June 13, 2006
ACROSS BRUSH CREEK from the village of Manor, in Westmoreland County, Joseph Mathias built a distillery in the mid- to late-1800's and operated it there for many years as the J. Mathias & Co. Distillery. In 1878 he was joined by a partner and the distilling company was identified on labels as Fry & Mathias, although the distillery itself was always known locally (and on its bonded warehouse sign) as the J. Mathias Distillery. The distillery burned down in 1882, but was immediately rebuilt. The new plant included a 3,000-barrel capacity warehouse, twice the size of the older one.
In this case, though, when we visited the site where Fry & Mathias once distilled fine rye whiskey,
finding the location was made very easy for us. We enjoyed the expert guidance
of a former Manor resident. One of our readers, several months
ago, contacted us when he saw the distillery mentioned on our Sam Dillinger page.
He was familiar with the distillery in Manor and asked if we knew anything
more about it. He sent us details of where it was located, including street names.
the Google Earth program, we were able not only to find it, but to take a
virtual tour of the area. When we actually visit the site in June of 2006, we
feel as if we're returning to a long-familiar scene. So thank you, Jack, for your
More assistance comes from Scott, who works at the pest control firm now occupying part of the site. Having grown up in the area himself, Scott is also familiar with the Mathias distillery and he walks around with us to show us details (and also to make sure we don't get eaten by snakes). Thank you too, Scott. The old warehouse, which is the only surviving building, is owned by a machine shop.
Fry & Mathias began as primarily a wholesale whiskey vendor, producing whiskey for sale in bulk to other distillers and merchants. Early advertisements guaranteed prompt delivery of all orders received by phone or mail, which, in those pre-internet days, were not normally thought of as methods of retail purchase. Later, however, they marketed their own brands. Those included "Old Manor" and "Old Westmoreland". The distillery closed in 1920 with the onset of national prohibition, but the "Old Westmoreland" brand was brought back after Repeal by nearby Ruffsdale Distillery.
Story and original photography copyright © 2006 by John F. Lipman. All rights reserved.