Edward Voigt is a fairly well known story. Hopefully, I put in a few details outside of the norm. Historic accounts of Voigt park call it a “breathing space” – a great description. One letter to the editor of a local paper (circa 1922) recommended erecting a memorial hall in Voigt park due to: 1) the city owned the land 2) the park’s lack of use 3) probability that the park would be there in 100 years [yep] 4) saving taxpayer’s money [genius]. Maybe the city fathers and mothers should have heeded that advice? ahh. ag
Edward Voigt (1844 – 1920) had a solid reputation for his work ethic and business acumen.
As a landowner, he turned his 150 acre farm off Woodward into Voigt Park Subdivision in the 1890’s. We can thank him for Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard as well as several of the surrounding streets west of Woodward.
Raised in Germany, he traveled to America with his folks Carl William and Pauline in 1854 on the trans-Atlantic ship, the Malabar. The trio crisscrossed the Midwest settling in Madison, Wisconsin where his father started the Capitol Steam Brewery. Edward began his education and attended the University of Wisconsin. He achieved the status of Brew Master at age 17. In 1864, the family brewery was sold to Carl Hausmann, a local WI ale competitor. William Voigt moved to Detroit to start a new brewery; his son Edward went on an adventure to California. The Detroit Voigt Brewery was built on Grand River at High Street [today this is around Grand River and I-75 area). Eventually, its 150 ft. chimney would grace the Detroit skyline.
FIRST ADVENTURE THEN BUSINESS
Edward did an apprenticeship as a sailor and became captain of his father’s schooner – the Columbian; a short-lived adventure running the Great Lakes. Father and son would reunite in Detroit in 1871. Nothing was handed to Edward. He rented the Detroit brewery from his father who moved back to Europe. His energy and work ethic resulted in the ability to purchase the entire brewery operation from Carl in 1882. In 1893, his Rheingold beer earned 4 medals in the Chicago World’s Fair.
In 1889, British investors took great interest in purchasing or leasing American brewing facilities. Brewers such as the Stroh family and Anheuser Busch were vocally opposed to this practice. Edward Voigt negotiated the lease of his brewery for the period of 1890-1897. At the end of the contract, he received his business back but without a clean title. He enacted foreclosure proceedings to clear the title and stood in front of the old Detroit city hall to rebid on his business at auction. His creative business practices increased his fortune. He amassed extensive land holdings and was a principal founder of the Edison Illuminating Company which employed Henry Ford.
Around 1902, Voigt donated a rectangular parcel of land at 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Longfellow and Edison Avenues to the city on the condition it would be converted to a park and named for him.
Edward Voigt died at home on May 14, 1920 of a stroke. In 1922, the Voigt estate sold the brewery to a demolition firm who pulled down the chimney with a chain and a truck. The tumbling brick marked the end of Voigt reign in Detroit and the beginning of prohibition.
Thanks for reading.. ©Andrea G. 2015