Route 66: St. Louis, MO – The Lemp Mansion

The Lemp family story is one of triumph and tragedy.  Adam Lemp was a German immigrant who opened a grocery store in St. Louis, MO in the late 1830’s.  He brewed his own beer, from his father’s recipe and sold it in his store.  By 1840 he had quit the grocery business and was concentrating on building his brewing business.  He trained his son William to take over the business.

William kept the brewery on the edge of technology, investing in refrigeration technology not only for the brewery, but also for the rail cars that distributed the Lemp beer throughout the country. It was the first beer to be sold coast to coast in America.

Sadly, the death of William’s fourth son, Frederick, at age 28 devastated the man. He became reclusive and lost interest in his business and remaining family. Less than three years later, William committed suicide in the lavish Lemp Mansion.

His oldest son, William “Billy” Lemp, Jr. took over the reins of the brewery shortly after his death in 1904. Soon things began to unravel for Billy.  News of his ceaseless philandering reached the ears of his long suffering wife. She took their son, William Lemp III and left.  After a sordid divorce trial, she was awarded custody of William III in 1908.

The second blow to Billy came in the form of Prohibition in 1910. The brewery was closed abruptly and the rights to its most popular recipe was sold to a family friend.  Then the brewery itself was sold off for a fraction of its worth to the International Shoe Company.

Billy became reclusive and disinterested, just like his father before him.  In 1922, he too committed suicide in the family mansion by shooting himself.

Billy’s sister, Elsa, had also committed suicide by gunshot, just three years earlier after a rocky marriage.

Billy’s brother Charles came to live in the mansion in 1929.  He never married and lived alone with his dog and a couple of servants. He had pursued a career away from the brewery in banking and politics and was successful in his own right.  However, he too would commit suicide in the mansion in 1949, leaving a suicide note…short and to the point: “St. Louis Mo/May 9, 1949, In case I am found dead blame it on no one but me. Ch. A. Lemp”.

The sole remaining Lemp brother, son of William Lemp, I, Edwin, lived to the ripe age of 90 before dying of natural causes in 1970. He lived in his own mansion, and dedicated his life after retirement to a number of charities, many of which benefited animals.

The Lemp Mansion, after the tragic Lemp family had left it for good, meandered its way through the decades as office space, and boarding house.  Now it stars as an elegant bed and breakfast and restaurant.  Its fame comes from the many reports of paranormal occurrences.

The face of a young boy, said to be an illegitimate son of Billy Lemp born with Down Syndrome, is seen looking out from the attic windows. Legend has it that the poor child was kept locked away for his entire short life. Toys left upstairs are often found moved and sounds are heard from above stairs, when no one is up there.

A woman is also said to haunt the mansion. She is thought to be Billy’s ex-wife, Lillian, who suffered through years of neglect and humiliation while her husband fooled his way around St. Louis.  She is found of showing up in pictures.

Booms and thuds have been reported by overnight guests….perhaps echoes of gunshots and falling bodies?

Frantic running steps are heard on the stairs and banging on the door of what was once William Sr.’s private room where he set off the domino effect on his family by committing suicide.  Reports are that Billy (William, Jr.) had heard the suicidal gunshot and had rushed up the stairs to try to get to his father, inside the locked room.

In addition to dining and overnight accommodations, the Lemp Mansion also offers ghost tours and ghost hunting experiences.  If you would like to visit their site to learn more, please visit: http://www.lempmansion.com/

If you’re winding your way through old Route 66 in St. Louis, take a detour to visit the Lemp Mansion for dinner, for a ghost tour, or even to stay the night! Let us know what you encounter!

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