Winkelmeyer Brewery

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — There are a lot of cellars, caves, and tunnels under the streets of St. Louis. A sinkhole in Downtown West’s Memorial Park that formed nearly a month ago is a passage to the past. A Metropolitan Sewer District spokesperson said historical records indicate that it is linked to an old beer tunnel from the 1800s that was used by Winkelmeyer Brewery.

A Post-Dispatch article from 1902 says that there were once natural caves near Union Station and the complex’s tower sits on top of one of them. The old ticket office was located over another of the caverns located around 35 feet underground.

The brewer was located on Market Street from the 1850s to the 1890s. They took advantage of natural springs in the caves to keep beer cold during the city’s hot summers. The cellars were located under Market Street.

Map of old brewer cellars under St. Louis streets

The natural underground formations in downtown St. Louis were blasted out and divided by masonry. This is a lot like what brewers did with the caves near the Lemp brewery for cold storage. They were eventually abandoned and partially filled with debris.

The report from 1902 says that workers attempted to dynamite the Uhrig cellars located at 18th and Market Streets. They were trying to build Union Station’s foundation. The blasting did not do much and they left many of the spaces alone. The caverns are still there.

The Post Office is now built on a portion of the Winkelmeyer Brewery’s land. The beer cellars were exposed during the 1934 demolition. The storage rooms were kept cool by springs. They had to be diverted during the construction of the Post Office.

The recent tunnel collapse caused a stormwater sewer line above it to collapse. A MSD spokesperson says that the line has been repaired. Work to restore the parkland is still underway.