Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Wolf Caves - A Mystery Tunnel

Tour guides probably hate it when enthusiasts take their tours.  As we were finishing our visit to the Wolf caves behind the Luna Rossa wine bar I asked our guide, you may recall he claimed to be named "Tip", about the tunnel connecting to the building around the corner.

He had never heard of it.

For orientation purposes, here is the main building of the Wolf Brewery.  It faces east.

There are plenty of later additions but the 1872 stone building is the centerpiece.  The cave complex of the same era goes back into the hillside from somewhere near the back left corner of the building.  The newer faux castle entrance to the caves is further to the left and around the corner.

If you turn to the right in this picture and round the corner behind the brewery building you find this:

The 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance map identifies this as the bottling house for the Joseph Wolf brewery.

The little red sign indicates that the building is for sale.  So of course there are plenty of pictures on line including this doozy:

(I suppose since I am borrowing their photo I should give a plug to the Realtor.  If you want to buy the place go here .  I understand the price has just been reduced).

This certainly has many of the features we associate with brewery caves.  Note what appears to be a drain channel down the middle.  It looks to me as if a tunnel was made into solid rock, but that there is old masonry about half way down.  And of course some nice modern cinderblock at the end to keep us from knowing what lies beyond.

The problems are several here.  Supposedly the property above was built circa 1860.  This meshes poorly with the story of the entire complex - and the rest of a city block to boot - being burned to the ground in 1872.

A second issue is the identification of this as the bottling works.  In general beer was not bottled on a large scale until around 1880.  That seems a little late to be expending considerable effort to link up with the ageing cellars, and anyway this passage does not look particularly handy with respect to trundling kegs around.  I am thinking there would have been skinned knuckles and spilled beer going through that doorway.  So whatever was going on it seems unlikely to have been associated with bottling the beer.  They probably by the 1880s had a more convenient piping system in place or simply hauled the kegs over a wagon load at a time.

The above photo does not identify the direction of the tunnel, but it seems reasonable to assume that it went south, towards the beer caves discussed in my last post.  Recall that the earlier Martin Wolf caves were to the north of the later Joseph Wolf ones. Here is a peek into a collapsed section of the M. Wolf cave complex:

This section collapsed during the 1872 fire.  But if this is the far east end of the original cavern system perhaps the tunnel from the Bottling House connected with the western end of the Martin Wolf caves? I was on the lookout and did not see anything resembling that cinderblock wall in the back corners of the Joseph Wolf cave system.

If so this would help explain how the Joseph Wolf brewery was able to stay in business during its rebuilding years.  I suspect that the fire spared this rather substantial building and that a temporary tunnel was sunk through to the surviving part of the original cave system.

Alas, the Martin Wolf caves have been examined and ruled to be unstable.  Like so many buried mysteries, these secrets will not see light.

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