Kimberly Bender, 38, is executive director of Heurich House Museum, the preserved home of Victorian-era Washington beer magnate Christian Heurich. In March, Heurich House, with partner DC Brau, re-created and sold Heurich’s Lager.
You do a lot of late-night and alcohol-infused activities that get in young people who maybe wouldn’t go to museums otherwise. How’d you get started doing that?
Christian Heurich was a brewmaster, and so one of our themes is talking about his business and his role in the brewing history of Washington. We want to educate visitors about the craft of brewing, what he did on a daily basis. So we ended up creating History and Hops. That tends to draw a certain crowd.
Looking at Heurich, I would pronounce it Hoyreeccchhh, which is not how you’re pronouncing it.
That is the proper German way of pronouncing that name, but he changed it to HY-rick. During World War I their German heritage wasn’t received well. Their youngest daughter, Karla, who was in elementary school, was called “the little Hun.”
Heurich’s heyday really wasn’t that long ago. Maybe Washington doesn’t keep track of what happened 100 years ago.
It’s one of our biggest challenges here. People forget their collective history if there isn’t a group to preserve it. Heurich was the largest private employer and landowner in Washington. His brand of beer was the beer that everyone drank, before Prohibition. It was a household name. Trucks drove down the street every day with his name on it. It’s really interesting that nobody remembers who he is.
So many other lost stories have been recovered, and people have integrated it into their lives. Like for instance, a lot of neighborhoods used to have different nicknames. One that more and more people use every day is Hell’s Bottom, which is Shaw.
I never heard that!
Yeah, DC Brau at one point brewed a Hell’s Bottom beer.
That’s a great name. That’s a lot better than Shaw. Have you had problems mixing the alcohol-related nature of the museum with the fact that you’ve got a historical collection?
We’ve had a couple of incidents where people will crawl into one of the bathtubs in one of the bathrooms, even now that there are two signs on the bathtub saying very clearly, “Please do not touch.”
It’s a period — a Heurich bathtub?
Yes, from 1894. I can understand the appeal. It’s a big, beautiful bathtub that if you take pictures of yourself in, it makes you feel really cool. People will do those kinds of things and then tweet it at us. We have to say: I’m sorry, but you’re never allowed in here again.
And you know who these people are?
We know who those people are. We have pictures.