In the fall of 1868, Fredrick Schrerier, a young German
immigrant, opened a grociery-saloon on the southwest
corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets in Buffalo, New York.
At the time, the neighborhood surrounding the saloon
was fast becoming both a fashionable German enclave and the center of
Buffalo's brewing industry.
Five major breweries were within a few blocks of Ulrichs; Buffalo Co-Op at
High at Michigan, Empire at Main and Burton, German-America at Main
and High, Christian Weyand at Main and Goddell, and the Ziegele
Brewing at Main and Virginia. The first Lager Beer in Buffalo was brewed
about 100 yards from Ulrichs by Albert Ziegele, at Main and Virginia
streets in the early 1850's.
Buffalo was an exciting post Civil War boom town, fed by German
immigrants that settled Buffalo's East Side. The book "A Pictorial
History of Buffalo and Erie County; Second Look", describes the
neighborhood and places like Ulrichs. "As bootmakers, tinsmiths,
clockmakers, bakers, brewers and stonecutters, working class
Germans lived a relatively prosperous and settled life. Not a few were
grocers who also kept a back room grog shop. These emerged as
the centers of neighborliness. This was the kind of patient business
that, while not wildly profitable, yielded a lifetime of respectable
Imagine a tree lined, young bustling neighborhood, filled with a
constant smell of the damp sweetness of malt and the bitter edge of
hops, the endless horse drawn beer wagons and the constant chatter of
German being spoken. You stand a better chance of someone
understanding English in Munich, Germany today, than at the corner of
Ellicott and Virginia streets in Buffalo in 1868. Ulrichs' brick bar
room stood then, as it does today, along with 1/3 of the dining room.
It was a place where one could buy anything from soap to sausage,
where local beer, be it Ziegele's Lager or Weyand's Munich dark, was
served in house or taken home in a pail.
The next 35 years would bring seven different owners. The
grocery part of the operation would be dropped in 1883 and the upstairs
become a hotel, renting rooms to the nearby brewery workers. Ulrichs
would become a tied house, (owned by the brewery) serving only that
brewery's beer for the next 25 years, until 1910. Two different breweries
owned the bar; The Christian Weyand Brewery, which stood where the
Courier Express building stands today and the Ziegele Brewing Company,
part of which remains directly behind Ulrich's at Washington
and Virginia Streets. A Barber Shop was located in what is now the beer store
room, from the early 1880's to 1919. It was run by George Fromholtz.
The German tradition was continued by the following
seven owners; Miller, Nayser, Martzlufft, Schuhman, Fischer, Theuer and
Dobmeier, all of whom were born in Germany and had ties to Buffalo's brewing
industry. George Dobmeier's son, George Jr., runs Dobmeier's Janitorial
Supply Co. today.
In the year 1906, a 30 year old man took over the saloon,
giving it his name, Michael Ulrich. He had come to Buffalo at age 14 from
southern Germany and had been a beer wagon driver for the Rochevot
Brewery on Jefferson Avenue and the treasurer for the brewery workers
union. For the next forty years, Ulrichs was a rendezvous for
political bigwigs as well as the literati and celebrated
persons of the time in Buffalo. Mike Ulrich's Saloon quickly became
the political and social center of Buffalo's German community. A
staunch Republican in local politics, Mike Ulrich's Saloon was known as
the Republican Clubhouse. Despite this fact, many local Democrats frequented
the establishment and called Mike a close friend. Democrat Governor Al Smith
ate dinner at Ulrichs during his 1928 Presidential Campaign.
In 1910, Mike Ulrich bought the saloon outright from the Ziegele Brewery,
renaming it Michael Ulrich's Sample Room. For the first time,
any beer could be sold in the saloon. If there was a German festival
anywhere in the county, it was probable that Mike Ulrich catered the
Prohibition changed Ulrichs' look, but not its function. The
downstairs became a delicatessen and restaurant.
The barber shop and upstairs hotel were closed and the second floor became a
private speakeasy for the political community known as the Hasenpheffer
Club. This would last the entire 13 years of Prohibition with whiskey
and wine being made in the basement and beer being smuggled in the dead of
night. The huge lift that was used to bring the illegal alcohol up
from the basement is still there today.
Mike Uirich not only weathered the 13 years of the "noble experiment", but also
the heavy anti-German sentiment of the World War I era. Hamburger and
sauerkraut were being called Liberty Steak and Liberty Cabbage,
German names were changed to sound more American and the German
heritage was being renounced in Buffalo and throughout America. However, in
Mike Ulrich's Saloon, German was spoken, German Clubs met openly, and
sauerkraut was called sauerkraut. A lasting remnant from this
era is the black cherry and stained glass filled back bar. Mike bought
this in 1910 from the Iroquois Hotel where it
had stood since 1889. Mike Ulrich owned the bar until 1946.
One last story on Mr. Ulrich. After selling the bar in 1946,
Mike stayed retired for about six months before going back into
business with his former bartender, Victor Schultz, in the German-
American Annex at Main & High. This building was an early forerunner
to today's malls. Besides Mike Ulrich's bar, the building housed
the Salvation Army and, ironically, the Alcohol Anonymous organizations.
It's not many places that one could get drunk, dried out and saved all
in the same building! Mike Ulrich's death notice called him "the last
of the old-time German saloonkeepers" in 1947.
1946 saw Ulrichs' first non-German owner in French born William
Levea, who would run the bar for 3 years until 1949. Nichlos Riesz
would become Ulrichs next owner for 5 years until late in 1954, when
his family would go on to run another popular bar in Buffalo, the Central
Park Grill on Main Street.
The next chapter in Ulrichs' history is still being written by
the Daley family. Jim Daley, from Buffalo's old first ward and his Bavarian
wife Erika, took over the business in late 1954. They added a mix of
German and Irish sensibility. In their over 40 years of business,
they have seen urban renewal clear away the once great neighborhood
that surrounded Ulrichs and watched the demise of the Buffalo
brewing industry which had originally spawned the business to begin with.
However, Ulrichs remains a favorite downtown lunch spot and after work
watering hole, famous for its St. Patricks Day festivities and its
homecooked meals and fine selection of premium beer.
From Bertha and Fredrick Schuerier in 1868, to Erika and Jim
Daley today, Ulrichs' rich tradition has endured. This small
tavern, born 8 years before Custer rode to his death at the Little
Bighorn, stands as a sentinel to Buffalo's glorious past as well as its
ever changing future. Since that fall day in 1868, Ulrichs' purpose
has never changed: To provide a public house, where one can enjoy
food, drink and camaraderie.
In its 130th year, Ulrich's salutes its owners, employees, and patrons of
yesterday,today and tommorow. PROST!
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