All Cincinnatians have heard of Barney Kroger, the son of German immigrants who founded the national grocery chain of the same name. But has anyone ever heard of Isadore Brandstetter? Probably not. But we should. He was an important figure in the Cincinnati Wine Industry during the Catawba Craze of the 1840s through the 1860s. He was one of the many of Germanic immigrants – men and women – who were the face behind the grapes that made our internationally known Longworth Sparkling Catawba Wine. It was this wine that made poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dub our city the Queen City of the West. Brandstetter was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Baden Wuertemburg in today’s southwestern corner of Germany, from a wine town called Renchen. It is Germany’s wine country, and at the time, known for the world’s best wine – namely its Hock white wines that Queen Victoria had recently tramp-stamped as her faves.
Isadore worked on Nicholas Longworth’s Baldface hill Vineyards in what is now Mt Lookout and Columbia Tusculum . His plot was called the Salem plot, after an obscure hybrid grape from the grape breeder Edward Staniford Rogers of Salem, Massacheusetts, that Longworth had tested and deemed not suitable for winemaking. Not only did Isador work in the vineyards, tending the finicky Catawba grapes, he and about eight other families, many of whom also worked for Longworth started St. Stephen’s Catholic Church on Eastern Avenue. They were tired of the bumpy, hilly trek to St. Francis de Sales Church in Walnut Hills every Sunday. So, in 1869 after getting permission from Archbishop Purcell, they bought land from their employer Old Nick Longworth on Eastern Avenue at the foot of their vineyards to start a parish that from the very beginning has been a lay directed parish, very similar to those in Germany. After Longworth’s death, he was offered by the estate a very rare and good 99 year lease-to-buy deal on the plot of land and vineyard he’d improved. He had a two story frame house that he probably built – Longworth was not known for providing houses for his tenants. And he would have split the profits of the grapes he grew on the vineyard he planted there. Isadore was one of the few tenants who bought their former land from the Longworth estate.
In 1917 Kroger Avenue, the street that runs from Delta Avenue up the hill to Tweed in Mt Lookout was still named Beechmont, until today’s Beechmont Levy was constructed and named. Originally that street was to be named Brandstetter Avenue, after the Brandstetter’s who’d owned the farm now for nearly half a century. But when Henry Kroger, Barney’s son bought the land next to the Brandstetter farm on todays Earl’s Court Way, he was more widely known to the City Hall street namers, and he got the naming rights for the hilly street. And then the family of Isadore Brandstetter sank into historical obscurity.
Isadore’s original frame home was torn down and a new four square built by his son, Joseph, who took over the farm before his father’s death, and operated a construction and wood ash business. Isadore moved to get away from the large gaggle of children his son had, and moved in with another son, John, who lived on Delta Avenue above his grocery next door to the Lincoln School.
In 1920, Joseph Brandstetter sold the former vineyard property, but not his house. He had M. R. Witschger – House Movers – moved it a hilly mile away onto 555 Stanley Avenue, also on the site of another plot on the former Longworth Vineyards, where it stands today. Witschger’s offices were on MIssouri Avenue, the site of the former Missouri plot in the Baldface Hill vineyards, named after another grape Longworth tested. Apparently house moving was a common thing back then and Witschger was one of the local go-tos. They also moved the large three story rectory next to St. Stephen’s off site as well. It would have been a sight to see a three story house rolled along the streets and set on its new foundation.
Isadore is buried at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery on Duck Creek Road in Evanston with other Longworth vineyardists.