Ulrich's Tavern History 1868 to 1998

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 income."

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 would 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 bar.

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!

You are Visitor #(graphical counter) to Ulrich's History

Internet Services Donated by The Blue Moon Online System