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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Jun 9, 2022

Bevo Mill is a well known landmark today, and it is thought of as being whimsical and fun.  Its origin story was, however, rooted in its being a propaganda tool to counter early 20th century calls for Prohibition.  Namely, to convince the public that the brewing industry has always been a harmonious contributor to society and family life. Just press play to hear the whole story. ----- 

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Andrew Wanko, Public Historian of the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on 88-one, KDHX. ———

While its architecture might seem like whimsical fun today, South St. Louis’s Bevo Mill was once a carefully crafted piece of propaganda in a life-and-death struggle. When early 20th century calls for Prohibition of alcohol threatened to leave the nation permanently “dry,” Anheuser Busch launched an architectural rebuttal – they would build a series of picturesque old world taverns to help convince the public that the brewing industry has always been a harmonious contributor to society and family life. ———

Taking its name from the Slavic word for beer, Bevo Mill was the largest and most lavish of these taverns. It was the polar opposite of the average 1916 saloon. A whirling windmill beckoned families inside, where they found crisp tablecloths, roaring fireplaces, and cuisine carefully prepared in full view of diners. Cooking the food was chef Henry Dietz, a St. Louis culinary celebrity thanks to his cooking tips column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. To draw even more attention to Bevo Mill, Dietz and his family lived in the three-story apartment inside the windmill.  ———

With heavy wooden brackets, white stucco, multiple roof peaks, and rubble stone walls tucked beneath its towering windmill, Bevo Mill almost looks like a self-contained medieval European town. There isn’t even a defined architectural style we can claim it belongs to. It pulls influences from a millennium of built history, including touches of Romanesque, Gothic, Tudor, Flemish, and Craftsman architecture. And only the sharpest-eyed St. Louisans will notice the artificial stork nest, complete with fake concrete birds, on top of one of Bevo Mill’s chimneys. According to German and Dutch folk tradition, storks nesting on your chimney brought good luck. ———

But apparently those storks didn’t bring enough good luck, because Bevo Mill couldn’t stop national Prohibition from becoming reality in 1919. While its charm fell short on that front, it never fails to provide the thrill of spotting a rustic windmill popping up amongst South City’s brick homes. In 1971, Bevo Mill was declared a St. Louis City Landmark. ———

Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX.  I’m Andrew Wanko and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis. ———