Marshall Historical Society

Hop Extract Works
By Janet Dangler, May 2019

The Hop Extract Works, built in 1879 by James R. Whiting, were located about one mile outside of Waterville on the way to Deansboro, where the Suburban Propane bulk tanks and storage buildings are located. It was at what was called "Factory Village," on Mill Street (Buell Ave).

At first, the works were in a small wooden building with three extractors. However, the demand for the product was so great that by 1881 plans were underway for expansion, which included a three-story brick factory 33x75, a hop pit of corrugated iron, 30x73 feet for the reception of the waste hops after the extract has been removed, a 35x70 foot warehouse for the storage of hops, an engine house, which will contains two 60-horse power boilers (later 100-horsepower boilers were added), a workshop, a fire-proof structure to store the hops, and an office. In 1882, apparatus was installed for making electric light into the extensive works. In 1887, a large blast blower was placed to carry the waste hops through a tube from the damping place to the boiler room, where they are used for fuel. Conservation at its finest!

Local farmers brought their hops in large horse-drawn wagons; or, if the weather was adverse, hops were imported from England, Ireland and South America, and shipped from as far as Oregon and California by freight train. The hops were placed in large brass vats tightly closed, and through a process of hot water and cooling, the lupulin (the active ingredient in hops) was extracted. "It was almost like steeping tea," commented Celia Roberts Jones, who was born in 1893 and whose father was a bookkeeper there. The extract was preferred by the brewers because the extraction process ensured that the best part of the hops was preserved; and one pound of hop extract equaled to about two and one-half pounds of hops, a plus for shipping. An 1886 article in the Waterville Times proclaims, "Lest anyone should question whether this hop extract is mixed or in any way a substitute for the hop, we will add that for many years they have made, and still make, a standing offer of $1000 for an ounce of anything but the pure hop found in any quantity from their works."

Celia Roberts Jones, mentioned above, added the following anecdote: one officer of the plant, experimenting with the extract liquid, added confectioner's sugar and boiled it down to cake form, something like fudge. This "solid product was made for "medicinal purposes".

At its heyday, the plant converted about 150 bales of hops per day into about 2000 pounds of extract, and was running day and night to keep up with the demand, with two men relieving each other every twelve hours. There were about 15 men working each shift. Working at the hop works was dangerous business: one man lost some fingers while removing a belt; another had his hair and face burned in a gas explosion.

In 1897, the engine house (where the boilers were) caught fire. Fortunately, the building was brick with a tin roof and located quite a distance from the works. Had it caught in the main factory building the damage would have been enormous. Gasoline was used in the work of extracting hops, and a new supply had just been placed in storage. However, it was confined to the one building, easily controlled and put out. The origin of the fire remained a mystery. Arson was suspected; and a pile of hop residue was found in front of the boilers: possibly the fire started there, However it occurred, the plant was closed for while for repairs but then started up again as busy as ever.

After a time, however, the plant closed, a victim of the low prices of hops, around 1902, although there was still enough product stored to meet demand. Some talk was made about using the plant to extract rubber. But in 1935 the brick building was razed, and in 1937 the 70-foot brick chimney was demolished by the State Highway Department, using 92 sticks of dynamite. The plant was the only hop extract works in the world at that time.

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