On the morning of October 30th, 1871, three men set to work digging out beer vaults for a new brewery in Bushwick. While they dug 37 feet below street level, dirt and sand started to shift. As the walls started to cave in, one man became partially buried. The others rushed to his aid. The effort and movement caused another collapse, completely engulfing the victim. Two of the workers escaped relatively unscathed, but the first worker who got stuck, a man named Jacob Bitman, didn’t make it out alive. The men were working on what would become the William Ulmer Brewery, now a New York City Landmark and the site of an immersive performance inspired by the history of the abandoned Brooklyn brewery and this fatal incident.

William Ulmer Brewery
Ulmer Brewery in 1909, Image from Brooklyn Public Library

On April 15th, 16th, and 22nd, from 12pm to 4pm the dormant spaces of the former Ulmer Brewery will become the stage for a guided theatrical experience written by Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer Justin Rivers. Conveyance: Below is a dramatic sound and light installation in the lager storage subbasement 30 feet
below the abandoned brewery.

Once deep in the vaults participants will be surrounded by the sounds of Brewer William Ulmer and the building’s main architect, Theobald Englehardt. As visitors are guided through the vaults, the voices of Ulmer and Engelhardt fill the cavernous spaces that are more than 150 years old. The two figments of the past debate the site’s 1885 expansion, while Ulmer contends with his guilt over the life lost in those vaults more than a century ago. With the 1885 expansion, Ulmer Brewery became one of the largest and most successful breweries in the City of Brooklyn, not yet part of New York City.

Beer cave beneath the Ulmer Brewery

Conveyance: Below was written by Justin Rivers and features spoken performances by Brandon Thomas Martin and Jon Noto with musical performances by Danny Mark Asis and Joshua Kopit. Michael Joseph Ormond served as the Director and Sound Editor.

This ambient performance will accompany a site-specific art installation created by Untapped New York’s artist-in-residence Aaron Asis, called Ulmer: Conveyance. The art installation will be located on the upper floors and is designed as a self-guided procession through multiple rooms. Together, the two pieces of this installation invite visitors to explore the past, present, and future of the landmarked site, which will undergo a major restoration/adaptive reuse project led by NYC-based architecture firm DXA Studio.

Art installation, Ulmer: Conveyance

Guided experiences begin every hour. Personal flashlights are recommended. This experience will last approximately 20 minutes. Tickets to Experience Ulmer: Conveyance and Conveyance: Below are free, but registration is required. You can secure your spot here!

If you are an Untapped New York Insider, you can be the first to see the installation and performance before it opens to the public on April 15th! This members-only preview is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet, become a member today and get one month free with code JOINUS.

Ulmer: Conveyance Private Preview

Exterior of the William Ulmer brewery

Next, check out Inside the Abandoned Beer Vaults of a Former Bushwick Brewery