provided an excellent view of the nearby Tennessee River and downtown and beyond. The bungalow-style home had a spacious front porch with rock pillars. There were dormers on either side of the roof and two tall chimneys, including a living room one made of rock. There was a driveway off Cedar Street that went around behind the house and came out on Second Street. The house was featured in the 1917 edition of Art Works of Chattanooga.

The 200 blocks of Poplar and Cedar were at the section known as Reservoir Hill since an early water reservoir had been there since the Civil War days.

The 205 Poplar St. house was sold to George Killian. 

Gale Weidner Fleming lived as a child at 200 Poplar and she knew the Brockhaus home well. She recalled, "At the corner of Cedar and Second Street was an especially beautiful home with a large formal garden in the back yard that was very well maintained. I was told that the family that lived there owned the Busch distributing company. I do not ever remember seeing the family members, but I did often see their “house boy”. He was a well dressed young man, who wore black slacks and a white jacket. I spent many hours in that garden. The “house boy” always knew I was in the garden, but he never spoke to me… however, I always saw him watching me. He knew that I never touched the flowers or put anything in the koi pond. 

"The garden was planted in beautifully maintained rows with pathways between the rows. That garden is the first place I ever saw a pond with live multi-colored fish (that I now know were koi). There were plants in the pond as well. I remember the water lilies and some upright taller plants that I didn’t recognize… maybe even cattails and other plants that sometime had blooms. To an eight or nine year old girl it was a wonderland.

"I don’t ever remember going into the front yard of the house (I believe there was an entrance that faced 2nd Street and another that faced Cedar Street… as well as the patio doors). I entered the garden discreetly from the side and at the back of the garden. I remember roses but the flower I remember the most were the rows of peonies in the spring. There were peonies in several colors, but the big pink blooms are the ones I remember most. Forty years ago when I moved to the house where I now live is the first time I ever had peonies of my own. I have been here 40 years and my peonies never fail to take me back to the days I played in the garden on Cameron Hill.

"I often wondered about what the inside of the home could be like. It was a single-story stucco house (possibly with arched windows in the attic) in a Mediterranean or Spanish style with lots of arched windows and French doors opening onto the patio above the garden. The clay tiled roof was massive.The house was always well lit with sparkling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling of several rooms that I could see from the garden. I never ventured onto the patio that was up a few stairs from the garden area, but that didn’t keep me from wondering about the people and what life was like in that big beautiful home… that beautiful home that was given way for the Olgiati Bridge (there was a deep ravine across Cedar Street for the house… that ravine became the area over which the new bridge started… the first concrete was poured while I still lived on Poplar Street. I can see that same concrete when I drive under the bridge on Riverfront Parkway."

The Brockhaus family was still at 200 Cedar St. when he died in July 1936 at the age of 70. He had been in business in Chattanooga for almost 50 years.

Matilda Mardorf Brockhaus was still at 200 Cedar when she died in April 1949 at the age of 83. She was born in August 1866 and came with her husband to Chattanooga in 1891.

Harry E. Brockhaus had moved to Detroit. However, Albert C. Brockhaus and Miss Elsie Brockhaus were still in town. 

Miss Elsie lived in the beloved home on Cedar Street until the bulldozers came.

 

 


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