Like most of its competitors, the Lemp brewery limped
along through the years of World War I. According to numerous accounts
though, Lemp was in far worse shape that many of the other companies. Will
had allowed the company's equipment to deteriorate and by not keeping
abreast of industry innovations, much of the brewing facilities had become
outmoded. And to make matters worse, Prohibition was coming.
This seemed to signal the real death of the company. As
the individual family members were quite wealthy aside from the profits
from the company, there was little incentive to keep the brewery afloat.
Will gave up on the idea that Congress would suddenly repeal Prohibition
and he closed the Lemp plant down without notice. The workers learned of
the closing when they came to work one day and found the doors shut and
the gates locked.
Will decided to simply liquidate the assets of the
plant and auction off the buildings. He sold the famous Lemp "Falstaff"
logo to brewer Joseph Griesedieck for the sum of $25,000 and in 1922, he
saw the brewery sold off to the International Shoe Co. for just $588,000,
a small fraction of its estimated worth of $7 million in the years before
With Prohibition finally destroying the brewery, the
1920�s looked to be a dismal decade for the Lemp family. As bad as it
first seemed though, things almost immediately became worse with the
suicide of Elsa Lemp Wright in 1920. She and her husband had gone through
a rocky marriage but had reconciled in 1920, just a short time before her
Her husband was on his way to take a bath on the
morning of March 20 when he heard a loud cracking sound in the bedroom.
Like her father, she had shot herself.
The servants quickly summoned Dr. M.B. Clopton and
Samuel Fordyce, a family friend. Strangely, the police were not notified
of Elsa's death for more than two hours and even then, the news came
indirectly through Samuel Fordyce. Wright became "highly agitated" under
the scrutiny of the police investigation that followed and his only excuse
for not contacting the authorities was that he was bewildered and did not
know what to do.
And while the mysterious circumstances around Elsa�s
death have had some suggesting there was more to the story than was told,
her brothers seemed to find little out of the ordinary about her demise.
Will and Edwin rushed to the house as soon as they heard about the
shooting. When Will arrived and was told what had happened, he only had
one comment to make.
"That's the Lemp family for you", he said.
Will was soon to face depression and death himself. He
had already slipped into a dark state of mind following the end of the
Lemp's brewing dynasty, but he took an even sharper turn for the worse
after the sale of the plant to the International Shoe Co. He was downcast
and bitter and Will soon began to follow in the footsteps of his father
and he became increasingly nervous and erratic. He shunned public life and
kept to himself, complaining often of ill health and headaches. By
December 29, 1922, he had reached the limit of his madness.
After speaking to his wife on the phone from his
office, Lemp had shot himself in the heart with a .38 caliber revolver. He
had unbuttoned his vest and then fired the gun through his shirt. He left
no note behind and although his son told detectives that he feared
something like this was coming, Lemp seemed to have no intention of
suicide, even a short time before. After the sale of the brewery, he had
discussed selling off the rest of the assets, like land parcels and saloon
locations, and planned to then just "take it easy". Not long after that
announcement, he had even put his estate in Webster Groves up for sale,
stating that he planned to travel to Europe for awhile.
The funeral of William Lemp Jr. was held on December 31
at the Lemp mansion. The offices were used as the setting for the services
for sentimental reasons, staff members said. He was interred in the family
mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery, in the crypt just above his sister
With William Jr. gone and his brothers involved with
their own endeavors, it seemed that the days of the Lemp empire had come
to an end at last. The two brothers still in St. Louis had left the family
enterprise long before it had closed down. Charles worked in banking and
finance and Edwin had entered a life in seclusion at his estate in
Kirkwood in 1911. The great fortune they had amassed was more than enough
to keep the surviving members of the family comfortable through the Great
Depression and beyond.
But the days of Lemp tragedy were not yet over.
By the late 1920's, only Charles and Edwin Lemp
remained from the immediate family. Throughout his life, Charles was never
much involved with the Lemp Brewery, and instead worked in the banking and
real estate fields.
Despite his very visible business and political life
though, Charles remained a mysterious figure who became even odder and
more reclusive with age. He eventually remodeled the Lemp Mansion back
into a residences and lived alone in his old rambling house with only his
two servants. Legend has it that he was deathly afraid of germs and wore
gloves to avoid any contact with bacteria. He had grown quite bitter and
eccentric and had developed a morbid attachment to the Lemp family home.
