Bevo Mill

In November of 1916, August A. Busch, president and principal owner of Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, gave an interview that was carried in newspapers throughout the country.

It is my belief that the ultimate outcome of the prohibition sentiment in this country will be establishment of the German saloon system.

German saloons sell only beer, light wines and temperance drinks. There are no bars and no treating. Many of the evils of drink are attributable to the treating habit. A man goes into a saloon and gets a glass of beer. He meets a friend or a group of friends, and sometimes 20 or 30 drinks are consumed. The treating system ought to be prohibited.

I am spending $124,000 to build a Deutsche wirtschaft at Gravois and Morganford roads to demonstrate that an institution at which only beer, light wine and temperance drinks are served can be made a success. I am going to call this the Bevo Mill. It is to be constructed principally of varicolored stone, most of which with my own hands I gathered from my place, the Grant Farm.

There will be no bar in the establishment. There will be a high class café, which I have engaged Henry Dietz, former chief and manager of Faust's, to conduct for me. All drinks will be served at tables.

Chariton Courier, December 1, 1916

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 19, 1917
(click image to enlarge)

August Busch ended up putting $200,000 into the Bevo Mill, which was a lot of money at the time. But there was a method to his madness, as he spent $3,000,000 on a plant to manufacture the "temperance drink" he would sell there - and throughout the country. The name of the non-alcoholic malt beverage was Bevo, coined from the Slavic word for beer, pivo. Busch named his "German saloon" at Gravois and Morganford for his new libation.

Anheuser-Busch started brewing Bevo when alcoholic beverages were prohibited in 1916 by the United States armed forces. Production rose greatly with national prohibition in 1919, and Bevo was by far the most popular of the many "cereal beverages" or "near beers" of the time. At the peak of its popularity in the early 1920s, more than five million cases of Bevo were sold annually.

The Bevo Mill opened on Tuesday, June 19, 1917, and by that Saturday was in full swing, as recounted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Bevo Mill, an Anheuser-Busch country club-in-the-city enterprise at Morganford road Gravois avenue, was running at full swing last night with hundreds of diners and light drinkers, and an orchestra resonant enough to drown the clatter of flat wheels on the Cherokee cars and the exhausts of automobiles. The mill was formally opened Tuesday, but it required a Saturday night crowd to give it its real christening.

Bevo Mill Opening, June 19, 1917

The mill is placed at the point of the angle where Gravois and Morganford road meet. It is a bit of "rus in urbe," the interior reminding one of a country club, but the Cherokee cars which run alongside and the houses to the northwest with their wash lines and tin baby bath tubs on the porch won't let you forget you are in the city.

The Mill building, patterned after the Holland excursion folder variety, is picturesque in every detail. There is a huge wheel, with great arms, which revolve regardless of wind or calm. Apparently, it is run by a motor.

In the Mill proper is a large dining room with great open windows where one may sip his beer or near-beer and gaze out upon the Carondelet bourgeoisie. In the rear of the Mill, toward the north, is a garden, a large open space with accommodations for several hundred diners and dancers. Here is located the orchestra and a service bar decorated with Bevo signs and waiters.

Bevo Mill Main Dining Room, June 19, 1917

Excellent meals are served and there is nothing concealed in the sleeve of the kitchen. You can walk right in and see a dozen or more hens on a spit before a great fire, lobsters blushing a rosy red and other concomitants of a well-constructed meal being cleanly and efficiently handled.

It's called the Bevo Mill for a purpose that is soon made plain to the diner. You are no sooner at a seat than you are invited to drink Bevo, flattered into drinking Bevo and, finally, harassed into drinking Bevo. Of course, one can get beer or light wine - any kind of wine not meant for light purses or that will make one lightheaded, is a light wine within the meaning of the act - but the waiter's appearance on taking the order makes it plain that there is a lack of nice discrimination at the table. The purpose of the Mill is to exploit Bevo.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 1917

August A. Busch Sr.
circa 1925
Bevo Mill, 4749 Gravois, 1917
(click image to enlarge)

It was Adolphus Busch, founder of the brewery, who first dreamed of a family-style restaurant in the shape of an authentic Dutch mill, but he died in 1913, before plans for the structure were drawn up. After his death, his son August Busch traveled to the Netherlands for a year, touring mills with an architect and collecting artifacts. He was intent on recreating the German family garden system where beer and light wines were served outdoors in an atmosphere of music and dancing, with an abundance of fine food available.

In 1916, construction on the building began on the former site of a blacksmith shop. At the time, the area was considered an outlying part of the city. It was said the site was chosen because it was midway between the Anheuser-Busch brewery and Grant's Farm, the Busch estate. It became a stopping place for members of the Busch family, who used the restaurant as a private club the first year it was open.

