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Arson suspected in damage to one of Milwaukee's oldest breweries

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Derek Benedyk bought the former Falk brewery about two years ago, with the plan of turning it into a data storage unit because the building will keep computers cool.

“It was designed before there were refrigeration systems," Benedyk said. "So engineers back then, architects, they designed buildings for that.”

That plan was postponed after a Saturday fire, that Benedyk said was likely arson.

"There were no utilities in this building," Benedyk said. "There should have been nobody in this building.”

Built in 1870, the Falk Brewery was at one point the fourth largest in Milwaukee, when the beer market was less consolidated.

“It was definitely a different landscape than what it is now,” Said Kevin Abing with the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

After a fire caused by fireworks in the 1880s, it was rebuilt by H.C. Koch, the same architect responsible for Milwaukee City Hall, Turner Hall, and the Pfister Hotel.

“He was renowned as a very capable architect,” Milwaukee Historian Brian Fette said.

It was a world class brewery up until it was acquired by Pabst in the 1890s.

“They shipped beer as far as Singapore, India, and Australia, and they won global competitions for beer taste,” Fette said.

Benedyk says there are both hurdles and benefits working with the government on historic properties, but he doesn’t know if they can help with this.

“There are tax credits," Benedyk said. "I don’t know about catastrophic damage, how they view that.”

Benedyk says despite the setback with the old office building, he still thinks he can transform the old beer storage room into data storage in the next five years.

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