Moment in Oddity - Dumpster Diving
Dumpster diving is a term most of us are familiar with. Sometimes the words are describing the act of pulling a cast-off item from the trash to rework it into something creative, be it artwork or repurposing. In the case of a husband in New Hampshire, it was with a sentimental and monetary purpose that he went dumpster diving into 20 tons of garbage. Thankfully, the man was aided at his local garbage transfer station by their team and an excavator. Luckily, there was an identifying item that assisted the men in finding the correct garbage bag out of those 20 tons of trash. The identifying item was a celery stalk. There had been celery in the trash bag the man had disposed of and one bag was seen with a stalk protruding from it. The poor husband sifted through the bag and stated that the ring was not there. However, an employee said, "No, there's a couple little pieces left". The employee then pulled a napkin out of the bottom of the bag and lo-and-behold, within that crumpled, cloaking capsule, lay the ring that the husband had placed on his bride's finger, years before. Without a doubt, unexpected treasures can be found by dumpster diving, but old celery leading a person to a treasure such as a lost wedding ring, certainly is odd.
This Month in History - Glenn Miller's Death
In December, on the 15th, in 1944, Major Alton Glenn Miller was declared dead after having gone MIA during a military flight over the English Channel. The trombone playing composer, conductor and American big band founder is most famously recognized for music synonymous with the "Big Band Era" of the 1930s and 40s. Glenn Miller and His Orchestra was an American band he formed with other musicians in 1938. His music has come to be known as the soundtrack of the World War II era as well as the 'Swing Dance' generation. Miller began professionally recording music in New York City in the 1920s. Over the years his music writing skills evolved, as did the members of his orchestra. After signing with Bluebird Records, Miller's band struck enormous success playing the Glen Island Casino on the north shore of Long Island Sound in New Rochelle, New York. Glenn Miller's chart topping success in such a short period of time has rarely been matched. Cue "In The Mood"...
Lehmann House Bed & Breakfast
The Lehmann House Bed and Breakfast is located at No. 10 Benton Place in St. Louis, Missouri. This is in the historic Lafayette Square neighborhood. The home has been the residence for a couple of prominent families in St. Louis and then fell into a bit of disrepair as it served as a rental property. In the 1990s it was restored and turned into a bed and breakfast and continues to be that today. This not only hosts tourists to the city, but also a couple of ghosts and they embrace their haunted reputation. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Lehmann House Bed and breakfast.
Lafayette Square is St. Louis' oldest historic district. The Gateway Arch is within walking distance and downtown St. Louis is just three blocks north. There are a number of Victorian homes here and a walk through this neighborhood stuns the architectural and historical senses. The first thing that catches the eye are the colors of hue. They are abundantly rich in greens, purples and blues. Better Homes and Gardens named this neighborhood as one of the nation’s 12 prettiest painted places in 2012. And then there is the architecture, which features mainly Second Empire styling with arched doorways and windows and mansard roofs and ornate cornices. There are also homes designed with Germanic influence and Italianate style. Lafayette Park is the anchor to this urban oasis and was dedicated in 1851, making it the oldest urban park west of the Mississippi. Initially it was part of St. Louis Commons and was set aside as Lafayette Square, later changing to its current name. The name Lafayette is in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette. The commons was a place for livestock grazing and criminals. Thieves used the cover to rob travelers. Turning this into a park and selling off lots around it, not only drove out the crime, but made this an affluent area. Homes started going up in the early 1850s and continued through the 1880s. The Daily Democrat wrote on June 27, 1870, "In looking about the city and noting its improvements, we have been struck with the great progress attained in the vicinity of Lafayette Park. Within two years some of the finest residences in the city have been erected and the work is still going on. The beauty of the grounds, the elevation above the city, the character of the buildings, the beautiful shade trees, wide streets, and accessibility to the city by two lines of horse cars, the restrictions (by Statute) upon the erection of objectionable buildings or the carrying on of objectionable business, all combined should make this quarter the most desirable in the city for residence." And then came the tornado of 1896.
