Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Seven Caves of Brownsville (Minnesota)

Brownsville is a pretty little community.  It is in far southeastern Minnesota right along the Mississippi.  Of course it got its start early, back when steamboats were the main method of transportation.  In the 1850s it had a busy main street with all the necessities of 19th century life...saloons, hotels, stores, offices.

But prosperity went elsewhere and the boom was over by the 1870s.  Oh, folks still lived there but it became a sleepier place.  Eventually the main street went from a narrow dirt road to a four lane highway, taking out all that was left of Old Brownsville.  But because the town was tucked in so tightly to the river bluffs, the original settlers had dug a series of caves.  These are the storage cellars of Pre-Civil War Brownsville.  I am numbering them from north to south with my comments on each:

Cave One.  A narrow doorway and fairly high up in the cliff.  This seems to have been an ice storage facility.  This is interesting, as it suggests that the tunnel goes quite a ways back into the cliff.  You don't dig a cave to store a few trays of ice cubes.  

I have seen, and will attempt to add on, a picture of this door with a ramp at its bottom and with two guys sliding a large block of ice down it.

Cave Two we have seen in our earlier visit.  As you can see in the second photo it has all the features of a beer storage cave.  In fact I think that's what it was.  The spot corresponds to the location of a hotel owned by a man named Fred Gluck (great name, makes you think of the sound of pouring beer!). Gluck was also a partner in one of the two breweries in Brownsville, so it would make sense for him to store some of the "product" here close to where it would be consumed.

Cave Three looks like an "oops".  Somebody started digging and just quit.  Did the building project go belly up or did they hit some hard rock?

Cave Four has the look of a natural cave that has been expanded some.  It lacks the straight edges and gently arched top of the other caves.

Cave Five is another of the classic "brewery cave" type.  And it might be one.  One of the breweries in Brownsville claimed to have excavated a 100 foot long cave if a 1866 newspaper article is not just the boomerism of 19th century civic pride.  Cave Two only goes back 30 or 40 feet tops. Another possibility would have this the cave from the earliest brewery in town, one run by a man named Knoblauch.  It only lasted a few years in the early 1850s, and its location is unknown.  Of course a hotel or grocer might also find use for a nice cave.

Below are Caves Six and Seven.  Come back next time for a look inside!

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