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Beer Caves Discovered In St. Cloud – On ‘This Date In Central Minnesota History’

Stearns History Museum

ST. CLOUD – June 7th, 1949 – “Beer Caves” found?     On June 7, 1949, a sewer laying crew had been plagued with water when attempting to lay pipes between First and Second Street on Fifth Avenue North. Each time dirt was removed water would ooze up and over the pipe laying operations. The contractor then struck rock which led to the unearthing of a cave 100 feet long, 18 feet wide and 15 feet high.

The cavern was half-filled with water and dirt except for a few large pieces of browned and rotted wood which floated about in the stagnant pool. Nothing of the historical significance of the cave was found. Such evidence or lack thereof, left people to question the cave’s purpose and origin.

The area, near Cathedral High School gym, was once the site of a prosperous brewery. This fact lends credence to the suspicion of a beer cave at that spot, which lends the mysterious cave its name. The Enderle Brewery, founded in 1864, was located along the Mississippi not far from the business district of St. Cloud.

Because beer is affected by light, the process of beer-making also involves storage in a dark place where it can be kept cool, a place much like a cave. Coincidentally, Enderle came across a bed of fine clay when he was digging for a place to store his lager beer. Thus began the theory of the construction of the cave for brewing purposes. The solid granite roofed room could have been built. Rock laid upon rock to a final stone at the top, each finely hewn and expertly laid in place could have rendered the cave laid without the benefit of cement or mortar. However, the granite work appeared quite remarkable since it was dated 20 years prior to the actual opening of fine-tuned granite work in the city in 1868. Such inconsistencies began the controversy surrounding the cave.

Many theories are held by individuals as to what the cave was used for and how it came to be.

In August 1899, the city drew up plans for a storm sewer to be laid from Ninth Avenue North down to the river. It was to be done with home labor and home materials. The skillfully cut granite roof cave discovered 62 years ago today could have been part of that project instead of the brewery’s, but no solid evidence is found to prove its association with the public works project.

Some community members also theorized the cave was used as storage for River boats that came up to St. Cloud landings several times a week with supplies and would store them in the man made cavern. Other people at that time related stories of the cave being used as a refrigerator for perishables brought up the Mississippi river by stern-wheelers, paddle boats, and packets. Another remembered exploring the vacant cave as a child.

With such contrasting memories and criticism on every side, what is fact? A granite roofed cave existed and people are attracted to its mystery.

Thanks to Stearns History Museum Intern Brittany Bokovoy, for her help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.

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