This came to be known as the Great Cyclone of 1896. The twister made its way across Shaw's Gardens and then headed up toward Compton Heights and then to Jefferson Avenue, which borders the Lafayette Park neighborhood. This neighborhood was hit harder than anywhere else in St. Louis with nearly every house losing its roof. Some houses lost their second floors and walls were blown out. The neighborhood was on a hill, so it had no protection. The tornado almost seemed to come to a stop right in the middle of the area and then moved on to the Scullin Power Plant. It destroyed the South Side Racetrack and ravaged the streetcar line. Then the twister hit the park measuring three quarters of a mile wide and splintered trees. By the time the storm had passed, most homes were damaged beyond repair. The home of cotton magnate Jerome Hill had huge gaps in the walls, no roof and all the windows were blown out. The Alexander Selkirk home was gone, the Soderer Home was nearly gone and the carriage house was destroyed and had piled on top of the horse and driver and the John Endres home was unlivable. The John Bene home had fallen on Mrs. Bene and the couples two sons. Efforts were made quickly to save them as a fire started in the rubble, but Mrs. Bene wouldn't allow herself to be pulled to safety until her children were saved. One child burned to death, but the other was saved with bad burns. Mrs. Bene was then saved with burns and bruises.
Some homes were rebuilt while others were repaired. The Great Depression and World War II relocation affected the neighborhood after the destruction of the tornado and many of the once grand homes became apartment buildings. The neighborhood deteriorated until the 1950s, becoming a haven for crime. Then people started to buy the old homes and renovate them through to the 1970s and the Gilded Age was reborn in the neighborhood. It was during the renovations of the 1970s that ghost stories started to be told about homes in the neighborhood. The Soderer House had lost its coachman, William Taylor. He had been hiding in the cellar with the family, but the cries of Bess the Horse brought him out of his safety net. He ran to the barn for her even though Mr. Soderer told him to stay. The roof collapsed as Taylor attempted to pull the animal out of the barn. Apartments were built on the foundation of the stable and people who moved into the building started complaining about eerie sounds from within the walls. The noises usually came when there were thunderstorms. People would hear a horse crying and horse hooves beating on the ground. Hopefully, this is just residual energy.
In the 1970s, the Blair-Hughes Mansion was condemned but a hardy soul named Timothy Conley bought the house and set about restoring it. This had been a boarding house for nearly 70 years and was full of trash. This was originally owned by President Lincoln's Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. He had a special ceiling designed for the drawing room and it took Conley a year to restore the ceiling to its former pale blue and stark white bas relief with gold leaf embellishments. Hidden away in the walls were original 16-foot pocket doors. There was also gorgeous walnut woodwork beneath piles of paint and a parquet pegged floor beneath layers of linoleum. The restoration took two years and during that time, Conley seemed to awaken a ghost. This spirit was experienced by people who lived in the boarding house. They heard strange noises and felt cold spots and heard disembodied footsteps on the third floor. No one could live on the floor for more than one day. Likewise, Conley would heard loud bangs coming from the third floor. Every time he would check to see if someone broke in, he would find no one on that floor. On another occasion, he found a piece of furniture that took four men to move, sitting in the middle of a room on the third floor.
So that was the history of this neighborhood, but now we want to focus on one particular house. Edward S. Rowse and his wife Ann Eliza had the Lehmann House built in 1892 by the Peabody & Stearns architectural firm. Initially the house was to cost $25,000 to complete, but just as is the case today, the house went way over budget costing $50,000. That would be two million in today's dollars. The mansion was 10,000 square feet and was designed in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Rowse was a financier and served on the city council in St. Louis. He also served on the board at Washington University. He had a prolonged illness believed to be stomach cancer and that eventually took his life and he died in his bedroom in the house. Rowse had barely been in the house for a year. He was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery. Eliza had died before him and was already buried there.
