MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From swing dancing to disco, and gangsters to ghosts, there’s a spot in St. Paul that’s had all of it. And now it’s starting a brand new chapter.
On this week’s Discovering Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to the Wabasha Road Caves in St. Paul.
READ MORE: One Of Nation’s Oldest Normal Shops Nonetheless Operates In Marine On St. Croix
“It simply holds a really particular place in my coronary heart. And it’s elegant,” stated proprietor Religion Pon.
If ever there was a cave that was elegant, this is able to be it. The sandstone tunnels and corridors that wind alongside Wabasha Road acquired their begin as a silica mine within the 1850s. A couple of many years later, the enterprise advanced from mining — to mushrooms.
“This was truly the primary industrial mushroom-growing operation in your entire United States,” stated tour information Deborah Frethem.
However within the Prohibition-era Nineteen Twenties, the fungi operation gave technique to simply plain enjoyable. Homeowners Josephine and William Lehmann began a speakeasy. Then they took it up a notch once they opened Citadel Royal.
“Opened on Oct. 26, 1933,” Frethem stated.
Frethem has been a tour information at Wabasha Road Caves for about 20 years. Certainly one of her specialties is the gangster tour the place she will get into character.
“I play Nina Clifford, who was the high-class madam right here in St. Paul from 1888 to 1929. Forty years in an unlawful enterprise for a lady in a person’s world. She was doing all proper,” Frethem stated.
Clifford was one among many unforgettable characters from that period, again when St. Paul was the epicenter for the motorized bandits of the Thirties. Police chief John J. O’Connor gave the historic gangsters a safe-haven within the metropolis, so long as they behaved.
“John Dillinger, Ma Barker, Child Face Nelson, did they set foot in there?” WCCO’s John Lauritsen requested Frethem.
“Sure. Dillinger I can show,” she stated.
READ MORE: ‘Renaissance’: Beloved Mountain Biking Trails Bringing New Life To The Iron Vary
Frethem believes Dillinger visited the caves at Citadel Royal greater than as soon as. By then, the tunnels had been stuffed with the sound of swing bands and dancing.
“They known as it ‘the best underground night time membership,’” stated Religion Pon.
Pon purchased the caves a pair months in the past and is continuous that swing dance custom on Thursday nights.
“It’s comfortable music,” Pon stated. “It was the ‘Roaring Twenties,’ and I hope, I imagine that we’re gonna have one other roaring 20s, post-COVID.”
Being the brand new proprietor of an historic cave means a crash course on its hidden historical past. There are bullet marks within the hearth, the results of a gangster shootout that occurred 100 years in the past.
After which there are ghost sightings, one thing staff have grown used to over time. Frethem was a skeptic when she first began. Not anymore.
“After working right here for 20 years, imagine me I’m a believer. I’ve seen a ghost. Method within the again,” stated Frethem.
It’s a spot with numerous tales. And little doubt many are nonetheless ready to be advised.
“It’s all about recollections. It’s about remembering the previous and making new recollections,” Pon stated.
The Wabasha Road Caves had been additionally a disco for some time within the 70s.
There are a selection of various excursions you may take on the caves and yow will discover out extra right here.
MORE NEWS: On Eve Of Judy Garland’s one centesimal Birthday, Grand Rapids Museum Showcases Star’s Memorabilia