STATUS: Open as a restaurant and inn
In 1838, Johann (Adam) Lemp immigrated with his son, William, from Eschwege, Germany to St. Louis, Missouri, where Adam would come to work as a grocer. A legal citizen of the United States by November 1841, Lemp began his own store, A. Lemp & Co., located off of Sixth and Morgan streets (now Sixth and Delmar). He sold household items, groceries, and homemade beer. Lemp’s light golden lager (made from his father’s recipe) was particularly popular as a change from the darker beers available at the time.
Lemp eventually formed a company called the Western Brewery, located on 112 S. Second Street. The endeavor proved to be immensely successful with his German lager due to the rising German population, beginning a new industry for St. Louis. Lemp first served his beer in a pub attached to his business. After a short while, the building was too small to accommodate both the production and storage of beer. In order to fix the situation, Adam Lemp acquired a limestone cave south of city limits, located on the present-day corner of Cherokee and De Menil Place; he found it could be kept cool by placing ice from the nearby Mississippi River, making for perfect conditions for the lagering process. By the 1850s, Lemp’s Western Brewery Co. was one of the largest in the city. The beer even received the 1st place at the annual St. Louis fair in 1858.
The Rise of the Lemp Brewery
William J. Lemp attended the St. Louis University, being able to afford his attendance by using the riches brought in by his father. After graduating, he worked at the brewery but went on to form a partnership with a different brewing company. By the 1860s, Adam Lemp had forty breweries in the caves along the Mississippi River. In 1861, William enlisted in the United States Reserve Corps, where he attained the rank of Orderly Sergeant. He eventually married Julia Feickert. Seven years later, William’s father-in-law Jacob Feickert, who had lived in the area all of his life, built a house near the brewery, a property that William would later buy in 1876 to use as an auxiliary office and residence: the thirty-three-roomed Lemp Mansion.
In 1884, the radiator system was installed – only half a decade after radiant heat was patented. An open-air lift was added in place of the grand staircase. A tunnel was added to connect the mansion through the caves to the brewery.
Adam Lemp died a millionaire, passing away on August 23rd, 1862 (some sources say August 25th) to natural causes, leaving William as the sole owner and operator of the Western Brewery. In 1864, William constructed a new plant at Cherokee Street and Charondolet Avenue, with the size of the building growing with the demand for lager increasing; it eventually spanned five city blocks. William fathered a total of seven children: William Jr., Louis, Charles, Frederick (who suffered from unknown health problems), Hilda, Elsa, and Edwin.
Lemp possessed the largest brewery in St. Louis by 1870, as well as the largest outside of New York to be run by a single owner, with the family becoming a symbol of the city’s power and wealth. With a refrigerating machine installed in 1878, the caves were converted for use for other purposes, including a theater, a natural auditorium, a concrete swimming pool, a bowling alley. The brewery was incorporated as the William J. Lemp Brewing Co. in 1892; William Jr. and Louis Lemp became the company’s vice president and superintendent, respectively. By the mid 1890s, the introduction of the popular “Falstaff” beer gained Lemp Brewery national notoriety (Falstaff beer is still brewed today by a different company). It was the first brewery to establish a coast-to-coast distribution of its beer. William Sr. assisted in the launch of Pabst, Anheuser, and Busche’s brewing careers in the wake of his own business success. In 1897, the wedding of Hilda Lemp and Gustav Pabst united two brewing industry families.
The Family Tragedy
The first of the many tragedies to befall the Lemp family occurred on October 12th, 1901, when William Sr.’s favorite son and the heir to brewery presidency, Frederick Lemp, died of heart failure at age 28. Following the death of his son, William spiraled into a state of depression, becoming more of a recluse as he was seldom seen in public after the great loss. On January 1st, 1904, Frederick Pabst, his closest friend, passed away, leaving William feeling apathetic towards running the business. He continued to work in the office every day, but he was always nervous and uncomfortable, as both his physical and mental well-being were on the decline. At 10:15 AM on February 13th, 1904, William J. Lemp shot himself in the head with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. Billy fulfilled the role as president of the company on November 7th of the same year.
William “Billy” Lemp Jr. (born August 13th, 1867) inherited the role of president of on November 7th, 1904. Like his father, he had attended the St. Louis University. He and his wife, Lillian (whom he had married in 1899), began spending the inheritance lavishly by hiring servants and purchasing excessive carriages, clothing, and art. Lillian soon acquired the nickname of “the Lavender Lady” due to her fondness of the color and tendency to wear it (the horses for the carriages even had their harnesses dyed lavender). In 1900, she gave birth to their son, William III. A beautiful woman coming from a wealthy family, Billy enjoyed showing her off as his trophy wife; however, he soon began to tire of his wife, demanding that she must spend her time shopping. He allotted her $1,000 a day: if she did not spend it, he would not give her anymore. With Lillian distracted, Billy was free to spend his time in the caves below the mansion throwing wild parties involving prostitutes coming to “entertain” he and his friends.