Busch took a keen interest in the construction of the restaurant. The base of the mill tower was made of stones of various shapes and colors, chosen by Busch himself from the grounds at Grant's Farm. A stucco finish covered the tower above the stone base, and a wooden observation deck encircled the tower.

Bevo Mill, 4749 Gravois, 1917
(click image to enlarge)

A Dutch mill expert was brought in to start up the original wooden blades of the windmill, which were 60 feet in diameter and painted bright orange. The blades were driven by a 24-inch-thick shaft extending through a marble bearing.

The exterior walls of the restaurant were of the same stone as the mill tower. Originally, an outdoor garden, lit by birch-bark lanterns, lay north of the mill tower. An eight-room apartment was built into the second and third stories of the tower as living quarters for the manager, with laundry facilities and storage space provided on the fourth floor.

The Bevo Mill Outdoor Garden, 1917

Inside, the restaurant consisted of the octagonal Mill Room, so named because it was in the mill tower, the main dining room and an auxiliary dining room on the lower level.

In the main dining room, hand-carved wooden gnomes, bought by the Busch family at the Paris Exposition of 1898, supported arches that extend to the beamed ceiling. The room was fitted with large windows set in a 7-foot oak wainscoting and Caen stone walls. A large fireplace made of stones from Grant's Farm graced the east wall, with an open rotisserie for roasting chickens against the northernmost wall. Boar and deer heads and Bavarian steins decorated the room.

Bevo Mill Main Dining Room and Rotisserie, 1918
(click image to enlarge)
Bevo Mill Main Dining Room Fireplace, 1917
(click image to enlarge)

Busch initially used the Mill Room as his private dining room. The octagonal room housed two murals, each 8 feet 3 inches wide by 8 feet 5 inches high, made of painted porcelain tiles. The murals, both pastoral scenes, were created at the Berlin Porcelain Works, dated 1890 and 1891, and signed by artist Paul Meyerheim and German painters Gustav Kreibich, Walter Soltz and Zamb Filfon. The murals were originally purchased by restaurateur Tony Faust and exhibited in his restaurant. He subsequently sold them to Busch for $50,000.

Bevo Mill Mill Room

One mural showed two plump, naked children surrounded by animals in a pastoral setting of wildflowers and greenery. During the installation, one tile was accidentally placed upside down, an error that added an odd twist to the shape of the cirrus clouds. The other mural showed a child surrounded by a peacock, a turkey, a rooster and other birds.

Carl Henry Dietz spent 20 years at Tony Faust's restaurant as chef, steward and owner. Following the closing of Faust's in 1916, August Busch recruited Dietz to serve as manager of Bevo Mill. He accepted the position, taking several of the old Faust employees with him.

Dietz, who never lost his interest in expert cookery, made Bevo Mill known as a place to get good food and efficient service. In 1920, he acquired the business, Anheuser-Busch retained title to the real estate. Ill health caused his retirement in 1931. Elmer Telchorst and then Harry A. Magill operated the Mill until 1939.

Bevo Mill, 4749 Gravois, circa 1930s
(click image to enlarge)

In 1939, Arthur B. Schneithorst signed a 10-year lease with Anheuser-Busch to manage the Bevo Mill. The completely renovated and air conditioned restaurant reopened for business on July 26, 1939.

St. Louis Star and Times, July 26, 1939

The dignified air of a Flemish hunting lodge was preserved in the main dining room, which was refinished in lighter tones and renamed the Holland Dining Room. A new cocktail lounge, known as the Yacht Club, was added in the basement, decorated in nautical style.

Bevo Mill Holland Dining Room

After her husband's death in 1947, Bertha Schneithorst became manager of the Bevo Mill. When the Schneithorsts took over the restaurant in 1939, the original wooden windmill blades had been removed, having been declared a hazard. In the early 1950s, Arthur Schneithorst Jr. convinced his mother the windmill looked unfinished without its blades. They had aluminum blades fabricated and installed in 1954. When the new blades were started up, they turned the wrong way until a customer reported the mistake.

Bevo Mill Menu, November 1952
(click image to enlarge)

In July of 1959, the Schneithorst corporation sold the Bevo Mill after operating the restaurant for 20 years. Arthur Schneithorst Jr. said his mother's retirement had been a factor leading to the sale.

The Bevo Mill was sold to Collins Enterprises. The sale covered fixtures and equipment. A five-year lease had been negotiated with Anheuser-Busch, still the building's owner. Walter Collins, president of the corporation, took over management of the restaurant.

