Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Denver Turnverein Hall

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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.

The 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 Turnverein.


Getting There By Bike...
The 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.

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