Just about everyone in St. Louis has heard about the haunting of the Lemp Mansion and the tragedies that befell the family. What very few realize is that wasn’t the beginning of the sad Lemp Family saga, it was the end. What we know today as the Lemp Mansion wasn’t built by Lemp Family; it was actually built by another prominent St. Louis Family, the Feickerts. The Feickert Family started building the future Lemp Mansion in 1868. At the time, this was located in what would become one of the most opulent neighborhoods in the Midwest and it wasn’t even located in the city limits of St. Louis. In 1868, the future Lemp Mansion was located in an unincorporated area known as “The Commons,” and it was the hottest real estate market in the area. St. Louis was growing at such a pace that city planners couldn’t keep up with the ever-increasing demands of its population. Such rapid population growth and poor city planning left St. Louis citizens vulnerable to crime, disease outbreaks, and sanitation issues that killed thousands. Living in the commons was not only a sign of prestige, but also one of security and safety.
Prior to 1868, the Lemp Family actually lived across the street from the DeMenil Mansion. The first Lemp Mansion was built sometime in the early 1850’s. During the 1840’s the Lemp Family had already purchased a considerable amount of land in the area, and had already moved a considerable portion of their brewing operation to the Cherokee Caves. So in the early 1850’s, building their new home in this area was simply a matter of convenience.
As St. Louis grew so did the Lemp’s good fortune. Their brewery business was growing and their primitive cave brewery operation couldn’t keep up with demand. Adam Lemp’s oldest son William Lemp was proving himself to be a very capable brewer and had plans of expanding brewery operations by building a larger, more modern brewery on top of their Cherokee Cave land holdings. Adam Lemp passed away on August 25, 1862, leaving majority control of his brewery to his oldest son William. Adam Lemp died a very successful man, but he didn’t die a millionaire as commonly reported. In order to grow his brewery, Adam Lemp had to enlist the financial backing of several investors, and they considered William’s plans for expansion to be reckless. It took William a couple of years to gain full control of his father’s brewery and in 1864; he was able to break ground on what would become the Lemp Brewery we know today.
In 1878, William Lemp and Julia Feickert married, and as a wedding gift, the Feickert family gave the newlyweds the Feickert Mansion, which later would become known also as a Lemp Mansion, and the Lemp Mansion we know today. The original Lemp Mansion was the residence of William’s mother until her death, and it remained in family hands until sometime after the sale of the Lemp Brewery in 1922.
During the great depression, the neighborhood surrounding the Lemp Mansions declined as the rich and affluent of St. Louis lost everything in the ensuing economic panic. By the 1950’s the neighborhood was virtually a slum and city and civil engineers planned to eliminate this now blighted neighborhood by routing Interstate 55 down the middle DeMenil Place (then known as 13th Street), which would require the razing of the entire neighborhood including the DeMenil Mansion and the Lemp Brewery Complex. Several mansions and parcels of land were bought under eminent domain by the State of Missouri in preparation for this massive construction project.
In 1949, the state acquired ownership of both Lemp Mansions. The first 1850’s Lemp Mansion was already abandoned and in severe disrepair. It was soon demolished after it was purchased. The current day Lemp Mansion was used by the Marion Hospital to care for the area’s indigent. In 1961, the historical status of the DeMenil Mansion was recognized and the route of Interstate 55 was changed. This recognition saved several pieces of St. Louis History, including the DeMenil Mansion, current day Lemp Mansion, and the Lemp Brewery. Sadly the change in the interstate’s routing came too late for the original Lemp Mansion. Today an ugly brown metal warehouse stands in the original footprint of the first Lemp Mansion, but if you walk down the sidewalk across the street from the DeMenil Mansion and look down, you can still see the foundation stones of the first Lemp Mansion.
Learn more about the first Lemp Mansion by booking a tour of; The Lemp Haunted Neighborhood. For more information visit www.seeAghost.com or contact us at (618) 340-5526 or STLPRS@charter.net
This first Lemp Mansion with the Hoppe Mansion in the background, ca. 1904