Collins remodeled the nautical-motif Yacht Club basement bar in 1961 into the warmer looking, carpeted and paneled Bavarian Room. The room was decorated with crests of the principal cities of Bavaria and featured a small stage for musicians. The Oak Room, a large private dining and party room, was created behind the Bavarian Room.

Bevo Mill Bavarian Room
(click image to enlarge)
Bevo Mill Oak Room
(click image to enlarge)

Collins also remodeled the Bevo Mill's main dining room, complete with red carpet and red walls.

Bevo Mill Main Dining Room
(click image to enlarge)
Bevo Mill Menu, 1964
(click image to enlarge)

The Bevo Mill's years under Collins witnessed a high point in its popularity. Collins continued the personal touch that had endeared the restaurant to its many patrons over the years. Collins made it a practice to shake hands and chat with patrons at their tables.

"It was like a little club. Everybody who came in knew everybody," said Steve Paur, who began busing tables in 1969 at age 16 and then worked as a waiter, bartender and was assistant manager when he left in 1980.

It was a "family deal," said Paur, whose father was day bartender from 1948 to 1980. "People worked there for a long time and knew each other. We had institutions like Eleanor Urban," the hostess who started as a hat checker in the 1930s, "and Bob Boyd." Boyd, distinguished looking with wavy, gray hair, looked like Hopalong Cassidy in the movies. He started in 1934 as a waiter in the outside drinking area.

At lunch hour in the Bavarian Room, Collins regularly bused tables "so I could be with people to shoot the breeze" and also worked in the kitchen "to make sure everything was right." On busy weekend nights, he greeted guests and changed tablecloths.

"I guess it was the building itself," Collins said that made the Bevo Mill a place to go to relax, knowing there was a good chance one would meet friends. "There was such a relationship of real love, you could almost call it. What kept Tony [the restaurant's maître d'] and Eleanor and all the waitresses was a feeling of devotion to the institution, not necessarily to the management itself. A few had been there all their lives. They wouldn't think of working anywhere else. It was so much of their lives."

Bevo Mill Menu, mid 1970s
(click image to enlarge)

During the last year Collins managed the Bevo Mill, he was unable to be at the restaurant each night, as was his practice, because his wife was ill. As a result, customers and employees said the restaurant's operation began to decline.

In 1980, radio announcer Jack Buck tried to buy the Bevo Mill, but was unsuccessful. In April of 1982, restaurateur Charles Kym took over management of the restaurant.

Customers said the quality of the food was mixed at the Bevo Mill after Kym took over. In his January 20, 1983 review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Pollack said, "Those who look to the Bevo for German cuisine are following a folk legend. The venerable establishment, at 4749 Gravois Road, offers just two German dishes, so it is basically a standard American restaurant."

In July of 1984, a broken dishwasher forced Kym to close the Bevo Mill rather than have its grade A rating reduced by the St. Louis Health Department. Kym decided not to reopen the restaurant, and by August of 1984, Anheuser-Busch was looking for a new tenant.

Anheuser-Busch gutted the interior of the Bevo Mill and spent $1 million to restore the property. In June of 1985, Patrick Hanon and Ray Gallardo signed a 20 year lease to operate the restaurant.

The Bevo Mill reopened to the public on Monday, April 21, 1986. There was a party for 200 Anheuser-Busch executives on Friday evening, April 18. On Saturday, a tasting of the best of the Bevo Mill's dishes was held for friends of Hanon and Gallardo. On Sunday, the community was invited to look on as a member of the Busch family presented the keys to the front door to Hanon and Gallardo and a button was pressed to turn on the mill. Hanon's brother, Mark, was pegged to manage the restaurant.

Bevo Mill, 4749 Gravois

Large white booths now lined the main dining room's center, and the art glass windows with the gnomes had been replaced by frosted panes. Gone also was the live lobster tank that amused generations of children and their parents. The basement bar area, now gray-walled, had been enlarged and took up much of what had been the Oak Room.

"We've tried to recreate the same mood of the original restaurant in the main dining room," Patrick Hanon said. "We've rebuilt the open rotisserie, we've polished up the original chandeliers, and the gnomes, the arches and the beams on the ceiling are all still in place. We're going to have some Bavarian steins and glassware sitting out again, too."

Hanon said he would try to bring many of the menu items offered at his restaurant Patrick's at Westport Plaza to the Bevo Mill, including fresh seafood and prime rib.

"Our menu will bring back the old favorites - we'll have the crawfish soup, the seafood dishes, the rotisserized chicken, sauerbraten, wienerschnitzel, roast prime rib of beef, veal - everything people always enjoyed here. And we're bringing back 1970 prices. Our prices will be lower than they were when the restaurant closed in 1984. We're offering variety and value."

