Gertrude Hohenadel 1835- 1907 (niece of East Falls’ brewer Jacob)

This Hohenadel’s history — culled from various online geneology sites — crosses paths with “our” Hohenadels here in East Falls (scroll down), and illuminates the struggles and hardships early generations endured, working towards the American Dream.

Sources were traced whenever possible but unfortunately most of these facts below remain undocumented. Grain of salt.   — EFHS

Gertrude Höhenadel (the younger) was born November of 1835 in the town of Mörlenbach in Darmstadt Hesse, Germany to Jacob Höhenadel (b. 1796) and Gertrud Rech (b. Oct 3, 1815 in Mörlenbach, Germany). She immigrated to Philadelphia in 1853 at the age of 18, was the daughter of a successful tavern-keeper and was also a member of the Höhenadel family consortium of Philadelphia taverns, hotels and breweries. Her mother Gertrud Rech Höhenadel (the elder) and brothers are documented as immigrating to America on the S.S. Silas Greenman which sailed from LeHavre, France and arrived in New York Harbor on December 21, 1854. It is not known when Gertrude’s father Jacob (born July 26, 1796) sailed to America, but it is most likely that he arrived in the late 1840s or early 1850s. By the 1860s, Gertrude’s family was well-established in the city of Philadelphia. Gertude (the younger) had at least two brothers named Jacob and Johann who also came to America. Jacob was born in 1839 and Johann in 1845.

Gertrude Höhenadel (the younger) and her future husband Wilhelm Biermaas most likely met through the Philadelphia hospitality business since Wilhelm was a baker and Gertrude the daughter of a tavern-keeper. Wilhelm Biermaas had been born on December 4, 1814/1818 in the town of Holzheim in Prussian Germany to parents from the town of Nassau. Wilhelm was Catholic. According to his naturalization papers, Wilhelm immigrated to America around the year 1834 when he was 21 years old. Wilhelm found work as a baker in Philadelphia. After five years of residency in the United States, Wilhelm filed his Declaration of Intention for his American citizenship with the Quarter Sessions Court of Philadelphia on April 20, 1860. 

Gertrude Höhenadel and Wilhelm Biermaas married around the year 1854 and established a household at 1216 N 12th Street, which included Gertrude’s parents, her brother John Höhenadel (a baker), Joseph Höhenadel (a possible cousin from Prussia and a baker) and another baker named John Hoffman. The newly married couple gave birth to daughter Elizabeth Gertrude Biermaas in November of 1855. They would also become the parents of John Biermaas who was born circa 1860 and would become a baker as well and Gertrude Biermaas who was born in April of 1867 and died one year later on Dec 15, 1868. The Wilhelm Biermaas family ran a large bakery out of their home which was mostly staffed by members of the Biermaas and Höhenadel families 

Gertrude’s mother Gertrude Rech Hohenadel (the elder) died in May of 1871 and was buried May 17, 1871 in New Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia in an 8-grave lot purchased by Gertrude and her husband William Biermaas. Gertrude Hohenadel (the elder’s) age is listed as 36 years old on her burial record, but she was 56 at the time of her death, with the 36 most likely being a transcription mistake. Her father Jacob Hohenadel died on August 4, 1875 at the age of 79 and 11 days. He was interred along with his wife in New Cathedral Cemetery, Section D, Range 4, Lot. 22. There is no gravestone marking their resting place. New Cathedral Cemetery is located at 3801 N. 2nd Street in Philadelphia with phone number (215) 634-3212. 

Wilhelm Biermaas, or William Bierman as he is known on his death record, lived to the very old age of 92 which was almost unheard of in the 1800s. He died of apoplexy at the age of 92 on May 15, 1905 and was interred at New Cathedral Cemetery on May 18, 1905 with his Hohenadel in-laws. His wife Gertrude (the younger) died at the age of 71 of valvular heart disease at the residence of her daughter at 7th and Swarthmore Ave. in Folsom, Pennsylvania. She died on March 20, 1907. Her funeral service was held at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church at 5th and Girard Avenue at 11:30 am. She was interred at New Cathedral Cemetery, Section D, Range 4, Lot. 22 with her husband and parents on May 23, 1907. There is no gravestone to mark the Biermaas/Hohenadel graves. 

