Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Another Ghost Town Example

Ah, sometimes I really struggle with whether to do a "no locations" post.  I have three criteria for doing so.  The first is Safety but that does not apply today.  The second is Trespassing.  That is borderline here but I think in this case would earn a pass. And the third criteria?  Be patient.

The history of this place, without being overly specific, is as follows.

A railroad was going to go through the area and spread prosperity up and down the line. This was the early 1850s when Wisconsin was a new state and there were new fortunes to be made.  At the spot where a bridge would have to cross a substantial river a town of hustlers and speculators sprang up.  The population quickly sprang up to 2,000.  Land values were bid up to ridiculous levels.

Of course even a Speculative Town needed hotels, stores, newspapers...and a brewery.

All was going quite well until one of the principal backers of the project decided to move the rail line a few miles away.  There was no shortage of suspicion that he owned cheaply acquired land at the new location.  It was likely well founded.

The promising town went bust.  People left, perhaps on to fuel the next real estate bubble. Some of the houses were hauled away on sled runners over the winter months and installed in the now prospering location of the railroad.  

Regards the brewery cave at this location it was never entirely forgotten, but was one of those places that lots of people had heard of but nobody I spoke with had actually seen.  The trail as I followed it had numerous clues.

As the original pioneers of the 1850's grew old a number of them went back to the now abandoned town.  Several newspaper articles reminisce about bygone times...and mention that one of the few remaining traces of the town was "the beer vault".  

I even ran across a hand drawn map, circa 1920, that showed the location of the cave. Although as it turns out the road shown on the map has since been rerouted, making it a false clue.

As memory of the town grew dim the surrounding area became a tourist mecca. Assorted scenic rock formations around the area actually got named.  One reference I found called the brewery cave "The Robber's Den".  

Finally I ran across an account of somebody in 1972 who visited the cave in a "heavily wooded ravine", so I knew it was still there somewhere.

Early spring 2017.  An odd looking approach trench.  But not really heavily wooded.

The archway is well preserved for being mid 1850's vintage and having no maintenance since before the Civil War.

A smallish cave, just this single room.  Nicely free of trash and graffiti.

A look back out shows the construction of the cave.  It was clearly a natural niche that was expanded.  The opening was then walled up with a combination of brick and rough stone.  Part of the front wall/roof has fallen in but the rest of the cave is quite solid.

I am always on the lookout for interesting construction variants.  Here I spotted something new, a square vent hole.  So I took a flash photo of it.  It was only later when I got it home for a closer look that I noticed what looks rather like a hibernating bat up there!

So that is my third criteria for a "No Locations" post.  Hibernating bats should be left in peace.  I will have the DNR take a look during their next bat survey of the area.  

Of course if you are a serious student of Wisconsin history you can probably guess the site.  If so please contact me before seeking it out.  I will give you the latest bat status report.

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