The Lemp Brewery was once a pillar of the St. Louis economy. Its giant factory produced 500,000 barrels of beer each year—more than well-known neighbor Anheuser-Busch.
Even today, the Lemp Brewery dominates the view along Interstate 55 as it runs south from downtown St.Louis. But it's been decades since the 15-acre, 950,000-sqaure-foot site was home to anything more than a haunted house on Halloween.
That's about to change. Construction will soon begin on the redevelopment of the Lemp Brewery site, bringing offices, restaurants, shops, and 400 apartments to the complex of red brick buildings. And once again, the Lemp Brewery could dominate St. Louis, this time as the preferred location for contemporary loft living.
A LAGER HISTORYThe developers were largely inspiredred by the long history and distinct chararacteristics of the Lemp Brewery. The building came to life after Johannn Adam Lemp brought the traditionn of lager-style beer to St. Louis fromm Germany in 1838. Lemp brewedd some of the first lager in the United d States. Demand for the cold beverage grew quickly, and by the 1860s, 0s, Lemp had outgrown its first location, now the site of the St. Louis Arch.
The company soon began construction of a larger brewery on what was then the southern edge of the city. The brewery was situated above enormous natural caves that were used to store beer. The site evolved as a village of brick and stone buildings, most with elegant stonework by German master masons. Together, they looked like a small masons Together, they looked like a small Bavarian village in the heart of St. Louis.
Although Lemp was the eighth-largest beer maker in the nation in the 1890s, it couldn't survive Prohibition. Factory workers arrived one day in 1919 to find the doors locked. In 1922, the Lemp site was sold to International Shoe Co. for $588,000, a fraction of its pre-Prohibition estimated value of $7 million.
International Shoe used the site for manufacturing and storage, selling it in 1992 for a mere $200,000. The site then saw a number of redevelopment plans fall through as one developer after another failed to secure financing.
Then, finally, Gary Hassenflu came to town. Hassenflu, president of Kansas City-based Garrison Development Co., a multifamily and mixed-use developer working in the Midwest and Mountain states, was looking for a new opportunity and was immediately intrigued by the Lemp Brewery. “I decided to run with it,” says Hassenflu, who bought the property for $5 million.
Another person excited about the project was Vince Ebersoldt, principal of St. Louis-based Ebersoldt + Underwood Architects. “I've been looking at the Lemp Brewery and lamenting its state for many years,” Ebersoldt says.
Ebersoldt learned about Hassenflu's purchase of the site through local news reports and contacted the developer; soon Ebersoldt's firm entered into a joint venture with WDM Architects of Wichita, Kan., which has a long history with Hassenflu.