Though there is no official documentation of the boy’s existence, it is rumored that Billy fathered a son with a woman other than his wife. Zeke, known today as “the Monkey Face Boy,” was born with Down’s Syndrome and was hidden away in the mansion’s attic his entire life, with Billy Lemp seeing to it that Zeke never saw the outside world. The mother was believed to either be a mansion servant or one of the many hired prostitutes. St. Louis historian Joe Gibbons stated that a former nanny and chauffer attested to the boy existing and living in the attic, which house the servant’s rooms.
In 1908, Billy and Lillian had had enough and filed for divorce. All four St. Louis newspapers devoted front page coverage of the divorce, as it became quite the scandal. With the trial opening in February 1909, crowds flocked to the courthouse to witness Lillian’s claims of violence, drunkenness, atheism, and cruelty. The court practically overlooked Billy’s behavior, causing Lillian to almost lose custody of William III over a photograph of her smoking a cigarette. While she did retain custody, she decided to disappear from the public. On the last day of the divorce proceedings, Lillian arrived wearing entirely black – the only time she had ever been seen wearing anything other than lavender.
Billy’s troubles had only begun: in 1906, nine large breweries in the St. Louis area joined forces to create the Independent Breweries Company, which ignited a fiery competition for the Lemp Brewery that had not previously existed. On April 16th of the same year, Billy lost his mother to cancer.
Despite the declining fortunes of the brewery, an extensive remodel of the Lemp Mansion took place in 1911, converting parts of the building into office spaces. Billy neglected the brewery, which allowed much of the company’s equipment to deteriorate without the maintenance it needed. Edwin Lemp continued to work there until his retirement in 1913, moving to an estate called Cragwold in Kirkwood, Alabama that overlooked the Meramac river. The brewery was struggling by World War I.
In 1914, Billy also retreated to the Meramec to build a country home for himself. The next year, he married Ellie Limberg, the widowed daughter of the late st. Louis brewer, Casper Koehler.
Elsa Lemp (William Sr.’s youngest child and St. Louis’ wealthiest heiress) married Thomas Wright, the president of the More-Jones Brass and Metal Company, in 1910, only to be separated in 1918 and file for divorce in February of the following year. While the divorce went through successfully, it caused great amounts of physical and mental damage to Elsa. Even still, the two remarried in March 1920. However, Elsa committed suicide on the 20th, likely as a result of their turbulent relationship.
The arrival of Prohibition in 1919 dealt the Lemp Brewery a mighty blow. Keeping the brewery alive was more for keeping the business afloat than procuring profits, seeing as the Lemp family was already very wealthy. Billy hoped that Congress would repeal the act, but he gave up, ultimately closing the Lemp Brewery without notice. Workers found out about the closure only when they arrived at work the next day and all of the doors were shut and the gates were locked.
The famous Lemp “Falstaff” logo was sold for $25,000 to Joseph Griesedieck, a brewer, in 1922. Other assets of the plant were liquidated and the plant’s buildings were auctioned off. The brewery, which spanned ten city blocks and was worth an estimated $7 million before Prohibition, was sold for a mere $588,000 to the International Shoe Co. Even after the fall of the brewing empire, the Lemp family continued to live in the mansion.
Falling into a deep depression, Billy gradually became more and more nervous and erratic, avoiding public life and complaining about feeling unwell, just as his father had done years ago. On December 29th, 1922, he shot himself in the heart using a .38 caliber revolver in his office on the main level of the mansion (now the left dining room) in the very same building his father killed himself in eighteen years prior. His body was added to the family mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery, his crypt located right above his sister Elsa’s.
With Charles and Edwin having left the family brewery long ago, the Lemp brewing legacy certainly seemed to have come to its close. Edwin sought seclusion in his Kirkwood, Missouri mansion, moving there in 1911, while Charles simply never partook in the family business, opting to work in banking, finance, real estate, and briefly in politics instead.
In 1943, William III died of a heart-attack at the age of forty-two.
Charles began extensive remodeling of the mansion, restoring it to a full residential building. He lived there with his dog, two servants, and his brother’s illegitimate son Zeke, never marrying since he preferred to live alone in his sad, bitter existence. As he grew older, Charles became more unusual, as he began to form a morbid fear of germs that left him constantly wearing gloves and washing his hands. Zeke died in his 30s within the mansion and was ultimately buried in the Lemp Cemetery plot with only a small, flat marker that read “Lemp.”
