OK, I confess. I was trespassing. For a long time I wanted to check out the back of the brewery building but kept putting it off. So, I finally decided to live dangerously and wandered around the south side of the one-story section for no more than a couple of minutes to get a glimpse of the back (west) side. I was surprised to find scaffolding there.
I was more surprised when I came back around the corner and encountered a man getting out of his truck and giving me a very stern look. Busted!
I quickly explained I just wanted to see if there was a potential update on the restoration work that has been ongoing for the past two or three summers. He chuckled and said there was a tentative plan to utilize at least a portion of the building at some undetermined future date but emphasized nothing is imminent and there are no specific floor plans. He was just there to check on the scaffolding.
I learned that the work over the last couple of years has focused on restoring and repairing the brick and masonry work to ensure the building remains safe and upright. My guide, who wished to remain anonymous, showed me the south wing where most of the repair work has occurred. He said they had to fill in about a seven-foot cellar that used to house a boiler.
I also learned that contractors have been contacted about repairing/replacing the roof and clearing brush south and west of the brewery’s south wing to accommodate a deck overlooking the river.
My guide also gave me a brief look inside the main section of the old brewery, which opened in the 1850s. The two-story stone section was built in the 1860s. Two stories of brick were added to that section and other major repairs completed in the 1910s – just before World War I and Prohibition began. The brewery was upgraded again following the end of Prohibition in the 1930s.
The brewery closed in 1937-38 and has served multiple purposes over the ensuing decades – dairy, cheese factory, haunted house, mushroom growing center, storage, antiques store and more.
The property is owned by Margot and Michael Rooker. Michael is an actor with numerous movie and television credits to his name. I remember him best for his roles in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Days of Thunder” movies, as well as “The Walking Dead” TV series.
Rooker married Margot Tsuru LaRose in Green Lake in 1979, the same year that Margot’s mother, Alyce LaRose, and her husband, James, formerly of Chicago, purchased the brewery building in Princeton.
The LaRose exploits in Princeton were included in an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1991: “They moved into the old brewery, remodeled the upstairs and began growing mushrooms in the damp, cool basement. They gave that up after four years because of the constant attention required and went into antiques, starting with the collection they had accumulated over the years. They also added Amish rockers, Amish dolls and teddy bears sewn by Alyce, Wisconsin maple syrup and honey.”
The emporium was known as The Tiger’s Den, which closed several years ago.
Again, as my guide emphasized several times during our brief tour, although there is a vision to utilize at least a portion of the former brewery at some time, there are no guarantees and nothing is imminent other than the ongoing repair work, which the Schultzes get to as time and weather allow.
I have been unable to reach Margot Rooker for comment.
I don’t plan on trespassing again, and neither should you! I was told vandals had broken into the building a couple of times over the years.