MARINE VILLA HISTORY
Marine Villa is located just South of the world-famous Anheuser-Busch Brewery along the bluffs of the Mississippi River. It is further defined by Cherokee Street's Antique Row on the north, Gasconade Street on the south, South Broadway and Jefferson Avenue on the west, and the Mississippi River on the east.
The Marine Villa neighborhood lies along the Mississippi River, just a few miles south of downtown St. Louis. Originally part of the St. Louis Commons, this area was subdivided and gridded in 1855, with many of the early developments in the neighborhood being small farms and brick yards. Some of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood are small frame and brick farm houses built in the 1860s, many in the form of a "flounder house", a simple but unique vernacular home, often of one-and-a-half stories with a shed roof. With the construction of a north/south roadway called Carondelet Avenue, Marine Villa was able to continue developing as the city's population grew and expanded from the downtown core. The Lemp Brewery relocated from downtown to the northern edge of the Marine Villa neighborhood in the 1860s, and the neighborhood saw an influx of German immigrants who came to the neighborhood to work at several of the nearby breweries, including Lemp, Anheuser-Busch, and the Cherokee Brewery.
In 1890 the streetcar came through the neighborhood, creating an explosion in population and construction. Most of those buildings are still standing, and give the neighborhood its dense, diverse and historic architectural character. Along with the streetcar route, bustling commercial districts developed along Cherokee Street, South Broadway and Jefferson Avenue. Constructed entirely of brick, most of these commercial buildings are of two or three story construction, with first floor storefronts and residences above. Many are used today as they were originally intended, with small businesses occupying the first floor. These commercial districts are now home to the Chippewa-Broadway Business Association and the Cherokee Antique Row District. Surrounding the shopping districts the neighborhood is characterized by single and multi-family historic brick homes, built primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These homes exhibit a range of architectural styles, including Second Empire, Queen Anne, Italianate, Craftsman, and many localized and vernacular interpretations of the more recognized styles.
The William J. Lemp Brewery
Adam Lemp began brewing Lemp Beer around 1840 on South Second Street in St. Louis. He was the first brewer to introduce Lager Beer to the city, and he quickly outgrew his operation on Second Street, which didn't provide enough space to store, or lager, the beer.
The solution was a newly discovered limestone cave at the corner of Cherokee and what is now Demenil Place, which at the time was just south of the city limits. Lemp bought a lot over the entrance to the cave and excavated the site, but continued to operate the tavern and brewery at the Second Street location.
When he died in 1862 he bequeathed the Brewery to his son William, who changed the name to the "Willam J. Lemp Brewing Company." In 1864 William Lemp purchased a five block area around the storage house at Cherokee Street, and began constructing the new buildings directly over the caves. In the 1870s there were about 30 breweries in St. Louis, with Lemp being the largest, followed by E. Anheuser & Company. The William J. Lemp Brewing Company was the first brewery to have nationwide distribution of its beer. Locally, the Brewery operated its own rail line, the Western Cable Railway Company, which connected all of the plant's main buildings with its shipping yards near the Mississippi River and to other major area railroads.
While construction began at the Brewery in 1864, the oldest extant buildings are the two Malt Houses at the corner of Lemp and S. 18th Street, which were constructed in 1874. In anticipation of the expansion of the company, Lemp made sure that the buildings in the complex were designed so that additions could easily be made. The majority of the buildings in the complex were built in the 1880s and 1890s, at the height of the success of the Brewery. Some of the turn-of-the-century buildings were designed by architects Widmann, Walsh and Boisselier, who specialized in brewery architecture. Other buildings were designed by architect Guy Norton. The five-story Grain Elevators and attached tower were erected in 1905 and built by the Barnett and Record Construction Company of Minneapolis. The phenomenal brickwork of the grain bins and other buildings in the complex were the work of the Hartmann Bricklaying and Contracting Company, who had an office nearby at Lynch and 18th Streets.
When William J. Lemp, Sr. committed suicide in 1904 his Brewery was the third largest in the country. William J. Lemp, Jr. was subsequently elected corporate president but the brewery fell into difficult times. Lemp Jr. abruptly closed the brewery shortly before prohibition began in 1920. In 1922 the complex was sold to the International Shoe Company, who owned the property until 1992. Lemp Jr. committed suicide shortly after the sale of the brewery in 1922. The William J. Lemp Brewery is included in the Benton Park National Register Historic District, which was formally listed in 1985. It is also part of the Cherokee-Lemp Local Historic District.