Lemp Mansion – St. Louis, Missouri - Atlas Obscura
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St. Louis, Missouri

Lemp Mansion

A historic house in St. Louis was plagued by a series of suicides committed by family members involved in a successful brewery. 

The story of the Lemp Mansion runs hand-in-hand with the story of German immigration and beer brewing in St. Louis. Johann “Adam” Lemp, a German immigrant, moved to St. Louis in 1838 and set up a grocery store in South St. Louis.

By 1840 he was focusing primarily on brewing and selling beer. He formed Western Brewery, one of the first breweries to produce German Lager in the United States, at 37 South Second Street (where the south leg of the Arch now stands).

Adam’s son, William J. Lemp, took over Western Brewery after serving as Orderly Sargeant for the Union in the American Civil War. Under William, the brewery grew to be the largest in St. Louis and the largest outside of New York with a single owner.

William “Billy” J. Lemp Jr., William Sr.’s first son, followed the same educational path as his father, however it was William Sr.’s fourth son, Frederick, born in 1873, whom William Sr. hoped to groom to run the company. In 1876, William and his wife, Julia, moved into the Lemp Mansion (built in 1868). William changed the company to William J. Lemp brewing company in 1892 with his son William Jr. as Vice-President and his son Louis as Superintendent. It was now a family affair.

Unknown to the Lemp family, Frederick had significant health problems, and in 1901 Frederick died of heart failure. William Sr. became despondent and slowly deteriorated mentally and psychologically until he committed suicide by shotgun on February 13, 1904.

Billy took over after his father’s death. His wife filed for divorce in 1908 charging Billy with desertion, cruel treatment, and other indignities. Billy was only granted visitation rights for their only son, William III. The company began to slide after prohibition, eventually shutting down and being auctioned for a minuscule fraction of its original worth. On December 29, 1922, Billy Lemp shot himself in his office. Today that office is the dining room of the mansion.

William Sr.’s youngest child, Elsa Lemp Wright, married Thomas Wright in 1910 and filed for divorce in 1919. They reconciled and were remarried in 1920, but she shot herself while in bed on March 20.

Charles Lemp, William Sr.’s third son, moved into the mansion in 1929. On April, 1941, Charles Lemp sent a letter to a south St. Louis funeral home requesting that in case of his death, his remains should be taken by ambulance to the Missouri Crematory. His body should not be bathed, clothed, or changed. His ashes should be put into a wicker box and buried on his farm. There were to be no funeral held or a notice put in the papers. On May 10, 1949 he shot his dog, then himself in the head, leaving the following note: “St. Louis Mo/May 9, 1949, In case I am found dead blame it on no one but me. Ch. A. Lemp”.

That was the only suicide note in the family’s history.

Edwin Lemp, the only remaining child of William Sr. (Louis died of natural causes in 1931), never moved back into the mansion. Edwin died in 1970 at age 90. His final order to his caretaker was to destroy his art collection and family heirlooms.

Today, the Lemp Mansion has been made into a restaurant and inn by the Pointer family and offers tours (historical and haunted), murder mystery dinner theatre, and Halloween parties.