Similar to the William Biermaas family, the Höhenadel family built an even greater legacy in the hospitality culture of Philadelphia and even had a street named after them. While Gertrude Höhenadel’s father was a tavern-keeper, other close members of the family also started successful businesses in Philadelphia. Gertrude’s brother John Höhenadel was both a baker and a hotel keeper on Queen Street. He married a woman named Wilhelmina and raised two sons and two daughters. Another relative named John Höhenadel (b. 1823 and very likely Gertrude’s cousin) founded the lucrative City Park Hotel and saloon business at a busy railroad terminus and at the entrance of the lovely recreational Fairmount Park. An advertisement in the 1872 Fairmount Park guidebook proclaimed the City Park Hotel as offering”Lager Beer, Wine and Ice Cream Garden and Saloon. Parties served at short notice with all the delicacies of the season.

Jacob Höhenadel, brother of City Park Hotel owner John Höhenadel, was born in 1838, immigrated on the same boat as Gertrude’s mother and brothers, and founded the Schuylkill Falls Park Brewery. An advertisement in an 1872 Fairmount Park Guidebook said of the Falls Brewery: “SCHUYLKILL FALLS PARK BREWERY, HOTEL, SUMMER GARDEN, AND TEN PIN ALLEY. All the Luxuries of the Falls made a Specialty. The place can be reached at any hour by Philadelphia & Norristown R. R., Ridge Avenue and Malayan Railway Cars, and Schuylkill Steamers. This is the only and best place near the city for Excursions, Parties, Picnics etc. 

The various members of the Höhenadel family all lived within a few miles of each other and ran their businesses in conjunction with one another. The Schuylkill Falls Park Brewery appears to have been located in Dutch Hollow. Dutch Hollow was built by a German stonemason in the 1850s and consisted of two streets (today known as Arnold and Creswell) and a brewery behind the East Falls train station. In fact, Arnold Street appeared on city maps as Hohenadel Street until the end of the nineteenth century. Jacob Hohenadel bought the brewery and an additional six acres all the way back to Indian Queen Lane for this hotel / brewery. The property also contained two caves used to refrigerate beer (and employed in succeeding years by Falls teenagers for various illicit purposes). The City Park Hotel owned by John Höhenadel was located in the Brewerytown entrance to Fairmount Park at 29th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and the John Höhenadel family lived on Girard Avenue in Brewertown. The Gertrude Höhenadel family lived on North 12th Street and the brewer Jacob Höhenadel lived on Broad Street with his family.

Brewer Jacob Höhenadel had started out as a bookkeeper at the Bergdoll Brewery in the 1850-1860s, then according to the Philadelphia city directories began manufacturing lager beer around the year 1861 at 311 Brown Street. The factory was begun around the year 1958 per the Hexamer General Surveys, Volume 6, Plate 468 stored at the Free Library of Philadelphia. His business developed into the Schuylkill Falls Park Brewery, so named because it was located next to the local waterfall and park as well as next to the railroad tracks. The brewery is described as follows in the Hexamer General Survey: “Brewery situated at Schuylkill Falls, 21st Ward, Philadelphia-Buildings erected 1858.- Scuttle & stairs to the roof.- Cornice of wood.- Walls 2.5 feet thick.- Floor of the brewing room of wood.- Premises warmed by the natural heat of brewing kettles & 1 cooking stove in kitchen of 3rd floor, well secured.- No other fires on the premises.- Fuel Anthracite coal.- Rooms lighted by stearine candles.- No steamboiler on the premises.- No new barrels manufactured at the place.- Few wood sharings made in coopering shed.- Lightning rod with 3 points on the building.- Hoisting apparatus outside, at ( C ) on plan, communicating with every floor.- No ladders on hand.- Large wooden watertank in the brewing room, 10 feet above the ground, containing about 64,000 gallons of water, supplied by a never failing spring.- 400 feet 1.5 inch india rubber hose kept on different places of the brewery which can be attached to 2 watercocks on watertank in case of fire.- No other provisions for extinguishing fire.- No watchman on the premises.- Hands employed living in the building.- 2 brewing kettles, marked ( A) & ( B ) on plan (32 & 72 barrels), in the brewing room, enclosed by brickwalls with brick under, in proper distance of woodworks.- No malt kiln or still on the premises.-Lager beer manufactured only.- External exposures as per plan.- Care in management & general condition of the property: good.-“