Joe Pollack was not as effusive in his July 17, 1986 St. Louis Post-Dispatch review.

The name is the same, and some of the aura remains, but the unfortunate fact is that Bevo Mill simply is not what it used to be.

South Siders seem to have reacted well to the breezy, informal style, though a few have complained about the absence of tablecloths and the near-abandonment of German dishes.

I was saddened by the latter fact, too. Only sauerbraten and wienerschnitzel remain in the German tradition, and the sauerbraten I tried was a major disappointment, exceeded only by the potato pancakes.

Today's Bevo is heavy with fish offerings, listed on a separate menu and changing from day to day. The main menu offers the prime rib that is the house specialty, plus steaks and lamb chops, a few pasta choices, such St. Louis regulars as veal Marsala and veal piccata, and a couple of chicken selections.

It took a year and a half, but the new owners responded. In February of 1988, the Bevo Mill's menu included eight new German dishes in addition to the sauerbraten and wienerschnitzel already being served.

"We realize that we should capitalize on the German heritage and serve some really good German food here," Mark Hanon said. "We will continue to serve lots of fresh fish and our well-known prime rib, but we will be emphasizing our German entrees."

Another Bevo Mill tradition, strolling musicians, was also reinstituted. In addition, the booths in the main dining room were removed, which never sat well with longtime diners from the neighborhood.

Joe Pollack's February 19, 1992 review in the Post-Dispatch reflected these changes.

For many years, the Bevo was a preeminent dining spot in St. Louis, and for many more, it slowly drifted downhill. The Patrick's organization took over in 1986, and the climb back is noticeable. In recent years, the menu has taken on more and more German dishes, and a recent visit allowed for a sampling in that area.

Dining at the Bevo is much more pleasant than it was. Service seems more attentive, the German menu makes it a proper destination restaurant, and the menu shows a wide range of veal dishes, plus two game items - venison for use in schnitzel, and rabbit for the traditional hasenpfeffer.

German cooking is rich, with hearty, heavy sauces that often show traces of wine or vinegar - or both. The menu shows several different schnitzels, including pork and a variety of sauces, plus sauerbraten and rouladen.

The Bevo Mill became a restaurant for the plus-55 crowd, who ate early and didn't care about low-fat, low-calorie cuisine. The menu featured red meat and heavy sauces; the food was hearty and fattening. The restaurant no longer featured fish, which only earned a spot on the menu for someone younger, who came in with a parent or grandparent celebrating a birthday.

The new direction worked - for a time. An average weekday night saw 200 to 250 diners enjoying the sauerbraten and schnitzel. That number doubled on weekends; on holidays, more than 700 stopped by for dinner and up to 1,000 for brunch.

But as the twentieth century drew to an end, the Bevo Mill neighborhood declined economically and its German ancestry dispersed. Keeping the Bevo Mill open for lunch and dinner seven days a week was no longer profitable; it was too inconsistent. By the end of 2001, the restaurant had stopped serving lunch and was only open for dinner on Fridays, and for brunch and dinner on Sundays. Service shifted toward private parties and banquets.

In late April of 2006, the Bevo Mill reopened its doors after a month of renovation, transforming itself from an institution know for German fine dining and banquets to a low-cost breakfast-and-lunch house.

"Quite honestly, I had an old, tired concept and my prices weren't right," Patrick Hanon explained. "The only time I was doing decent business when running it as a full-time German restaurant was with early-bird specials. So now, the whole menu is like an early-bird special."

Breakfast in front of one of Bevo Mill's porcelain tile murals
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 26, 2006

In January of 2009, ownership of the Bevo Mill was transferred from Anheuser-Busch to the St. Louis Development Corporation; Anheuser-Busch had donated the building to the city before InBev's takeover of the brewery. The restaurant inside the building had always leased its space from Anheuser-Busch, and now City Hall would be the landlord.

Just two months later, the Bevo Mill restaurant closed its doors. No one answered the telephone at the restaurant; the owners had missed their February and March payments to the St. Louis Development Corporation.

On March 31, City Hall issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking a new operator to either purchase or lease the Bevo Mill. Milan Manjencich and Louie Lausevich of L&M Catering were selected as the restaurant's new operators. L&M invested $500,000 to restore the building. In addition to hosting weddings, parties and private events, the Bevo Mill now served a lavish brunch on Sundays.

Bevo Mill, October 15, 2009

L&M Catering departed the Bevo Mill in early 2016, and city officials were once again looking to sell the historic landmark or find a new business to lease the space. They found Pat and Carol Schuchard, who purchased the building and, after $1 million in renovations, reopened it in 2017 as Das Bevo Bierhall.

Das Bevo Bierhall, 2017

Copyright © 2017