Lemp Mansion Inn and Restaurant–Jackson County, Saint Louis, Missouri
Photograph ©Rhonda Tucker
3322 DeMenil Place
Saint Louis, Missouri 63118
The Lemp family’s reputation (and their money) started with Johann Adam Lemp; a self-made success in the beer brewing industry.
Johann Lemp, originally from Germany, immigrated to the states in 1838, settling in the city of Saint Louis, Missouri. A short time after his arrival, Johann opened up a merchant store, serving up homemade, lager beer which became very popular with the locals. Eventually, he turned his growing merchant business into Lemp’s Western Brewing Company, using nearby caves for the lagering process. Johann Lemp died in 1862, a wealthy man.
After Johann’s death, the family fortune and business was inherited by his son, William J. Lemp. William, having a business sense like his father, expanded the family business and successfully began distributing nationally.
In 1864, William Lemp began erecting new plants for his product and soon the empire grew over a range of five city blocks.
In 1868, William’s father-in-law, Jacob Feickert, built the Lemp Mansion with the assistance of the Lemp family fortune. The mansion was built very close to the Lemp brewery and in 1876, William Lemp bought the manor from his father-in-law. William then began tunneling through the lagering caves and connected the entire Lemp industry underground. In 1892, the brewery was incorporated as the William J. Lemp Brewing Company. Soon afterward, William’s daughter married Gustav Pabst, part of the Milwaukee brewing family; later to become the Anheuser and Busche Company thanks to the Lemp family.
The Lemp family tragedies began in 1901 when William’s oldest son, Fredrick Lemp, died of heart failure at the age of twenty-eight. After his sons death, William began to withdrawal and spent less and less time in public. A few years later in 1904, William’s best friend, Fredrick Pabst died, causing William’s mental health to further decline. On February 13, 1904, just one month later, William put a .38 caliber, Smith and Wesson to his head and ended his emotional torment.
In November 1904, William Lemp, Jr., took over the Lemp family business. William, Jr. and his wife, Lillian, then began spending the family fortune, sparing no expense on the good life and wasting most of the inheritance. At some point after that, William, Jr. was said to have given his wife $1,000.00 a day and telling her if she didn’t spend it she wouldn’t get anymore. Apparently he did this to keep her out of the home most of the time. With his wife out, William, Jr. Spent most of his time hosting elaborate parties down in the tunnels; hiring prostitutes, drinking beer and enjoying the pool and bowling alley with his friends.
Quite eccentric herself, Lillian was known as the “Lavender Lady” because of her love for the color. Lillian is said to have worn lavender clothing, hats and jewelry all the time. She even went as far as to have her carriage horses dyed that color!
Soon, after many parties and prostitutes, William’s irresponsible behavior caught up to him; he was said to have fathered an illegitimate child with another woman. This child was said to have been born with Downs Syndrome and was an embarrassment to the family. The child was cruelly nicknamed “The Monkey-Faced Boy” and was locked in the attic of the Lemp Mansion his entire life.
In 1909, William Lemp filed for divorce. In this day and age it would’ve been the other way around but unfortunately women had no rights in the early nineteen-hundreds.
The Lemp divorce proceedings was the biggest scandal to hit St. Louis at that time and it drew in crowds who were shocked an awed by the tales of atheism, wild parties and drama. During the proceedings, Lillian almost lost custody of her son, William Lemp III, due to a photograph that was taken of her holding a cigarette! Then, during the last day of the proceedings, Lillian Lemp shocked everyone by walking into the courtroom wearing nothing but black.
In 1906, several breweries in Saint Louis formed into one and gave the Lemp Brewery a run for its money. It was also during this year that William’s mother died of cancer.
In 1911, despite the ever declining finances being brought in by the Lemp Brewery, William decided to remodel the family mansion. Slowly William’s business began to deteriorate, financially, as well as, physically. By the end of the first World War, the Lemp Brewery was barley staying afloat.
Around this same time, William built himself a country retreat on the Meramec River and began spending more and more of his time there. Then in 1915, William remarried to widowed, Ellie Limberg, daughter of another brewer, Casper Koehler.
