Unarguably, Anheuser-Busch put St Louis, Missouri on the map, so to speak, when it advertised the city as its home. It’s no surprise, then, that St Louis is the home to the first brewing company in the United States: Lemp Brewing. It is also home to the largest mercantile mystery the city has ever experienced which has led to Lemp Mansion being considered one of the most haunted homes in America.
The story begins in 1838 with the emigration of Johann “Adam” Lemp from Germany. He settled in St Louis, hoping to make his fortune as a grocer. His store was the only one in town selling lager beer and Lemp had some knowledge of the art of brewing, including the fact that the natural cave system below St Louis would provide the perfect temperatures for storing beer. Soon Lemp abandoned the grocer’s shop and set himself to brewing beer. By 1870, Lemp Beer was the premiere beer in St Louis and controlled the market until Prohibition.
William J. Lemp succeeded his father in 1862 and it was through him that the company became an industrial giant. William expanded the company, purchasing all of the land in a 5-block radius around the original brewery that his father began. In 1892, the company was incorporated as the William J. Lemp Brewing Co.
The reign of the Lemp family among St Louis’ social elite was not to last forever, as few things do. In 1901, William’s son and heir apparent, Frederick, died at age 28, of heart failure brought about by complications from other diseases. Frederick’s death was hard on the whole family, but most especially to his father. In 1904, William lost another person in his life whom he held dear: his friend Frederick Pabst. These two deaths, so close together, was more than William could handle and on February 13, 1904, shot himself in the head with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson.
William Lemp, Jr. took over the company after his father’s death. He inherited not only a business, but a massive fortune to go along with it. Both William Jr. and his wife, Lillian, spent the family fortune hand over fist. William threw lavish, decadent parties, bringing prostitutes in for the entertainment of his friends. His daliances caught up with him, however, when he managed to get one of the prostitutes pregnant. All records of this illegitimate son were destroyed and the boy lived his life hidden away within the family’s mansion. Eventually William grew tired of Lillian and divorced her in what proved to be a scandalous and sensational divorce.
The very public divorce was only the beginning of William’s problems. The first major blow to the brewery came in 1906 when nine of the large brewing companies in St Louis joined together to create the Independent Breweries Company and Lemp’s fiercest competition since opening its doors. His mother also died of cancer that year.
In 1919 when Prohibition became along, Lemp’s brewery was barely limping along. The government’s actions dealt the company it’s final blow. William closed the plant down without notice and had to sell off all of the property for a fraction of it’s $7 million pre-Prohibition value.
March of 1920 dealt another blow to the Lemp family when William’s sister Elsa shot herself in the same manner their father had years before.
The Lemp dynasty had come to an end. William slipped into a deep depression and in 1922, he took his own life with a .38 revolver in similar fashion to his father and sister before him. He left behind two brothers, Edwin and Charles, both of whom had never been interested in the family business. Charles, a banker and real estate investor, took possession of the house and began remodeling it while living there with the illegitimate child of his brother William. Soon Charles became an odd figure, mostly becoming obsessed with germs. During this time, William’s illegitimate son, known only as “Monkey Face Boy” because of his Down’s Syndrome, died. Shortly after his death, Charles became the fourth family member to commit suicide. He was discovered on May 10, 1949 with a .38 caliber Army Colt revolver still in his hand.
Edwin never had anything to do with the family’s fortunes or mansion, so the house was sold and turned into a boarding house. Not long after, the neighbourhood and house began to deteriorate. It was then that the ghostly tales began. People complained of hearing ghostly knocks and footsteps. It became difficult to find boarders and the house nearly fell into total disrepair, until it was saved in 1975 by Dick Pointer and his family purchased the mansion and restored it, turning it into a restaurant and inn.
Workers restoring the house often reported tools that had gone missing, seeing mysterious apparitions and a feeling of being watched. Often these workers would leave the job, never to return.
Once the restaurant opened, workers continued to experience unexplained phenomena. It is believed that “Monkey Face Boy” haunts the attic where he lived out his life. His face is often seen looking out of the attic windows.The women’s bathroom on the first floor was once William Jr’s office and ladies are often caught unawares by his sudden appearance. Even the “Lavender Lady” makes an occasional appearance. She is William Jr.’s wife, Lillian, so called because she took to wearing only that colour.
Today, the mansion is a major tourist attraction in St Louis. People visit the restaurant and inn to experience something unexplained or unusual and they’re rarely disappointed. If you’d like to visit this famous place, the Lemp Mansion Restaurant and Inn is located at 3322 DeMenil Place, St. Louis, Missouri.