Sunshine Week 2: More Lilydale Caves

The manmade caves in the Lilydale area of Saint Paul are a lot more extensive than most people realize. Truth be told, they’re even more extensive than the city realizes; looking through the 2005 engineering report I’m putting online this week, it’s apparent that at least a few of these century-old mines were overlooked during the survey. How extensive are they? Well, let’s put it this way…

Here’s what the engineering firm thought was in just one part of the bluff – an area just a couple blocks long – based on old 1890s insurance maps and 1960s civil defense maps:


As you’ll see from reading the report, just this little area contained more – and more extensive – tunnels than were believed to be there – a situation that held true for pretty much the entire area surveyed. If you’re familiar with the area, in this picture, South is “up”; the mines go back into the bluff face, whose location isn’t marked, but you can figure out pretty easily. The street that used to run along the base of the bluff was called Chicago St; it was “vacated” sometime in the 1950s. Among the businesses that used to be on Chicago was the Felsenkeller tavern and bowling alley, which closed its doors around the time of Prohibition.

Today, I’ve got the second part of the January, 2005 report – overall maps of the mines, plus a few charts and images. The “Lilydale caves” might be buried and covered over, but they won’t be forgotten – even by those who never had a chance to explore them…

You can download the file (20MB PDF) by clicking here. Because of the size, you’re probably better off doing the “save as” thing, than trying to open it in your browser…

The report was released in its entirety by the City of Saint Paul, in response to a state open-records request. Amazing what you can get just by asking nicely – and paying the appropriate fee – isn’t it?

Published in: Geekiness, General, History, Urban Exploration | on March 18th, 2008| 1 Comment »

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. On 5/17/2013 at 9:57 am mnsavage Said:

    Super cool.

    I’ve been in these dozens of times(long ago). I had two friends in high school die there. It was back in 92′. After that we stopped going.

    I never realized there were so many. I can remember being in ones that you could see other levels of, but that you couldn’t quite figure out how to get to.