Thanks to the history of the place, his brother Edwin often encouraged him
to move out, but Charles refused. Finally, when he could stand no more of
life, he became the fourth member of the Lemp family to commit suicide.
On May 10, 1949, Charles was discovered dead by one of
his staff and the police were summoned. When they arrived, they found Lemp
still in bed and lightly holding a .38 caliber Army Colt revolver in his
right hand. He was the only one of the family who had left a suicide note
behind. He had dated the letter May 9 and had written "In case I am found
dead blame it on no one but me" and had signed it at the bottom.
Oddly, Charles had made detailed funeral arrangements
for himself long before his death. He would be the only member of the
family not interred at the mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery and while
this might be unusual, it was nearly as strange as the rest of the
instructions that he left behind. In a letter that was received at a south
St. Louis funeral home in 1941, Lemp ordered that upon his death his body
should be immediately taken to the Missouri Crematory. His ashes were then
to be placed in a wicker box and buried on his farm.
He also ordered that his body not be bathed, changed or
clothed and that no services were to be held for him and no death notice
published, no matter what any surviving members of his family might want.
On May 11, 1949, Edwin Lemp picked up his brother's
remains at the funeral home and took them to the farm to be buried. And
while these instructions were certainly odd, they were not the most
enduring mystery to the situation. You see, even after all of these years,
there is no indication as to where Charles Lemp's farm was located!
The Lemp family, which had once been so large and
prosperous, had now been almost utterly destroyed in a span of less than a
century. Only Edwin Lemp remained and he had long avoided the life that
had turned so tragic for the rest of his family. He was known as a quiet,
reclusive man who had walked away from the Lemp Brewery in 1913 to live a
peaceful life on his secluded estate in Kirkwood.
Edwin managed to escape from the family "curse" but as
he grew older, he did become more eccentric and developed a terrible fear
of being alone. He never spoke about his family or their tragic lives, but
it must have preyed on him all the same. His fears caused him to simply
entertain more and to keep a companion with him at his estate almost all
Edwin passed away quietly of natural causes at age 90
in 1970. According to Edwin's wishes, he burned all of the paintings that
Lemp had collected throughout his life, as well as priceless Lemp family
papers and artifacts. These irreplaceable pieces of history vanished in
the smoke of a blazing bonfire.
And like the Lemp empire... lost forever.
The Lemp family line died out with him and the family's
resting place can now be found in beautiful Bellefontaine Cemetery. But
while no one remains in the Lemp family today, it certainly doesn't mean
that some of them are not still around.
After the death of Charles Lemp, the mansion was sold
and turned into a boarding house. Shortly after that, it fell on hard
times and began to deteriorate, along with the nearby neighborhood. In
later years, stories began to emerge that residents of the boarding house
often complained of ghostly knocks and phantom footsteps in the house. As
these tales spread, it became increasingly hard to find tenants to occupy
the rooms and because of this, the old Lemp Mansion was rarely filled.
The decline of the house continued until 1975, when
Dick Pointer and his family purchased it. The Pointer's began remodeling
and renovating the place, working for many years to turn it into a
restaurant and an inn. But the Pointer's were soon to find out that they
were not alone in the house...
The bulk of the remodeling was done in the 1970s and
during this time, workers reported strange things happening in the house,
leading many to believe the place was haunted. Reports often varied
between feelings of being watched, vanishing tools and strange sounds.
Many of the workers actually left the job site and never came back.
Since the restaurant has opened, staff members also
have had their own odd experiences. Glasses have been seen to lift off the
bar and fly through the air; sounds are often heard that do not have
explanation and some have even glimpsed actual apparitions who appear and
vanish at will. In addition, many customers and visitors to the house
report some pretty weird incidents. It is said that doors lock and unlock
on their own; the piano in the bar plays by itself; voices and sounds come
from nowhere; and even the spirit of the "Lavender Lady" has been spotted
The house has also attracted ghost hunters from around
the country, who have come partly due to a November 1980 LIFE magazine
article, which named the Lemp Mansion as "one of the most haunted houses
in America". It remains a popular place for dinner and spirits today.
The current owner of the house, Paul Pointer, maintains
the place as a wonderful eating and lodging establishment and takes the
ghosts as just another part of the strange mansion. "People come here
expecting to experience weird things," he said, " and fortunately for us,
they are rarely disappointed."