Turner Hall
& the
Turn Verein


Turner Hall was the name given to two buildings in Camden, one at South 5th street and Taylor Avenue, the other at 516-520 Pine Street, between Cammer's Court and Welsh Street. They were sponsored by the German- American social clubs that were part of the "Turner" movement. 

Many Germans immigrated to the United States following the failure of an 1848 revolution designed to introduce democratic reforms into the governments of the German states. Among these immigrants were members of the Turners, an athletic and political organization founded in Germany during the second decade of the nineteenth century. Turners quickly established societies (known as Turnverein or Turngemeinde) in the American cities in which they settled. These societies served as athletic, political, and social centers for German communities in the United States. The Turners most important contribution to American life in their communities has been their advocacy of physical education and fitness. Turners successfully lobbied local school boards in many cities for the inclusion of physical education classes in the curriculum, and Turner instructors served as the directors of physical education programs in many school systems in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Frederick Finkeldey, who brought his family to Camden in the 1890s when he was placed in charge of the second Turner Hall, at 520 Pine Street. Frederick Finkeldey was a member of the Turnverein He was instrumental in establishing Camden's playground system and later served as the school system's Director of Physical Education.

The first Turner Hall kept the name for only two years. It was a building at the southeast corner of South 5th Street and Taylor Avenue that had been built in 1859 as the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The building only served as a church for a few years, when the present church building was erected. The Turn Verein got hold of the building and remodeled it, but were only able to keep it going into the following year. By mid-1882 the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5  of the G.A.R. was utilizing the building, eventually owned it, sold it to the City of Camden around 1914 and still met there as late as 1924.

In 1890 the Turners completed their new hall at 516-520 Pine Street, and as stated above, brought Frederick Finkeldey in to run the athletics programs. This project was quite successful and there were many events held in this building for the better part of 28 years. The building was sold to the Hurley's chain of department stores in 1918. Whether this sale was a result of falling membership on the part of the Turn Verein as a result of anti-German propaganda foisted on the American public by the Woodrow Wilson administration in during World War I or that the club that owned the building had received an offer from Hurley that was too good to pass up is a matter that one can only speculate on. The Hurley stores went out of business in 1956, and the building was eventually used as warehouse space by the House of Ruttenberg store on Kaighn Avenue. The old Turner Hall was still in use as late as 1968.


Camden Post-Telegram
January 13, 1880

Herman T. Fuchs
Frank Mester


Camden Post-Telegram
January 13, 1880

Herman T. Fuchs
Frank Mester
Peter Michel
Jacob Schumacher
Charles Schwab
William Hoesch


Photo from 1905 of the building that served as Turner Hall in 1880 and 1881. This building had been built in 1864 as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and served in that capacity from 1859 to 1864, when the present church at Broadway and Market Street was put into use. From 1882 until 1924 the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No.5 of the G.A.R. met at this building.


1891 Sanborn Map


Philadelphia Inquirer - December 16, 1890
...continued...
Herman T. Fuchs - Theodore G. Maier
John H. Fort - Louis Holler
Maurice A. Rogers - Dr. William H. Iszard
Dr. William S. Jones - William H. Cole
Alfred Hugg - Frederick Rex
J. Wesley Sell - Thomas R. Poweel
Charles Sharp - Ulie Lee
Everett Ackley - Howard Lee
Harry Lee - Jay Lugar
Gerghe Frazee - Charles Lederman
Washington Campbell - Thomas Ellliott
Percey Ashley - U.G. Styron
Theodore N. Patterson - Francis Ford Patterson Jr.
William Schofield - Lewis McDowell
E.E. Jefferis - Richard W. Kerswell
J. Harry Neutze - C. Leonard Schneider
Jacob Neutze - E.P. Kelly
John Kelly - Dr. George Henry
Dr. Benjamin Lewis - W. Elwood Campbell
E.M. Benton - Harry Kobus
William Guthridge

 


Pine Street East of South 5th Street
circa 1906
Turner Hall is on right, the two story building with a bay window

Camden Post-Telegram
August 8, 1918

Turnhalle Baufond Geselleschaft
Anthony J. Oberst


Philadelphia Inquirer - May 19, 1893  
William Leonard Hurley -  Edmund J. Alff - Hurley's - Turner Hall

The former Turner Hall
being utilized by Hurley's
October 27, 1956

Smoke coming from roof
of the former
Wildey Hall,
which was destroyed by fire
on this date


Camden Courier-Post * February 2, 1968
 

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