The next owner of the house was Frederick William Lehmann and this is who the house is named for. He was a prominent lawyer and politician who served as the 13th Solicitor General of the United States under President William Howard Taft from 1910 to 1912. Lehmann was a great orator and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said of Lehmann that he was so persuasive "I don't dare decide against Lehmann. You feel as though you're ruling against God." In 1912, Lehmann returned to St. Louis where he had moved in 1890 and set up a law practice with his sons. He was involved in some important cases. One established the right of the Associated Press to news as intellectual property. He also represented the Coca Cola Company and preserved their right to continue to use Coca in their name after they were sued for fraud since actual cocaine had been removed from the cola. Lehmann opposed prohibition and pushed to have investment banks separated from commercial banks as investments are risky while commercial banking is supposed to protect money. And he was very important to St. Louis as he drafted the charter for the city in 1909 under which the city continues to run. He was a bibliophile and collected rare books and author Henry James visited him at the Lehmann House. Lehmann died in 1931 at the age of 78 and he was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Marie and Michael Davies bought the house in 1992. Marie owned the home twice in her lifetime. The first time, she purchased it with a college friend who was experienced in house renovation. They owned the property for two years. They sold it and made triple their investment. But something about the house was ingrained in Marie. She couldn't stop thinking about the house. In the eight years that followed, she got married, had kids and opened up a bed and breakfast in Lafayette Square. That house was too small for the growing family and Marie knew that the Lehmann House was being rented out.They asked the landlord if he would sell and he agreed. They turned the rental home into the Lehmann House Bed and Breakfast.
The bed and breakfast has seven rooms today: The Presidents' Room, Nora's Room, Frederick's Room, The John Stark Room, The World's Fair Room, The Judge Sears Room and The Maid's Room. Nora's Room is named for Lehmann's wife and was the master bedroom featuring maple floors and cherry woodwork. This has a private bath with the original marble sink. The John Stark Room is named for one of the Lehmann sons and features Douglas fir woodwork and maple floors. Lehmann had been on the Board of Directors for the 1904 World's Fair and that is the inspiration behind that room's name. The Lehmann's had two live-in maids and that is the inspiration behind that room and is located in what had been the servant's quarters of the house.
Neat story about the Maids Room: "It was early in the renovations of Lehmann house, the spring of 1993. We were scrambling to open by July 1st. We had determined that the two rooms easiest to open would be the Presidents' Room and the Maids' Room. We ran into a problem in the Maids’ Room.- We could tell that the floor was less than sound under the questionable carpet. We decided to rip up the carpet--grungy at best-- and explore the floor issue. What we found were several rotten boards that caved when stepped on. We ripped them up, went off to buy new, nicer carpeting, some floor boards, returning ready to fix the floor--July 1st was looming. As we began, we heard a faint meow. As illogical as it seemed it was coming from the hole in the floor. A minute later, a louder meow escaped the hole in the floor. Nervously, I reached in as far as I could grasp and found a cat! Clutching her (luckily she had a very slim body), as gently as I could, I pulled her all the way out. As I looked down, sunlight glinted on something I hadn't noticed before. I wiped away the floor grunge to discover a butter knife, what turned out to be a sterling silver butter knife! Guests who have stayed will recognize it as the butter knife on the table each morning. After a bit of research, I discovered the pattern to be made by Gorham, and offered initially in 1901, when the Lehmanns lived here. We surmised that perhaps at least one of their servants had hidden a valuable "souvenir", forgotten, to be found by me 90 years later! Alas, when completely refinishing the floor in full three years ago, I personally shoveled out all of the debris, but there was no more silver to be found."
