Denver Turnverein

I came across the name of the Denver Turnverein when I was researching Pete Ambrusch, the lead sculptor for the Denver Terra Cotta Company.  His scrapbook, located in the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library, has his old newspaper clippings along with certificates written in German from the Turnverein and the Schlaraffia.  I had never heard of either before, but a quick Google search told me these were German cultural and language clubs in Denver.  I didn’t think much more of it until I rode my bike down 16th Avenue in Uptown several months ago and discovered the Denver Turnverein is still standing!  Not only that, it turns out it’s a Denver Landmark.


The Denver Turnverein was founded in 1865 and is Denver’s oldest ethnic club (according to Tom Noel’s book, Guide to Colorado Historic Places, 2007).  It just celebrated its 150 year anniversary in April.  The mission of the Turnverein, whose members are known as Turners, was to promote physical fitness and mental fitness.  Turners brought gymnastics, known then as “turning” to the United States, and petitioned state and local governments to include gymnastics in school curricula.  The Turnverein was going strong in Denver until a wave of anti-German sentiment swept the United States in the 1910s.  After World War I, the group recovered both financially and in membership numbers but had lost their club house, the Turnhalle, to foreclosure and a fire in 1916 and 1920, respectively.

The current clubhouse, located at 16th Avenue and Clarkson Street, was built in 1921 for the Coronado Club, a short-lived dance club.  Designed by architect George L. Bettcher [pdf], the Coronado Club foundered shortly after it opened.  In 1922, ten members of the Turnverein donated $100 each to purchase the building and transformed it into a gymnasium, dance hall and meeting space.  The basement was home to a Rathskeller, which still hosts regular meetings of the Schlaraffia, the German-language club.

In the 1960s, the Coronado Club name was removed from the building and the words German House were added above the door.  The neon Denver Turnverein sign probably pre-dates the 1960s, though I could not find any reference to its installation.


As you can see in the photographs, the building was designed in the Mediterranean style and is clad with a warm, yellow-colored stucco.  It has clay-tile at the projecting roof eaves, which hide a flat roof.  Huge arched windows give ample light and air to the dance hall, and the entrance is framed by a simple, pale pink, cast stone surround.


There is also a small cast stone frieze above the door depicting music and dance, fitting for both the original dance club and the Turnverein.  The Turnverein continues to offer dance classes and dances most nights of the week, and the Rathskeller is still busy with German cultural events.

The Masonry of Munich

When a masonry blogger goes on vacation, she takes way too many photos of masonry during her travels.  Needless to say, when I recently visited Bavaria (with a day trip to Salzburg, Austria), I photographed a lot of masonry buildings.  To mix things up a bit here at the Masonry of Denver, I thought I’d share some of the more interesting masonry structures I saw on my travels.  First up: The Masonry of Munich.

The last time I visited Bavaria was in 1999.  At that time, I didn’t digest the fact that most masonry structures in southern Germany and northern Austria are clad with stucco.  Stucco is not my favorite building material, but the stucco on German and Austrian buildings is often textured with sand or pebbles, or the stucco is pigmented.  It’s more interesting than your average stucco, but it’s still stucco.  Fortunately for us, everything in Munich isn’t covered in stucco.  And better yet, several incredible buildings survived World War II.

Take this beautiful stone building, for example.  It is on Thierschstraße in the Altstadt-Lehel neighborhood of Munich.  According to a Google search, it was built in 1889 and was designed by architects Albin Lincke and Max Littmann.  My German is non-existent, but it seems that these two gentlemen designed several prominent buildings in Munich in the late nineteenth century.


The beige sandstone used to clad this building is lovely, but the carvings are just wonderful.  These strong men (and a cherub) frame the entrance and support the oriel window on the second floor.


The stone carving is even more intricate at the top of the building, where you can see an angel blowing into a metal trumpet, a cherub supporting a cartouche, ornate palm fronds and foliage, brackets with lions heads, and some of the most fanciful urns I’ve ever seen.