[Saengerfest, n. [G. sängerfest.] A festival of singers; a German singing festival]
Watertown's Main Street Arch
Saengerfest was a gathering of German singing societies, and our community went all out, including the construction of that arch at the entrance to downtown and also decorations throughout the city.
We found a report on the 1875 Saengerfest in the June 26 issue of the Watertown Republican. We're going to include that report in our column today to give you a "flavor" of what Saengerfest was all about. It was for these celebrations that the arch was constructed.
1875 1875 SAENGERFEST
Watertown Republican of June 26, 1875:
"With the exception of that portion of the programme allotted to Bach's musicians, the concert was composed of home talent, and right well was the reputation of Watertown sustained by all who participated. The singing of the Quartette Club, led by Prof. Hoeper, was a marked feature of the evening's entertainment, and called forth the hearty plaudits of the entire audience. The chorus and solos by the Watertown Musical Society, Concordia, under the direction of Prof. E. C. Gaebler, were finely rendered and won warm testimonials of approval from all present. Mr. H.N. Hutchins of Bach's band, gave some specimens of cornet playing, which for beauty of execution and sweetness of sound, was seldom if ever before listened to by our citizens. Mr. Hutchins is certainly one of the foremost cornet players of this or any other country. The hospitalities of the city were extended to our guests through the President of the council, J.T. Moak, Esq., who delivered an address highly appropriate to the occasion, which was followed by words of welcome from Philip Schmidt, Esq., in behalf of the Watertown Musical Society, Concordia. Trains Friday night and Saturday morning from all directions brought in full quotas of singers and visitors until our streets were literally overrun with people, and our city presented a scene of activity and bustle never before seen. The musical exercises on Saturday were opened with a grand musical matinee at Turner Hall in the afternoon, which was largely attended. The programme included fine selections from some of the most eminent composers and all were rendered with grand effect. In the evening the concert embraced the prize singing among the several societies competing for prizes. The Saturday evening entertainment was, perhaps, the most interesting of the series, and called out a larger audience than the previous evening, the ball being crowded to excess. The contest among the societies was the means of bringing out the fine singing from the members and a deep interest was manifested over the result. The audience was treated to some magnificent choruses, such as comes within the province of but few to hear. The building fairly shook with the applause that was given as each society withdrew after competing for the prize. Everything, however, passed off harmoniously, and at the close the best of feeling prevailed among the vocalists. After the concert, the hall was given over to conviviality and enjoyment, and a happier or more sociable, and, withal, a more-decorous crowd of people could not very well be imagined. Even in the noise and confusion there was politeness and good feeling everywhere apparent.
"Sunday morning excursion trains brought additional hundreds to the masses already assembled and enjoying themselves within the city. Sunday afternoon the great projective point for the singers and visitors was the Pic-nic and Concert of all the societies and orchestra, on Concordia Island. It is estimated that eight thousand people visited the park during the afternoon, and the festivities on the Island only closed as the shades of evening drew near. In the evening a grand ball took place at Turner Hall, the Turner Park being beautifully illuminated. Sunday night and early Monday morning witnessed the departure of vast numbers from the scene of their enjoyment and pleasure, but still a large portion lingered to participate in the closing exercises on Monday morning, consisting of the distribution of prizes, congratulations and farewells. The La Crosse society had the honor of carrying away the first prize. The second was bestowed upon the Freien Germeinde, of Milwaukee. The Freeport, Illinois, society was awarded the third, and the Janesville society received the fourth. Some of the societies, and among them the Watertown, Concordia, did not compete for prizes.
"The following Societies were represented at the Saengerfest:
06 20 LA CROSSE SAENGERFEST
The Saengerfest. The members of the Concordia Society who were in attendance at the Saengerfest at La Crosse returned Monday night, and all are loud in praise of the delightful time they spent. Our delegation upon their arrival at La Crosse Thursday evening, received a splendid reception from their brethren and were welcomed in a fine speech by Dr. X Otilie, which was happily responded to by Constance Wiggenhorn. At the concert in the Germania Hall Friday evening the Watertown delegation presented the former director of the Concordia Society, Prof. E. G. Gaebler, now residing at La Crosse, with a beautiful lyre composed of the choicest and most delicate flowers, which was a complete as well as a happy surprise to the recipient. J. B. May performed the task presenting the testimonial in a graceful manner. The Saengerfest is pronounced a fine success and all came home highly pleased with La Crosse and her hospitable people. WR
1885 1885 SAENGERFEST
Watertown has had the distinguished honor of having been the place of meeting for the Seventh Biennial Saenger-Fest of the German Singing Societies of the Northwest, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, June 18, 19, 20 and 21. A gathering so much importance to the musical-loving portion of our German fellow-citizens must, of course, be accompanied by more than usual interest to this class of our population, and this feeling was well shown in the extensive preparations made for the reception and entertainment of the societies and their friends. Our streets gave evidence of a grand festive occasion, with their decorations, devices and emblematic trimming, presenting to the eye a beautiful and enchanting picture.
The arch stood at the west end of the Main Street bridge and was constructed as part of the Saengerfest celebrations which were held here three times in the latter 1800s. These celebrations were hosted by Watertown in 1867, 1875 and in 1885 ["The German Speaking 48ers, Builders of Watertown, Wisconsin," Chuck Wallman]
Image WHS_008_387 c.1900
What we don't have the answer to is how long the arch remained. It almost sounds as if the arch was dismantled after every Saengerfest, and then either brought out again or a new one constructed at each event. But, the photo published above sure looks like more of a "permanent" structure in downtown Watertown.
History of Watertown, Wisconsin