Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Franklin Wisconsin

Franklin Wisconsin probably had big dreams once.  It was an early settlement in the western part of Sheboygan County and the hard working citizens perhaps hoped their little village would become a bustling metropolis.  They had a mill, stores, churches, a hotel, heck even a brewery. But the world passed it by and today it is a drowsy hamlet.  Just a dozen or so houses, a former tavern that is now a consignment store, a swell fire station and nothing more.

Traces of its former industry and its unrealized hopes are hard to find, but are there if you know where to look.

The brewery in Franklin was established in 1853 by a man named Menke.  A few years later it was owned by a Gustav Seidleman.  In 1858 it was damaged by fire, and a workman down in the basement was killed when 2000 bushels of barley crashed through a weakened floor and crushed him.

A new brewery was put up and the cave was said to have been excavated at that time.  This of course begs the question of how beer was being aged in the early years of the enterprise.  It was still in operation into the 1870s, but when the brewery went under the cave was sealed.  Later it was opened up again and used for social gatherings of a "Bachelor's Club".  As this was during Prohibition I think that one might reasonably assume that the members were evading both the authority of The Fair Sex and of the Federal Government.

The cave is described as being 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and ten feet high with a 25 foot entry passage leading to a seven foot wide door and the main chamber beyond.  A stove in the back was there to provide a bit of warmth to the Bachelors.

And what is there today?

An entrance among the underbrush.

The passage way, now partially collapsed.

Here is a great schematic of how an arched brewery cave was constructed.  A trench was excavated and a stone foundation laid down.  The extra row of darker stone is a nice touch but the reasons for it are obscure.  Then an archway of brick was laid, probably over a wooden form.  Here, rather unusually, the roof is flat instead of being a nicely formed arch.

That is actually not very good construction technique.  Notice how the ceiling is starting to fold in at the center line?  This cave is nearing a state of collapse and is NOT SAFE to enter.  I took a few pictures from the entrance and am quite happy to trust the published details as to what lies beyond.

I will say this again, do not enter this cave or any that look like it.  The ghost of that 1858 workman is probably haunting the place and he does not need any company.

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