We sent Signe Peterson off to represent the club in France as an outgoing Rotary Youth Exchange and heard from our own Larry Morgan about the fascinating history of the Hamm Building (designed by his firm) and the family behind it. The tale included gangsters, kidnapping, gorgeous terra cotta and six beers a day!


President Chuck Whitaker called the meeting to order at 12:15 and David Laird led the club in America, with Dennis Boom at the ivories.

Past President John Andrews offered a summer camp grace.

Shelly Rucks introduced guests and collected happy dollars from Sarah Kolar (in honor of her upcoming “Rotary After Dark Happy Hour at Landmark Jewelers); Roger Nielsen (in honor of his upcoming Wisconsin BBQ) , Erika (in honor of Signe’s departure wishing her “bon voyage”); Ed Coleman, (in honor of the recognition of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Project at the Saints game, along with personal recognition of Ed and Mindy Kastelic); Linda Mulhern (in honor of staying in Europe with Rotary host families and the return of her daughter from her youth Exchange Year); Darrell Butterwick (in honor of a 70th wedding anniversary in South Dakota which included an amazing lightning display from the rainstorm 50 miles away).

Signe Peterson, out bound Rotary Youth Exchange student is headed to France in a few weeks to represent us and to learn. Signe is a life-time Saint Paul resident. Through volunteering at the Walker Art Center, she has learned to call both the Twin Cities home. She lives in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, straddling both cities. Her father is a carpenter and musician, her mother is a dental hygienist and painter. A true liberal arts student, Signe herself has participated in all the arts and enjoys sharing her work and learning from others. Her plan is to dive headfirst into the wider world, make many mistakes and learn from doing and through relationships with those around her.

Next week’s meeting will feature District Governor Jim Hunt.

President Chuck introduced member Larry Morgan, who will speak on the history of the Hamm Building, the Hamm Family itself and the Brewery that build it all.

The Hamm family first came to Saint Paul from Germany in 1856 to open the Sailor's Rest boarding house, Theodore made a loan to a friend who was starting a brewery. When the friend defaulted on the loan, Theodore took it over and became a brewer.


In 1886, William Hamm (second generation), became the first Boreas Rex of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

In 1896, the family formed Hamm Realty (now United Properties), still a large landholding corporation, now owned by the Pohlad Group.

In 1899, William Hamm diversified into the cinema business, becoming President of the Northwestern Theater Circuit, running 136 theatres around the Midwest.

In 1931, William Hamm, Jr (third generation) takes over after his father’s death. Two years later, Jr. was kidnapped by the Karpis gang and held for $100,000 ransom.

In 1936, Jr, becomes CEO and appoints William Figge, third generation brewmaster, as President.

The family built their homes overlooking the brewery on Minnehaha, rather than on Summit Avenue. The brewery covered 20 acres of the East Side and employed many workers. 3M and the Whirlpool plant were the other significant employers in the neighborhood.

At its peak in 1965, Hamm’s produced 3.8 mm barrels of beer. The operation was sold to Hublein that year and was closed in 1997. During Prohibition, the brewery produced “near beer” as well as industrial alcohol, syrups and soft drinks.

In 1957 the Hamm’s Bear commercial was rated “most liked” by Television Age Magazine.

Louise Hamm used to make lunch for all the brewery employees every day and she and Theodore hosted a company picnic at their home every summer. Employees were allowed to drink as much as they wanted during work, until they decided to limit it to just SIX PER DAY! (Now there's a new member challenge!)

The Hamm Building at the corner of 6th and St. Peter was built on what the city thought of as “the Cathedral block” – home to three iterations of the Cathedral , as well as a school and the Archbishop’s residence. After the new Cathedral on Summit was finished, the old Cathedral was torn down in 1914. TKDA was hired to build a new department store on that block for Mannheimer’s Dept Store. WWI brought construction to a halt, and after the war, the unfinished building was purchased and completed by Theodore Hamm.

The project was #504 for the company (which numbers their projects consecutively). They just has surpassed project number 16,000!

William Hamm changed the design to include a huge theatre – the Capitol – as part of his theatre circuit.<

The basement was originally home to the St. Paul Recreation Company, which included a bowling alley, boxing ring and pool hall. A famous mob hangout in the 1930's, this area is now Park Square Theatre's Andy Boss Thrust Stage, offices and Vieux Carre Jazz Club.

Respectfully submitted,

Michael-jon Pease