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  • The Coming Destruction of Minneapolis! July 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Minneapolis is in a cavey region. It is also true that the discovery of the Schieks Cave in 1904 under downtown Minneapolis did cause some panic, but the concern was more about perceptions in a growing and prosperous city than danger. Little in the way of precautions seem to have been taken. Enjoy then this gloriously over the top presentation.

    Residents of Minneapolis have just been officially informed that they have been living over an immense cavern, and that the city has always been danger of falling into it. Moreover, the officials confess that they have known about this for five years, and that the secret has been kept as precaution against panic and the probable desertion of the city by its inhabitants. The danger is now over, and, therefore, the facts disclosed. Five years ago workmen discovered a part of the cavern while excavating for a sewer in the heart of the city. The matter was reported to the city engineer, who made investigation that established the fact that almost the entire city was built on a crust of earth over a cavern that was presumably greater than the mammoth cave of Kentucky. Various officials were let into the secret, and it was agreed that the roof of the cavern must be propped up without public knowledge. Every official who retired informed his successor, and nobody breathed a hint of the facts. Meanwhile, all available miscellaneous appropriations were used, often ‘doctoring’ the accounts, to buy concrete and pay the cost of erecting supporting pillars underground. The officials were often at their wits end to find a way explain the disappearance of public money, but they managed it, and it appears now that the public justifies the subterfuges. The city is now safe, for not only proper supports in place, but underground streams have been diverted.

    Aberdeen Journal (18 Jul 1907), 6

    Can anyone else fill in the gaps in this cave-hysteria: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com Is there anything else like it from around the world?

    KMH writes, 31 Jul 2016: I humbly nominate for your consideration the Buda Labyrinth: (This was new to me!)

    Bruce T, 31 Jul 2016: From the very early 70’s to about 1980, there were a number of counterculture squatters that lived in the caves you’re mentioning. I dated a woman who was roughly a decade older than I was. She attended the University of Minnesota, which is short distance away from 1969 to 1972. She talked about going to parties down in the caves and how well set up the little community was. They were tapping into both city water lines and electricity conduits from the local providers. I remember something about a character who used to run an underground newspaper and produced a local radio show from the caves. That was in the late 70’s though, before I met the above woman. He was getting some national attention for his fight with the city to stay in his cave. Cave squatting wasn’t uncommon then in that region. St. Louis is brewing center, it has been for 160 years. Before refrigeration the brewing companies expanded on natural caves in the region and dug others in bluffs near the Mississippi to lager their beer in huge underground icehouses. They had a heck of time running the squatters out. I don’t know if they ever have to tell the truth. The scale of some multilevel lagering caves is said to be enormous. Dubuque, Iowa had the same problem, lots of old beer caves, lots of squatters. As it stays around 55 degrees F. in the caves mentioned year ’round, they’re not a bad place to ride out those brutal Midwest winters and summer heat waves. And as many are now in out of the way places, they wouldn’t be hard to access if you had either bolt cutters or crowbar at hand.

    Tacitus from Detritus, 31 Jul 2016, writes: As it happens I have a few contacts in the shadowy world of “urban exploring”.  These scofflaws creep about in old tunnels and caves usually without permission. From that literal underworld I offer you the definitive treatise on Sheik’s Cave.

    Clothos, 31 Jul 2016: “Cement World, Vol 1” 1907 tells us that Minneapolis was “saved by concrete“:

    And this, a tale of interest from someone who has explored the cave. I found the description of the pyramid-shaped cement supports kind of fascinating:

    Chris S, 31 jul 2016: The cave you’re writing about is probably Schieks Cave.

    “Schieks Cave is the largest natural cave under downtown Minneapolis, extending for a city block through the St. Peter Sandstone. Carl J. Illstrup, city sewer engineer, who discovered the cave in 1904, described it as a “cave shaped like an inverted bowl,” a description that seems puzzling to anyone who has actually been there. (It’s shaped more like a pancake that has gone awry on the griddle, if that helps.) In 1931, an enthusiastic journalist, Fitzsimmons, waxed poetical about “the beauties of the sewer system” and described Illstrup as “the ruler of this fantastic world.” The discovery of the cave in 1904, during which the crews braved “the lethal breath of deadly gases,” is presented as the highpoint of Illstrup’s life.”

    That extract comes from this site with plenty of other tidbits about subterranean Minneapolis.

    Also of interest are the Wabasha Street Caves used as mobster hideouts, speakeasies, and more recently a nostalgic club with swing dancing and live big-band music. These caves are former mines carved from sandstone from the 1840s.