LINCOLN, Neb. -- Historians believe Robber's Cave in Lincoln was built 140 years ago to store and chill beer. Thursday, that's come full circle as a local brewery broke ground to build there.
Blue Blood Brewing Company has been open in Lincoln since 2011 at its 500 W. South Street location. This year, the co-founder decided it was time to move on to a new adventure, and now he's exploring the tales and legends of Robber's Cave in hopes of sharing the rich history and cold beer with others.
According to Ed Zimmer, the city historic preservation planner, Robber's Cave got its start in the 1870s, when a worker for "Pioneer Brewery" dug a cave to create a cooling cellar. Over the years, the cave went from producing beer to myths and stories.
"It was a place that kind of generated legends, and that became part of what the attraction was when it became a recreational place," Zimmer said.
Zimmer believes the cave became a cool place to have a picnic in the summer, but some say it was Jesse James' hideout or a place where Native Americans conducted rituals.
"There's so many stories, and I think the fun part is we say maybe they're not true, but at the same time we can't say they're not true and so it's almost that folklore and mystery that really draw it back in," President and Co-Founder of Blue Blood Brewing Company Brian Podwinski said.
The old tales have led to the start of a new chapter for the Blue Blood Brewing Company. In February, the company announced it invested $1.5 million to purchase the cave and land near Highway 2 and Van Dorn Street.
With the dig of some shovels, it became official Thursday. City council members, local senators and others met at the cave site to break ground with cold brews and peak at the past.
"The city's interest in participating in this project has really been all focused on the cave and wanting to help make that available again to the public in a safe, productive way," Zimmer said.
The more than century-old cave will soon transform into a 9,000 square foot brewery, tap house and restaurant.
"You've married it with a historic spot and made it a destination, so folks will come not just to try the beer, but also to participate in a piece of history," Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall said.
Blue Blood Brewing Company hopes to open up its new location by January 2016. The cave will be used as a special event room and will house the barrel-aging program for the brewery's new "Outlaw" beer series.