AMHERST, Ohio - Rome has its catacombs and New Mexico has the Carlsbad Caverns.
Now, something is afoot below the ground in Amherst.
Amherst Historical Society historian Matt Nahorn said city workers last week uncovered an underground chamber that is all that's left of an old brewery that stood on the site near the Old Spring behind Amherst City Hall.
"I was surprised when I found out,' Nahorn said. "I didn't know anything had been buried there. There is a small sandstone foundation further up on the hill that was already exposed and may have been part of a shed. But the old spring is still there and still flowing, although it's unfit for human consumption.'
Nahorn said he would like to see if any artifacts are in the chamber.
"A local archeologist has been called in,' Nahorn said. "Apparently, there was a building on top of that cellar. The brewery was a big stone building. People would go in and have a drink.'
According to Nahorn, a local brewmeister, William Braun, lived in Amherst in the 1800s.
The recent discovery was made by city employees while working on a storm sewer project in this community about 35 miles west of Cleveland.
"Last Thursday in the morning, we were running an interceptor from South Main Street when we uncovered it (the cellar) by accident. It was made of sandstone. There were rooms down there,' said John Dietrich, president of Amherst City Council.
"It was the basement of an old brewery from back in the 1800s. They took the building down and covered up the basement. It's in excellent shape. Right now, we're trying to figure out a way to bypass it,' Dietrich said.
"There was muck in the bottom of it. Water comes in on one side and out the other. But we did find old bottles and mason jars. We sealed up the basement. We don't want people getting in there,' Dietrich said.
The chamber measures about 20-by-30 feet and is about 8 to 10 feet high, he said.
The actual chamber, said Dietrich, is about 2 feet below ground on one end and about 5 to 6 feet underground on the other end.
The chamber is constructed from native sandstone bricks. It has a wide, arching ceiling, and is partially filled with sediment that has accumulated over a century of disuse.
"I learned it is on railroad property, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern,' Nahorn said of the chamber.
"The city is working with them to get the storm sewer project completed and they were putting it in when the cellar was uncovered,' Nahorn said. "Right now, one of the cellars has been uncovered. There is a door leading to another room but they can't open it yet. There's a lot of dirt behind the door.'
Braun took advantage of a readily-available water source, nicknamed the Old Spring, to make his brew and built a brewery nearby.
In 1894, Braun closed his brewery and had it leveled, according to Nahorn.
According to a 1954 local newspaper article, Nahorn said the brewery cellars were sealed during the years of the Great Depression. The article, said Nahorn, written by a reporter named June Alexander, included this prophetic passage:
"Mr. Braun disbanded his brewery (in 1894). In order to protect the children who played down by the spring, the big stone building there was torn down for safety reasons. However, the old cellars, although covered, are still there. One wonders what people will say years from now, if they ever uncover these cellars, and try to determine what they were used for.'
"It's definitely something new to me, to find something on that scale,' said Amherst Safety-Service Director Mark Costilow. "It's of some historical significance. I've got to do what's best for revenue dollars and tax dollars' in putting in the sewers. "I also understand the important significance of that chamber and we're exploring every possible avenue to make sure we do this right. Our goal, best-case scenario, is to get around (the chamber) without it costing astronomical dollars.'
"Our engineers are great. I'm in touch with them two or three times a day. It's a learning curve for all of us,' he said.