 Although the Jacob Höhenadel family appeared to have the idyllic life, living in a lovely 2.5 story stone home with a front porch overlooking their beer manufacturing plant, life as a brewery owner took its tragic toll on Jacob Höhenadel and his family. It would appear that tuberculosis and related infections ran rampant around the beer manufacturing plant. His daughter Sohia died at 9 months old on Feb 18, 1865. Jacob’s 16-month old daughter Charlotte died of a lung infection on Sep 22, 1870 followed later that year on Dec 17, 1870 by the death of Jacob’s 4-month old son of spasms.

On, February 27, 1874, the first women’s temperance demonstration were held in Philadelphia against taverns and lager beer saloons in imitation of proceedings in Ohio and other Western States. About twenty women visited three or four saloons in the neighborhood of Susquehanna Avenue and Fifth Street, Sang hymns in front of these places and delivered prayers. None of the saloons closed. On October 29, 1874 the Schuylkill Falls Park Brewery set fire and burned down with a loss of $45,000.

After the fire of 1874, the curse of the Höhenadel brewery continued. Owner Jacob Höhenadel himself died from congestion of the brain on July 21, 1876 at the age of 38 followed one month later by the death of his wife Johanna by a lung infection. The four remaining Höhenadel children were divided among the surviving relatives. 12-year-old Elizabeth and 4-year-old Joseph moved into the household of their cousin Gertrude Höhenadel and her husband Wilhelm Biermaas. It is not known what happened to Elizabeth Höhenadel after the 1880 federal census but it is known that tragedy continued to follow her brother Joseph Höhenadel who would die of tuberculosis at the age of 23.

7-year-old Hannah Höhenadel and 1-year-old Amelia Höhenadel moved in with their paternal uncle, the aging Rev. John Höhenadel who was also the owner of City Park Hotel. Hannah Höhenadel lived to marry Charles Steinmuller and gave birth to a son named Roy Eric Steinmuller. However, Hannah also died sadly at the age of 24 of tuberculosis, with her 2-year-old son dying a day later of malnourishment. Sister Amelia Höhenadel who was only 1-years-old when her parents died was the only known long-lived member of the family, living to be 105 years old before dying in Philadephia in February of 1980.

The ill-fated Schuylkill Falls Park Brewery was passed on to the Rev. John Höhenadel who changed its name to the John Hohenadel brewery. The 60-year-old Rev. John Höhenadel would die of bronchial pneumonia on Mar 16, 1884. After his death, his son John did not inherit the brewery because he was a successful machinest. Instead, the brewery passed into the hands of another Höhenadel relative, John William Höhenadel who had worked his way up through the family business ranks from German immigrant, to baker, to brewer and finally to the owner of the John Hohenadel Brewery. John William Höhenadel would relocate the brewery to Conrad and Indian Queen Street between the years 1888 and 1894. He and his wife moved to 3617 Indian Queen Lane in East Falls, Philadelphia into the Hohenadel Mansion which was two doors down the hill from The Falls of the Schuylkill Baptist Church. A succession of church pastors occupied the house between the Church and the Hohenadel house. One can only speculate about the relationship between the alcohol-averse Baptist preachers and their brewer neighbors.

The curse of the Höhenadel brewery continued into the next generation of ownership. John William Höhenadel served as owner for only three years before he too died of a lung infection at the age of 46 on Sep. 8, 1887. His wife Maria Höhenadel became the next proprietor of the family brewery.

Maria Höhenadel carried on the family business even amidst her own personal trageies. She lost her eldest son Jacob at the age of 2 days old in 1865, her 5-month-old daughter Gertrude on July 12, 1875 of whooping cough and her 28-year-old son Ferdinand on Sep 25, 1892. Her third son John W. Höhenadel would eventually inherit the John Hohenadel Brewery from his mother and break its curse around the year 1900. He would launch it into an era of economic prosperity. He became president of the Bank of East Falls and opened Hohenadel’s Hotel before closing the brewery for good on Dec. 31, 1953 due to competition from larger breweries in Philadelphia.

 In the 1930s the Hohenadel family left East Falls for the Kenilworth apartments in Germantown.



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