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Schaefer & Brother Malt House

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Schaefer & Brother Malt House

520 Seventh Street, Buffalo, NY

  • Date Built: 1880-1951
  • Total QREs: $7,895,000
  • Total HTCs: $3,947,500, Federal; $3,947,500 State.

Preservation Studios’ Role:

Preservation Studios completed the Part One and Two of the Historic Preservation Certification Applications.


The Schaefer & Brother Malt House is a largely intact example of a late nineteenth century malt house that was later used by a prominent candy maker in Buffalo. The Schaefer & Brother Malting Company erected the malt house and its small grain silo in 1880 and operated from the facility until 1919, when the building was sold to the Reed Chocolate Company. The Merckens Chocolate Company acquired the building in 1921 and remained on the premise until 1951. The building is associated with Buffalo’s once-thriving malting and brewing industry and for its later associations with the local chocolate industry. It was designed in the Germanic Rundbogenstil or “round arch style” manner, a relatively rare building type and architectural style remaining in Buffalo. Also significant is the construction method of the small grain silo, which, while reduced in height and somewhat altered, is of crib construction. The only other known example of a crib constructed grain elevator in the city, the Wollenburg Elevator, was destroyed by fire in 2006.

Brothers Gustavus A. and Henry L. Schaefer formed a seed and grain business in 1863 that shifted into the thriving malt business within a decade, as the malting market in the region grew in conjunction with the local brewing industry. The Schaefers immigrated to Buffalo from Germany as children, and, as the large German community in Buffalo was closely associated with the brewing and malting industries, their heritage likely supported the transition into malting. In 1880, as the Schaefer & Brother Malting Company grew, a malt house was built at 520 Seventh Street. The Schaefer & Brother Malt House is as one of the most intact and last remaining malt houses from the period prior to Prohibition, when malting and brewing were major local industries in Buffalo. The brick building utilized German Rundbogenstil and included a wood crib grain silo, features that remain intact. Furthermore, the Schaefer & Brother Malt House retains characteristics that highlight advanced malt house design with built in temperature control. The building layout facilitated the malting production line and, while original machinery no longer exists, the spaces of the production process are still legible from the floor plan. The company functioned on the site until 1919, when the national outlaw of alcohol undermined many malting and brewing operations in the city.

The building is also notable for its association with the chocolate industry in Buffalo after World War I. Between 1919 and 1951, the Schaefer & Brother Malt House was utilized briefly by the Reed Chocolate Company before becoming the long-time home of the locally prominent Merckens Chocolate Company. The latter company made several additions to the building that facilitated larger production volumes and new technologies. The tenure of these chocolate companies at 520 Seventh Street exemplifies national trends in the chocolate industry after World War I, as small hand-made chocolate enterprises burgeoned to serve new demand across the country. By the mid-twentieth century, the chocolate industry developed into an increasingly mechanized, larger scale process run by national companies. In 1951, the Merckens Chocolate Company finished moving its operations from 520 Seventh Street to the Pierce Arrow Factory, ending the building’s use as a manufacturing site.


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