The Bed and Breakfast has made a top ten list of most haunted places in Missouri. First owner Edward Rowse is definitely thought to be here. A woman's voice has been caught in EVPs. Shadow figures have been seen throughout the house. There are three rooms that have the most activity: Presidents' Room, Judge Sears Room and Nora's Room. One couple who stayed in Nora's Room wrote, "We heard that Nora's Room was the most active room, so reserved it. We sat in the dark to see what would happen. We were not disappointed! After about 30 minutes, three orbs shot across the room, one after the other. We slept with the bathroom light on after that!" A woman named Barb who stayed in 2022 said, "The first night we stayed, I felt like someone was sitting in the chair by the window, staring at me. Then a rush of emotion across me and I started crying. What an experience!"
Marie has experienced a lot of unexplained things in the time that she has owned the house. During the first ownership, Marie had a neighbor named Cindy who wanted to come over and see the floors that had just been newly refinished. Marie invited her to come over and have some wine. She writes, "Just as we began chatting, we both heard the same noise above us, both looking up as we did. Then Cindy asked, 'What was that?' After a moment's thought, I said, 'It sounded like a wagon being rolled across the floor.' Cindy said, 'I thought we were alone, I thought all of the workers went home.' Marie replied, 'We are. They did. And by the way, the floor above us is carpeted.' Cindy jumps up, announcing, 'I have to go home!' Marie replied, 'No you don't! Here grab a poker and let's go investigate.' Reluctantly, she accompanied me up to the room that's now named Nora's Room. We slowly opened the door, flipping on the lights and saw nothing. The three windows were still closed. Nothing in the room was disturbed. No one was there. I reluctantly let her leave and slept with the lights on that night."
Many of those early experiences for Marie were audio. Another experience was explained as, "On another evening, in the house alone, while on the second floor, I heard what I thought was someone in the house. I ran into the turret bedroom, the only room I could lock from the inside. I went to the windows hoping to get someone’s attention from the outside. After awhile, a police car came onto the street, but no amount of effort on my part got their attention. After maybe an hour, I was more bored than scared and went to investigate, poker in hand. Again—nothing! All of the exterior doors were locked from the inside, windows all tightly closed, no one there."
When Marie and Michael made the home theirs, they spent fourteen months renovating and on many occasions, Marie was there alone. She would take her two dogs with her and one of them was always resistant to going into certain rooms. One time, she dragged this dog into the library as he dug his heels in. When she finally released his lead, he bolted from the room. Later, Marie learned that an owner had died in the library in 1980. The parlor is pretty active as well. Marie shared an experience about this room when she doing renovations, "The only light in the parlor at that time was a wall sconce, all the way in the back, on the left, inside the turret. Straight away I noticed when going into that room a presence in the middle of the room, as if there were people sitting on either side of a coffee table. Only the room was completely empty—we hadn’t moved in yet. The presence was so strong, I couldn’t bring myself to walk through the room to get to the light switch, but rather walked cat-like around the edges of the room, quickly, batting at the light switch and bolting from the room."
On another occasion, the house needed some plumbing work before the grand opening. Marie writes, "Then one Saturday, I was over at the house to meet the plumber, Bud. He had to make a phone call so I took the moment to pop in the restroom. As I was washing up, I heard the very distinct sound of a man wearing hard soled shoes walking down the 2nd floor hallway. I ran out to alert Bud there was someone in the house but he had heard it too. We raced upstairs to check it out, but there was nothing, no one, no where. That’s when I conceded that we indeed had a ghost and began referring to him as the first owner, Edward."
The two most profound experiences for Marie came on two different nights. One night she was awakened from her slumber and saw a man standing at the end of her bed. She had seen a couple of pictures of Edward Rowse and she recognized this man as the spirit of Rowse. A few nights later she was awakened from her sleep again and this time there wasn't just a male figure at the end of her bed, but also a female figure. She recognized the woman as Ann Eliza.
The Lafayette Park neighborhood is a beautiful historic neighborhood that has seen some tragedy that has spawned some spirits. The Lehmann House seems to be home to a couple of spirits as well. Is the Lehmann House Bed and Breakfast haunted? That is for you to decide!