Neighborhood Gems: Lemp Mansion
If things that go bump in the night send chills down your spine, you might want to avoid dropping in at the Lemp Mansion in Soulard after dark. The 33-room house, built in the 1860s, was purchased by beer baron William J. Lemp in 1879. At the time, Lemp Brewery was the largest in St. Louis, but the Lemps’ fortunes quickly dwindled over the next decades. In 1901, Frederick Lemp, the grandson of brewery founder John Adam Lemp, died of heart failure. From 1903 until 1949, the Lemp family experienced five untimely deaths, including four suicides and one heart attack. Three of the suicides took place in the home. According to local legend, ghosts, perhaps the spiritual incarnations of Lemp family members, occupy the mansion. It has been featured on the popular Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures and regularly appears on lists of haunted spots around America.
In 1975, the Pointer family purchased the property, which was being used as a boarding house, and lovingly restored it to its former glory, opening a restaurant and later an inn. Manager Matt Bell (a Pointer) recalls how his uncle and grandfather ended up purchasing the property after driving past the mansion and deciding to check it out. “They noticed an ornate mantel in one of the rooms,” Bell says. “Back then, people would take mantels and woodwork out of Victorian mansions and get thousands for them. They realized that even though the house was in bad shape, it was still intact.”
Its history attracts many to the hotel. On most Monday nights year-round, visitors can take a haunted history tour for $25. The Lemp Mansion also hosts murder mystery dinner theater, as well as Edgar Allen Poe recitations, house tours with a paranormal investigation group, and an annual pumpkin carving contest to benefit charity. For more than 30 years, the mansion has hosted a big Halloween bash, complete with food and drink, live music and a costume contest. Between 700 and 1,000 attend each year, Bell says.
Although the home is now widely known for being ‘haunted,’ the Pointer family initially didn’t plan to capitalize on the mansion’s past, Bell says. “It took on a life of its own,” he notes. “The history of the mansion speaks for itself. “When we first opened in 1976, the restaurant was only in the basement of the house, so the rest of it remained unfinished. People would eat dinner and then wander around. They’d come back creeped out, and say they’d seen ghosts.” Staff members also have attested to their own spooky experiences. The ghost stories, he adds, started long before the Pointer family purchased the property.
Beyond its macabre history, the restaurant remains a big draw, Bell says, especially the family-style fried chicken dinners on Sundays. The mansion also is a popular wedding and event venue.
when » Open year-round; check lempmansion.com for specific events
where » 3322 DeMenil Place
what » To enjoy a meal in the historic hotel’s restaurant or to see for yourself whether it’s haunted
Photo courtesy of Lemp Mansion