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Throwback Thursday: Burning it up at Stonehenge

This Throwback Thursday is about throwing — out, up and down — at a raucous place that for a decade overshadowed Lebanon.

In 1975 an old mill that once made flour for Fluffy brand biscuits opened as a nightclub called Stonehenge, which, as the old handbills stated, was “based on a solid foundation of rock.” The club lasted for a decade but the old mill building stood for 133 years.

That is, until July 16, 1989. The building’s roof was removed and it was to be demolished when fire swept through it, taking 60 firefighters more than five hours to extinguish.It’s better to burn out than fade away? Well, both happened to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge gave the area a decade of rock, as bands including Mama’s Pride, Boyfriend, Full Moon Consort, Griffin, Faustus, Candy and many more both semi-famous and obscure screamed and thumped through the beer and marijuana haze on a narrow stage intersected by hand-hewn support timbers. The place could hold 750, but some nights likely held many more.

Stonehenge started out as the baby of Lebanon’s former mayor, Cleve Weyenberg, who wanted something productive to happen at the big, four-story building that was the first thing seen by folks coming into the city from Illinois 4 or Highway 50. Too bad he didn’t choose better investors.

The feds busted up a major marijuana trafficking conspiracy run by Weyenberg’s partners, who used the club for drug sales and to launder profits. They were caught by the feds after their 70-ton marijuana freighter was smashed in a storm off the Texas coast.

Weyenberg got control of the building and in 1979 sold it to the new club owner, Gerry Geoppo of Belleville. Geoppo had a new set of troubles with authorities that revolved around underage drinking and booze-fueled violence and mishaps at the club.

Besides the recurring alcohol issues, there were tax and fire code problems. In 1982 a young woman from Fairview Heights lost her legs when a pickup backed into her and crushed them. In 1984 the club’s liquor license was suspended after state police found 18 underage liquor sales in two weeks. Also in 1984 three youths were severely beaten with a hammer by other patrons on the same night that an underage drinker was involved in a fatal accident.

But there was also a lot of rock, and maybe some sex and drugs. Bands used the fourth floor for nefarious purposes.

For all the problems, there’s still a sentimentality for the old club where a portion of our youth sowed wild oats and came of age — if they survived.