In 1855 a German immigrant named Christopher Stahlmann sited his Cave Brewery on this site. It is said that he took advantage of existing natural caves to dig his beer cooling cellars, a vital part of any brewery of that era before refrigeration. St. Paul and Minneapolis are blessed with a number of sandstone brewery cellars from this and other breweries, Stahlmann's being probably the largest and most extensive. The cellars were variously reported to be a mile deep or a mile long with three levels. In fact they are barely three stories deep, about 30ft under West Seventh St (Fort Road). The Three-Level claim may come from a small section of brewery basement and sub-basement in which the cave is accessed from the 2nd underground level, making it the third-level subbasement. The caves may have originally extended under the complex of buildings as well as the street, but more modern structures with deeper foundations seem to have truncated a few passages.
Tuburculosis claimed the life of Chris Stahlman in 1883, and of all three of his sons by 1894. The company went bankrupt and the property was sold to the St. Paul Brewing Company in 1897. In 1900 it changed hands again, going to the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company (which had begun in the North Star Brewery Cave under Dayton's Bluff). Schmidt greatly expanded the surface structures, razing the original building which stood where the present Rathskellar (Beer Hall) now exists. The german castle architechture now seen is from Schmidt's ownership. In 1911 Jacob died, leaving management of the brewery to his son-in-law Adolph Bremer. During Prohibition the brewery was officially turning out soft drinks, but was meanwhile unofficially still brewing. The caves and convenient tunnels undermining the entire complex allowed bootleggers to smuggle liquor out through the garage of a nearby brewery employee's house, and from there to the gangster-run Green Lantern speakeasy. The Bremer family ran the Brewery until 1951, when it became the Heilman Brewery and later the Landmark Brewery. After a brief stint as an Ethanol-fuel plant in the early 21st century, the brewery closed.
This combination of building and cellars has long been the target of
local explorers. For years the only way into the cellars was thought to
be a tortuous and dangerous route through sewers and passageways of the
Fort Road Labyrinth, a route pioneered long ago by early sewer explorers
like Brick and rediscovered by Action Squad in their visits. Oddly enough,
both groups of explorers relied heavily on this single route, and did not
bother to explore shorter and less deadly alternatives, of which there
are a great many both above and below ground. With the closing of the brewery
and ethanol plant, it became possible to explore the surface structures
as well, which until recently offered working elevators and computers,
stocked science labs, angry security guards with sniper rifles, and occasional
pranksters swapping the American flag for a Jolly Roger on the flagpole.
Most recently, the grounds have been taken over for training by St. Paul's
SWAT team, and exploring is definitely not advised.
These caves are some of the biggest brewery cellars in the Twin Cities, if one ignores the Lilydale brewery caves originally dug as sand mines.
Reportedly at least partly natural, the underground is now so honeycombed with sewers, utility tunnels, crawl tunnels, smuggling tunnels, pipeline tunnels, caves, rooms, and shafts that it is impossible to tell if any natural cavity remains. Fortunately, this maze of passages means that exploring the cave system is never boring!
In addition to the stalactites formed by water leaching through limestone, Stahlmann's also has a great number of living stalactites. Dubbed "Snotsicles", these are jelly-like colonies of slime mold organisms, which used to feed on the yeast wast dumped into the caves and sewers from the brewrey and ethanol operations. Now that dumping has ceased, these organisms are harder to find, but still thrive in certain bacteria-rich areas.
Some of the orignial stone and brickwork reinforments in the cellars.
Small crawl tunnels and utilty passages lead to oddly-shaped rooms and chambers. One sewer tunnel near the former prohibition smuggling house features a horseshoe inlaid by construction workers.
A control room features an X-rated reward for those who take a closer look at the night-shift operator's reading material.
Labs, ladders, tanks, and rooms. The brewery is a maze of industrial ruin, which I have unfortunately few photos from. The exploring was always more interesting than the photography for me.
Anyone know what this is? PCBs? La Brea Tar Pits?
The roof and two traps, one for sky rats and one for the regular kind of rat.
Every time we go here the sky rat trap is set up and full, I guess some security guard gets hungry.
(They get really upset and lock doors when people *ahem* release the pigeons!)
Beer, beer, and more beer!
This exact manhole leads to the coolest part ever. Shh, don't tell the owners!
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