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The Denver Turnverein was established in 1865 and has been at its
present location at 1570 Clarkson St. since 1922. The German Lodge last
met in July of 2012 and the center now serves as a community dance hall.
Turnverein were German social and cultural centers with an emphasis on
gymnastics and health, social and political education, and community
development. The Turners, as the members were called, first established
clubs in Germany in the early 19th century. The organization was one of
several nationalist gymnastic movements of the era, aimed at training a
strong and fit national population. The Turners found their purpose in
the wake of the Napoleonic domination of Germany, training German youth
for a life of fitness and military readiness while also inculcating a
sense of German national identity.
Though initially a conservative
nationalist organization, by the 1840s the Turners was becoming
increasingly liberal and politically radical due to the influx of
craftsmen and Jewish members. They also began offering more diverse
activities, establishing reading rooms and political education seminars
in addition to the standard gymnastics practice. Turners were active in
the political Revolutions of 1848 in Germany and, as a result, many
Turner chapters were disbanded and many leaders of the movement were put
in jail. Following the Revolution of 1848 the Turners pulled back from
political agitation and concentrated on gymnastics and physical
education yet again.
Following the failure of the Revolutions of
1848 to create democratic institutions in Germany, many Germans left
their home country and settled in the United States. The Denver
Turnverein was established by German immigrants to Colorado who were
interested in creating a shared cultural and social space for members of
their community. The Denver chapter was opened in 1865 and by the 1920s
was the largest active chapter of the Turnverein in the United States
with over 250 members. The Denver chapter was active through both World
Wars, with many active members serving as United States soldiers. The
chapter also saw a boom following World War II when returning American
soldiers, who had been stationed in or around Germany and had become
used to German customs and lifestyle, joined the Turners in order to
continue their connection to the community, and the physical and social
atmosphere of the clubs.
Interesting Side Note...
The Turners are largely credited with the inclusion of physical
education in the American school system. Cities that had large German
populations typically had members of the local Turnverein serving as
directors of the physical education programs in the local school system,
and this was certainly true in Denver where the Denver Public Schools
Physical education programs were dominated by members of the local
Getting There By Bike...
Denver Turnverein is on the corner of Clarkson and 16th streets.16th
Street is a bicycle boulevard with a nice large shoulder so that should
be considered as a primary means of getting to and from the building.
The building is a couple of blocks off of Colfax, immediately behind the
Fillmore Auditorium. The neighborhood directly surrounding the building
is relatively traffic free, but be aware of increased traffic as you
get closer to Colfax.