It was not long after Zeke’s death that Charles, too, committed suicide, becoming the fourth in the Lemp family to die this way. In April 1941, Charles had made a special request in the form of a letter to a funeral home in St. Louis wishing that when he died, with his body be taken to the Missouri Crematory via ambulance. His body was not to be bathed, clothed, or changed; his ashes were to be put into a wicker box and buried on his farm with no funeral or notice in the paper. Eight years later on May 9th, 1949, Charles shot his beloved Doberman Pinscher in the mansion’s basement before ascending the stairs to his second-floor room to kill himself. The body was discovered by either his brother Edwin or one of his staff members the next day. In his right hand was a .38 caliber Army Colt revolver; his suicide note was found next to him:
“St. Louis, MO, May 9th, 1949,
In case I am found dead, blame it on no one but me.
Ch. A. Lemp”
Despite having been shot in the basement, the dog was found halfway up the stairs, dead.
Edwin maintained a peaceful life, avoiding his family’s tragic history by living reclusively inside his secluded estate. In 1970, he passed away of natural causes at the age of 90. His last wishes were for the butler to burn all of the paintings, priceless family documents, and artifacts. the Lemp family had acquired throughout the years. Edwin was the last of the Lemp family line, ending the legacy.
The Mansion’s New Life
Following Charles Lemp’s suicide, the Lemp Mansion was transformed into a boarding house, though it failed to do well due to tenants’ reports of paranormal activity. Word got out about the disembodied knocks and footsteps, causing the board house’s success to decline.
In 1975, the Lemp Mansion was saved when Dick Pointer and his family purchased it to renovate it into a restaurant and inn, which it has remained to this day.
The workers who performed the mansion’s renovations made claims of apparitions, unusual noises, tools disappearing, and the sensation of being watched; many of them left their job, never returning in fear of the hauntings.
Following the restaurant’s opening, staff members reported appearing and disappearing apparitions, glasses in the bar levitating and flying through the air, and voices and sounds with no apparent source. Doors have been known to lock and unlock by themselves and lights turn on and off in the same way; the bar piano produces music with no player.
The three paranormal hotspots in the mansion are the stairway, the attic, and “the Gates of Hell” in the basement (the entrance to the caves below the mansion and brewery).
Zeke “the Monkey Face Boy” has been seen quite regularly peering from the small windows in the attic, usually witnessed from passersby in the street. Paranormal investigators typically tend to leave toys in the middle of the room that housed him all his life, drawing a circle around the objects to see if Zeke’s spirit moves them. Almost every time, the toys have been relocated upon the investigators return the next day.
In what is now the downstairs women’s bathroom (formerly William Jr.’s personal domain and the first location to feature free-standing water in St. Louis), there have been several reports of a man taking a peek over the stalls, watching the women go to the bathroom. One woman who experienced the phenomenon exited the bathroom to return to the bar and proclaim to her two male companions, “I hope you got an eyeful!” Confused, the two denied having left the bar, with the bartender verifying their claim. The peeping tom is believed to be the spirit of William Jr., who was notoriously a womanizer.
Guests staying in William Sr’s room report hearing someone running up the stairs only to kick at the door, seemingly a replay haunting of when William killed himself and William Jr. came running up the stairs and had to kick the door in to get his father since it was locked.
Human spirits are not the only ones to haunt the Lemp Mansion: several years ago, a tour guide heard the sounds of horses outside of William Sr’s office. When they looked out the window, nothing was there. Prior to its current use as a parking lot, the area was once used to tether horses.
Today, the mansion is a prime ghost-hunting destination. The rooms have been restored in period style, opened as a bed and breakfast featuring a fine dining restaurant, a mystery dinner theater, and historical/haunted tours.
In Popular Culture
- On MTV’s reality show FEAR, Lemp Mansion and Lemp Brewery were disguised as “The Boettger Brewery.”
- On December 29th, 2009, the Lemp Mansion was featured on Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab episode “If Walls Could Talk.”
- On September 29th, 2010, Ghost Hunters investigated the mansion.
- Off Limits had an episode on St. Louis, Missouri, where they showed the caves below the mansion and brewery.
- Lemp Mansion was explored on Most Terrifying Places in America 2.
- Legends of America. “Lemp Mansion,” www.LegendsofAmerica.com
- Lemp Mansion. “History,” www.LempMansion.com
- Wikipedia. “Lemp Mansion,” www.Wikipedia.org