: This photograph is blurry and the building in the center is at a distance, but this could be the Lonz Winery.
Facing the south shore, on Middle Bass Island, is the Lonz Winery. The winery was originally built as the Golden Eagle in 1863 by Andrew Wehrle, who carved a 14 foot deep wine cellar into the limestone. The winery prospered for many years, and for a time, even had the largest wine casks in the United States (each held 16,000 gallons). The company began failing around 1885, after a failed attempt at a partnership with Michael, Casimer and Emile Werk, of Cincinnati. In 1888, Herman Wehrle, Andrew’s youngest son, became a full partner with hopes that he would be able to rescue the winery from its financial troubles. Things went from bad to worse after Herman leased the land to Mr. R. W. Brown in 1890. The winery was sold at a sheriff’s auction in 1905, and then sold again a year later, to Mr. August Schmidt, Jr, who also owned a winery in Sandusky.
The Hill Crest hotel and a manor home were added and the winery was again successful, until Schmidt’s death in 1913. His daughter Elsie took over for a time, but sold the winery to John Roesch, James Hauck, William Conley and Earl Heinan in 1916.
Fire struck in 1923, destroying almost everything except the large house where Mrs. Schmidt and her daughter were living. The Lonzes bought the winery in 1926 and due to Prohibition (from 1920 – 1933) began selling grape juice. In 1934, following the repeal of Prohibition, George Lonz designed the castle-like structure that was built above the original cellars. In 1941, the entire wooden structure of the winery was destroyed by fire, but rebuilt adding a copper dome which housed a telescope.
The castle like structure is of brick and stone, with turrets and battlements measuring100 feet by 150 feet. The 2-story structure is a mason’s caprice; often a course of stone is broken by an inset or two or three of brick; a straight arch may be succeeded by one with a stringbone effect; and a brick inset is likely to have bricks laid flat, on edge and sideways. Inside the wine cellar are a number of chambers lined with vats holding from 1,500 to 2,000 gallons each. About 50,000 gallons of wine were made here annually (during the 1930s). The dry wines were Delaware, Riesling, Catawba and Claret; the sweet wines Port, Sherry, Tokay, Haut Sauterne and Muscatel; the sparkling wines, Burgundy and Champagne.
The Silenium was the name given to the clubroom of the winery. The room, 40 feet square, was paneled in dark oak and had a flagstone floor, with heavy oak beams overhead. The chandeliers were made from the hoops of old wine casks. Sunlight filtered into the room through four windows whose designs show Bacchus and Pan capering among bacchantes and dryads. The bar was lighted through small panes of stained glass, and around the room were solid trestle tables of oak and smaller octagonal tables, with benches and chairs to match.
The Lonz family continued to operate the winery until George’s death in 1968. The winery continued operation until 2000 when it closed and was purchased by the state. The cellars were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
In July 2000, a terrace collapsed into the cellars, killing one and injuring many. Later that year, the land became property of the State of Ohio, with the intention of the site becoming a state park in order to preserve a piece of Ohio history on this beautiful island. View on Ohio Memory.
: SA1039AV_B08F09_031_1 Subjects
: Lake Erie; Erie, Lake, Coast (Ohio);Wine and wine making--Ohio; Lonz Winery Places
: Put-in-Bay Township (Ohio); Ottawa County (Ohio)