In March of 2010, a small group of people met and formed the Belleville Historical Society. Although Belleville, Illinois is home to the St. Clair County Historical Society, there was, at that time, no organization dedicated to the preservation of Belleville’s rich culture and colorful history. With just seven members, the group set about their mission of preserving and celebrating Belleville’s history.
Too poor to afford a building of their own, the first BHS meetings were held at Belleville West High School. Meetings that first year tended to be long as members decided on a mission statement and a focus for the organization. Collectively, they were all heartbroken by some of the fabulous historic buildings and residences that had already been lost to the wrecking ball. The group vowed then and there to do all they could to save the historic structures Belleville had left.
Within a few months of its inception, the BHS was able to secure a loan and purchase a defunct 1895 Belleville tavern that was in foreclosure. Although the building was in disrepair, it was structurally sound and had the potential for a wonderful museum dedicated to Belleville‘s brewing history. They promptly named it The Garfield Street Saloon Museum.
The building had been built by Adam Gintz who, at one time, ran the Western Brewery in Belleville. The brewery’s flagship brand was Stag Beer. Although the Western Brewery was bought out and closed its doors long ago, Stag continues to be brewed and enjoys tremendous regional popularity.
Although Stag is probably the best known Belleville beer, it was not the only beer brewed here. The Star Brewery made a popular beer called Oltimer and another called Stern Brau. Star Brewery was demolished in the late 1950s, and those products are no longer available.
To celebrate Belleville’s brewing past, the BHS decided to restore the Garfield Street building to a turn of the century saloon. With that goal in mind, the group has scrimped, saved, held fundraisers, begged and borrowed to begin restorations and repairs on the structure. Happily, although it has taken several years, the work on the building is well underway.
The society was recently contacted by a gentleman with an extensive collection of Belleville brewing memorabilia. Many of the items are one of a kind. Needless to say, it is a perfect fit for the Garfield Museum. Although the collection is worth much more, the owner agreed to sell it to the BHS for $3500.00. While that is a very reasonable price for all this collection contains, it is a tremendous amount of money for a small not-for-profit like the BHS to muster. They would appreciate any and all donations toward the purchase of this collection. No amount is too small and every penny will be gratefully accepted. So all you beer lovers, Stag fans, and proud Bellevillians please consider donating to this worthy cause!
BHS is a 501(c)3 organization, and all donations are tax deductible.
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