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The Urban Archaeologist Cannot Be Stopped!

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 6:17 pm
by Nathan
Or maybe he can. Besides, these were looters, not historians. Still an interesting story.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but YOUR CORPSE!

Death at a Historic Site

Brewery artifacts long covered by a parking lot and soon to be buried again drew a man to the downtown L.A. parcel where he was crushed by collapsing soil.

By Cecilia Rasmussen and Wendy Thermos, Times Staff Writers

It was just before twilight Tuesday when Gary Garcia slipped through a chain-link fence, scrambled down an embankment of freshly bulldozed earth and began digging for relics of a forgotten Los Angeles landmark.

With traffic from the nearby Santa Ana Freeway droning in their ears, Garcia, a family member and two friends used shovels, pickaxes and a tattered antique map to search for artifacts from downtown's once-famous Maier Brewing Co.

The brewery was once so prominent that a section of the freeway was built around it. One of its vats was rumored to be the site where a notorious mob figure was dumped.

Kneeling beside a 5-foot berm, Garcia, 52, and his cohorts began unearthing cans and bottles of Brew 102, virtual gold nuggets to a quirky community of antique beer bottle collectors. Without warning, the berm collapsed, pouring tons upon tons of earth and gravel over Garcia and slowly crushing him to death.

Now, as friends and family mourn his death, the tragedy and the reason for it have shed new light on the history of a storied piece of downtown real estate.

The site was home to El Aliso, the ancient sycamore tree that was the heart of the Gabrielino village of Yang-Na — the original Los Angeles village.

The Philadelphia Brewery rose on the site in 1875 and later became Maier Brewing, one of the nation's best-known bottlers of working-class brew.

Now a vacant lot, the site will be used for support columns for the Eastside extension of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Gold Line train.

"They knew what they were looking for," Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said Wednesday of Garcia's group. "There were indications that they'd been doing this on more than one occasion."

The men, he said, were making a last-ditch effort to unearth relics as the freeway and rail project progressed. "When that's done, this site will be paved over and there will be no access," Humphrey said.

The foundation for Maier Brewing was laid in 1882 when brewer George Zobelein joined with German immigrant Joseph Maier to create the Maier and Zobelein brewery, a workplace so congenial that samples of beer were delivered to employees throughout the day.

After Maier's death in 1904, his share of the company went to his two sons; Zobelein eventually left over a bitter disagreement. Younger son Eddie became the head of the renamed Maier Brewing Co. after his older brother, Fred, died in 1910. At that time, Eddie also inherited the Vernon Tigers, a baseball team in the Pacific Coast League, which served double duty as advertising for Maier's beer.

In these early days, the Maier brewery became a hangout for famous sportsmen and local law enforcement agents.

But Prohibition put a crimp in the operation's style, forcing it to bottle "near beer" — a concoction containing less than 1% alcohol. Or at least that's what the brewery declared publicly. Time and again, federal agents raided the brewery and confiscated barrels of more potent beer.

After World War II, Brew 102 was born — the cheapest brew in a workingman's town. The new name was the brainchild of a bunch of 1940s advertising executives who worked for Maier Brewing — then the fifth-largest brewer in the state. To boost the flagging sales of its trademark Maier Beer, the executives decided to remarket an identical brew with a new name and a catchy new jingle:

More than 100 beers we did brew,

Perfecting the new finer Brew 102.

In the East and the West,

Maier Beer is the best.

Wonderful, wonderful Brew 102.

Posted: Thu Jun 09, 2005 6:52 pm
by Nathan


...plotting in its earthen grave...until one STRIKES!


I always remember

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 6:59 am
by modfan
coming into LA via the I-10 seeing the Brew 102 building just as you enter downtown along with the Friedman Bag Co.
I always remember that because when my folks moved in the their new home in '63 the lot number was 102.

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 8:28 am
by Nathan

Friedman Bag! Yeah, Keats shoulda written an Ode to Friedman Bag.

Ghost sign of kings.

Posted: Sat Jun 11, 2005 8:39 am
by nichols
Nathan, so glad you brought this up. Yeah, I was so fascinated by this story.... I was a little jealous of Gary Garcia... Antique maps, hole in the fence and all... So they were members of this?
When I saw their 'quotes' around 'historical' it kinda turned me off...
"Most old inner city trash dumps are discovered by accident when construction crews begin digging footings for a new building foundation. Archeologists like to claim these 100+ year old trash dumps as 'historical' sites, effectively removing the site from public access. The dedicated bottle digger is constantly on the look out for redevelopment construction in the downtown area."
So anyway, his friend survived...and found this?
or maybe he already had that... here: ... 23,00.html
So, the site in question, brew 102, Friedman Bag, those old gas storage tanks.... was all surveyed for historical significance by the MTA, guess they didn't think it was all that: ... y%2004.pdf

Which is kind of shocking considering how important this area was to the growth of 19th century Los Angeles... The MTA couldn't find archeological resources there even though these schmos and a high school student did it by hand - in the dark - in the middle of the night? They don't even mention that it was the site of the Gabrieleno village that preceded Los Angeles.. or el alisal... or.. what?

OK, for kicks.. Here is a 1924 aerial shot:
Which we can compare to this 1976 aerial.
The gas tanks (the round structures) are in the same place in both shots. The orientation of the '24 photo is looking to the east. The '76 is looking north. ... 34.0519662

My Hole In The Ground...

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2005 2:45 pm
by roadsidepictures
A couple of years ago two friends and I dug this outhouse in central Nevada...we found a few bottles and trade tokens from the early 1900s...we were hoping to discover treasures from an earlier era but were happy with the dig. That's a 12 foot ladder sticking out of the hole. It's alot of work and it's fun but you've got to be careful :wink:


Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 5:33 pm
by Dirt Diva
A couple of years ago two friends and I dug this outhouse

Can you clarify "outhouse"? :? This doesn't mean you were digging under an outhouse does it? If so I understand why you would have to be careful....

Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 5:44 pm
by roadsidepictures
There used to be an outhouse at this location but it's been gone for around 80 years. The patrons of the saloons used to throw their trash down there....their trash, my treasure :D ! All human waste has long since decomposed. We wore a hard hat just in case a rock fell in :wink: .