Bakery and Brewery Building (1852-1961)
In what is now right field of the ball diamond there once stood a large brick building that provided a large amount of the food for the community. By making a beer with a low alcohol content and then turning the spent grain into bread they could both drink their bread and eat it, too! In a time when cholera was not uncommon, beer was a healthy alternative to water. Because it was boiled, the beer was sterile, because the farm-house ale was brewed with wheat and/or barley, with fresh herbal quality hops, and sorghum, maple syrup and/or honey as a sweetener, it was very nutritious. And because the grain was then dried, toasted, and ground into a course flour it made a wonderful Swedish style bread, more like the Swedish Rye crackers you can still purchase today at the Colony Store. This way they received two different kinds of nutritional benefits from the same materials. The proximity to Big Brick meant much of the cooking and baking was done here and carried across the field to be served at the community dining hall. After the community dissolved the building became a gathering place and auditorium known as Woodman Hall. One of the few items remaining from this time is a large theatrical backdrop painted by Olof Krans. It is a dream like view of this Utopia on the Prairie that gives you a sense of what the town looked like in its glory days. The large scrim is now on display at the Bishop Hill Museum south of town. After years of neglect, the building was demolished in 1961. Though tragic, this loss helped to spark the effort to preserve the colony era buildings that are still standing today, leading to the creation of the Bishop Hill Heritage Association.
Official Walking Tour Bishop Hill Illinois Guidebook to Buildings, 2010.
Wheat Flour Messiah, Eric Jansson of Bishop Hill by Paul Elmen Southern Illinois University Press 1997
History of Bishop Hill, A Story of Swedish Pioneers Collected and Compiled by Theo J. Anderson, self-published.
Bishop Hill Heritage Association Archives