In 1919, with the prohibition laws passed in the US, Will closed the doors to the Lemp brewery. The plant workers were given no notice or the close until they showed up in the morning and found the doors locked.
In 1920, Elsa Lemp Wright, sister to William, followed in her father’s footsteps by pulling the trigger on herself. Apparently Elsa was distraught over her rocky marriage and perhaps to avoid the shame of divorce, ended her life quickly.
Soon afterward, all of the assets pertaining to the family business were sold. William was said to have sold the family dynasty for a little more than $500,000.00 when it was actually worth more than 7 million! Soon after that, William sank into a deep depression and, like his father, he began to withdrawal from everyone around him. Finally, in December 1922, William took his own life by shooting himself in the heart with a .38.
Adding to the Lemp family tragedies, William Lemp III died of a heart attack in 1943, at the age of forty-two years old.
Charles Lemp, brother to William, Jr., moved back into the Lemp mansion and did some remodeling. Charles soon began acting erratically and also had an obsessive compulsion with germs. During this same time, William, Jr.s illegitimate, Down Syndrome stricken, son, died in the mansion.
Soon after this, Charles Lemp snapped; he took his beloved dog to the basement and shot it and then went up stairs and shot himself with a .38 revolver. When the body was found he was still holding the gun in his hand and the dog was found halfway up the stairs.
At this point there was only one Lemp family member left; Edwin Lemp who had lived his life in Kirkwood, Missouri, away from the madness of his family. In 1970, Edwin died at the age of ninety, ending the Lemp family line.
Reports of the Paranormal:
After the death of Charles Lemp, the mansion was sold and used as a boarding house but that didn’t last too long. Rumors and first hand accounts from residents spread quickly through the city. Many residents who lived here reported phantom footsteps throughout the house, as well as, strange and unexplainable knocking sounds on the walls, doors and windows.
In 1975 the mansion was sold again, this time it was renovated and transformed into an inn and restaurant. During the renovations, the new owners had problems keeping workers; often times these men would leave and never return. The workers were reporting odd events on a daily basis; sightings of apparitions, tools unexplainably vanishing, the intense feeling of being watched by unseen eyes and strange noises throughout the house.
Once the new restaurant was finally opened, staff members began making some reports of their own: fleeting apparitions, odd sounds, dishes being thrown through the air by unseen hands, disembodied voices, lights turning on and off on their own, doors locking and unlocking themselves and the piano suddenly playing on its own!
Today claims of the paranormal are still made here. In the attic, many have reported the feeling of being watched, moving shadows on the wall, a disembodied voice saying “help me” or “play with me”, toys being moved, hair being gently tugged at and several people have seen the face of a child with Down Syndrome, peering out of windows.
On the main staircase, people have claimed to hear the sounds of someone running up the stairs and banging and kicking on the former bedroom door of William Sr.
On the back staircase, many have heard the sounds of a dog panting heavily, and some have even claimed to hear the dog’s nails on the wooden steps.
On the second floor, a solid apparition of a middle-aged man has been seen sitting by a window. This apparition has also been spotted on the main staircase and in the upstairs hallway. He is usually described as an older gentleman with a beard and wearing a white shirt and black pants.
Also on the second floor, the smell of lavender perfume has been detected by many, shadowy figures have been seen and doors open and close on their own.
On the first floor, many have reported seeing drinks stir themselves, glasses move, shatter or fly through the air, the piano plays on its own at times, people have been touched or shoved, an apparition has been seen sitting at the dining room table, and another solid apparition has been seen peering over the stalls in the ladies room.
In the basement dining area, many have reported seeing a floating, misty apparition that quickly vanishes into thin air, table clothes being taken off of tables by unseen hands, tables and chairs being moved around when no living person was down there and the feeling of someone looking over your shoulder.
At the entrance of the sealed off tunnels below, many have witnessed a shadowy figure passing back and forth in front of the gate.
Other paranormal activity witnessed throughout the house includes: doors opening, closing, locking and unlocking on their own, lights flickering or going on and off and the sounds of horses in the parking lot where horses were once tethered.
Perhaps the most haunted house in Missouri, paranormal activity is still reported at the mansion frequently; given the history of the place, it’s really no surprise.
Lemp Mansion Ghost Photo