Anybody who’s been in an old-time-y watering hole has probably come across a Brunswick bar. Yes, that Brunswick. The company, known now almost exclusively for bowling, was the Maytag of saloon outfitters back in the day, among other things setting 19th-century booze houses up with beautifully constructed wooden bars. Chances are, your favorite drinking establishment with the ornate old architecture framing the bottles and glasses is the work of what was then called the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company.
The corporation is no more, but demand for glorious old bar facades is timeless. And the market stretches beyond your standard-issue operations. Wineries like Maryhill are getting into the antique bar trade, sourcing amazing old structures, shipping them across the country, and repurposing them in their own venues. It’s an elegant touch that very much echoes the age-old adage, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”
Craig Leuthold is the owner of Maryhill. The producer has a growing family of Washington tasting rooms, located in Vancouver, Spokane, Goldendale, and eventually, Woodinville, the wine-centric town just outside of Seattle. What connects all four spots beyond the wines? The antique bars, of course.
Leuthold first got a taste for the old bars while overseeing Fort Spokane Brewing Company in Eastern Washington. When he ultimately sold the brewery, he elected to keep the bar, drawn to its detailed design.
“Our understanding of the history is that it’s from sometime between the 1880s and the 1910s,” he says of his first antique bar addition, presently the main bar at Maryhill’s Goldendale headquarters. Leuthold says it was in the Bernhoff Hotel in Alaska at one point before making its way to Spokane. “There was an envelope on the back of the bar with its manifest inside,” he adds. It detailed the sales history and the bar’s journey from the Last Frontier to Washington.
The bars are full of wondrous old quirks. One was filled with undreds of dollars of old silver coins; the other was laden with cigar burn spots.
It was the beginning of a motif that would persist in all of Maryhill’s future locations. Leuthold found his second bar by chance, through an email from a curious individual who’d seen his first bar and wondered if he’d like to purchase another. Its genesis began in Wallace, Idaho, the ex-mining hotbed with a charming downtown that’s been featured in films like Dante’s Peak.
For his third and fourth bars, Leuthold turned to Oley Valley Antiques, perhaps the biggest dealer of architectural relics in the country. The Pennsylvania outfit is filled to the brim with outstanding old pieces foraged from former bars and homes. Leuthold couldn’t resist the quality workmanship and bought two during his visit. One was just recently installed in his new Vancouver tasting room overlooking the Columbia River. “It’s much more Gothic in style,” he adds. “It has more heft and is more substantial.”
The bars are full of wondrous old quirks. The bar at their Spokane joint ended up having a small fortune hidden inside. Hundreds of dollars of old silver coins filled the bar gap, the result of bygone games of quarters patrons played in the hopes of winning a free beer. The bar at his second spot, also in Goldendale but in the wine club room, was full of burns from a chain-smoking barkeep who made a habit of resting his stogie on the bar.
Should Maryhill need a fifth or sixth bar, Oley Valley is where they’ll head. And you should too if you’re aiming to class up your own bar setup, either at home or commercially. These classic bits of suds-soaked Americana will have you feeling like you’re whetting your whistle in an old western film.