Business partners Henry Lembeck and John F. Betz founded one of the most famous, best-equipped, and financially successful breweries on the East Coast of the United States. By 1889, it manufactured fifty thousand barrels of ale and port and 250,000 barrels of beer per year in a state of the art facility valued at a million dollars and worth three million dollars in total assets.
Henry Lembeck was born at Osterwick, Mu[e]nster, Germany, on April 8, 1826. He adopted his father's trade of cabinet making starting as an apprentice at age thirteen. He served four years as a journeyman and expected to complete his training in Paris, France, when he was drafted into the German army in 1846, a year prior to the revolution. A genealogical investigation by Lembeck's descendants has documented that while serving in the military, Lembeck, dressed in civilian attire, frequently attended and participated at rallies of the insurgents. After a furlough granted in March 1849, he did not return to his regiment and seems to have immigrated to the United States. An investigation in 1850 was conducted and he was "declared a deserter."
After working as a carpenter for the Herring Safe Company in New York City, Lembeck became the clerk to a grocer; and three years later he bought his own business that developed from a grocery store to a market-gardening firm. While his business flourished, Lembeck also became a sales agent for the brewery of John F. Betz of New York. In 1869, Lembeck moved to Jersey City and established with Betz a brewery to manufacture ale and porter on Ninth Street. The Betz family had already established a reputation as brewers both in the United States and Germany.
With Lembeck's newly acquired business savvy and Betz's background in the production of ale and porter, the partnership was established on sound footing. The Jersey City brewing facility and operation expanded. Lembeck astutely noted the diminishing taste for ale in the United States, and in 1889 added the production of the more popular beverage of lager beer to the business. Lembeck became president of the company and incorporated the brewery into a cooperative stock company in May 1890. Betz was the vice president of the company.
A biography of Lembeck states, "[he] had the complete management of the business, assumed full responsibility of its direction, and consequently must receive the credit for its success and growth" ("Biography of Henry B. Lembeck," 2). The brewery's physical plant begun on Ninth Street was enlarged to accommodate the required refrigeration and storage of beer and eventually occupied seventeen city lots. A malt house, H.F. Lembeck & Company at Watkins, New York, at the head of Seneca Lake, complemented the brewing firm.
Along with his business success, Lembeck took a strong interest in the Jersey City, his permanent residence. He was one of the founders the Greenville Banking and Trust Company, became vice president of the Third National Bank of Jersey City, and served with other corporations such as the Hudson Real Estate Company of which he was a director. In 1898 Lembeck built the Hudson Building at 13-15 Ocean Avenue. The stone Romanesque Revival structure at the corner of Lembeck and Ocean Avenues consecutively housed the Hudson Real Estate Company and the Greenville Bank and Trust Company with which he was associated. After a renovation in 1970, the Hudson Building became a 22-unit apartment.
Lembeck owned large tracks of land in Greenville and helped with its development. He donated property for the extension of Columbia Park (today Bartholdi Avenue). His earlier carpentry training prompted him to build a reported 32 to 43 houses in Jersey City prior to 1895 and to participate in their construction as both architect and supervising contractor. Lembeck discontinued home building over a dispute with the city regarding the quality of water supplied to the Greenville area and complained of the loss of tenants willing to rent his properties.
Lembeck lived in the home that he designed at 46 Columbia Place (today Lembeck Avenue) and Old Bergen Road. The modest-looking red brick structure has a decorative cornice painted gray with dentil molding and corner brackets. The center section of the house features a recessed gray wood and glass door reached from the concrete riser and has an open pediment supported by brackets over a double window with semicircular transom; the adjoining sections of building are topped by pyramids over the roofline. The Lembeck mansion was later donated by his widow to St. Anne's Home for the Aged at 198 Old Bergen Road and serves as the administrative building; St. Ann's became part of the York Street Project, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, in 1987.
Lembeck died at his residence on July 25, 1904; he was president of Lembeck and Betz at the time of his death. He is buried in the family plot in the Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery.
"Announcement." The Royal District Government, Department of Interior Muenster. 6 February 1850 and 25 February 1850.
Community Archive Rosendahl, C354.
"Biography of Henry B. Lembeck." (Copied from Memorial History of New York and The Hudson River Valley, Volume V 1896), 4pp.
"Death List of a Day, Henry Lembeck." New York Times. 26 July 1904.
"Great Loss to Jersey City." New York Times. 15 September 1895.
Holz, Martin. September 2003. Mr. Holz provided information about the Lembeck family in Osterwick.
Muirhead, Edward G. ed. Jersey City of To-Day, Its History, People, Trades, Commerce, Institutions and Industries, New Jersey America. Jersey City, NJ: Walter G. Muirhead, 1910.