ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Turner Hall has had a Varied Life



Mask Balls, Great Plays

Staged at Turner Opera House


The Turner movement started in the United States in 1848 in Cincinnati.

The first Turner organization in Wisconsin was in Milwaukee in 1853,

just seven years before Watertown's was formed.




The old opera house had housed many notable events and famous personages who came here to appear before the public.  Joseph Jefferson, the celebrated America actor, appeared there, as did Charles Grapewin, who later became an outstanding motion picture actor.  Col. Robert G, Ingersoll, the agnostic (some called him atheist) lectured there, as did Col Henry Watterson, famous editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and others.  Many celebrated American politicians and orators gave speeches there during campaigns.  Carl Schurz and Fighting Robert M. LaFollette, Sr., spoke there several times.


Then on March 9, 1928, fire destroyed the Turner Opera house and with it old records and equipment.


If Watertown's Turner Hall and its predecessor, the old Turner Opera House, could speak they would relate a most interesting series of events which they housed, from great plays to modern dances, conventions, union meetings, mask balls, political rallies, wrestling matches and home shows.  The Turner Hall has been a virtual community center in Watertown.



The Turner movement was launched here in 1860 with the organization of a group for the purpose of learning and teaching gymnastics, promoting physical improvement and also to promote musical and theatrical performances and general cultivation of the fine arts and sciences.


The first meeting of the Watertown Gymnastic Association, the formal name of the group, was held on Aug. 21, 1860.  It was held at Charles Watson's saloon, which was located near the present Plattdeutscher Hall.


The purpose of the organization as set forth at the time it was started has been carried on through the years. In addition to the members, many young people of the city have attended classes. In the early days of the association many of the young men of the community who later became leaders in business and the city's community life were pupils in the "turning" classes which were held in the gymnasium of the hall.


In earlier days gymnastic exhibitions, theatrical performances, such as home talent plays given by members, were in great vogue and were much enjoyed by the many large audiences that gathered for each of the programs.  Later traveling troupes were booked, some of them playing a solid week locally with a change of program nightly. In the days of the waltz and two-step public dances were given as many as three and four times a week and the Turner hall served as the community center of an earlier Watertown.




The ceremonies of the celebration were gotten up mostly under the auspices of the patriotic German Turners of Watertown.  A handsome grove near the residence of Mr. Enos had been selected as the spot where the people were to assemble to hear the oration, and to this place the procession of Turners and citizens marched . . .



07 04       JULY FOURTH OF 1876

July 4 marked the 100 years from July 4, 1776, when the unanimous Declaration of Independence was signed by 13 states at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  A parade was the topic of conversation for miles.  With Emma Charboneau, the Goddess of Liberty, on the lead float, the parade started at old Turner Hall, moved to Cady Street, then back across the bridge to Main Street and thence to Richard's Grove.  The Centennial celebration began at sunrise with music by three bands.  Luther Cole was president and orator for the day.  Charles Salick led one section of the parade on horseback and Herman Bentheimer of the town of Emmet drove a pair of oxen, to indicate the mode of travel when the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Marching soldiers wore Continental uniforms.  There was fun for thousands, ending with a fireworks display.


06 26       The Turner Society is busy making preparations for celebrating the glorious Fourth.  A series of amusements, consisting of athletic, gymnastics and acrobatic performances, will be presented in Turner Park, where a good time generally is anticipated.  Charles Cech is announced to deliver an oration in German, and it is the intention of the Society to secure also someone to address the people in English . . . In the evening Prof. Richert [Reichert?] will make a grand display of fireworks, something entirely different from anything that has ever been exhibited in this city.  The chief attraction in this display will be a cannonading balloon, one of the finest articles ever got up in the line of fireworks.  It will be made to discharge at various elevations a continuous stream of meteors, bombs variegated showers, gold rain, etc. etc.    WR or WD


08 16       The man Roscoe, from Chicago, who came here with the Atwater-Allen troupe, and commenced a theatrical season of a week, at Turner Hall, beginning Monday evening of last week, proved himself a shyster, dead-beat and confidence gamester of the first order.  After Thursday evening's performance, he disappeared with all the funds that had been taken in up to that time leaving all his bills unsettled, and the members of his company to shift for themselves, and get out of town as best they could  . . . Roscoe took nearly two hundred dollars with him, as profits of his deliberate piece of rascality. He is one of those insinuating, plausible, smooth and oily individuals "who can smile and be a villain still.  [August Wiggenhorn also a victim]   WR



The first telephone was installed in 1877 by photographer John B. May, the line running from his office on Main Street to Turner Hall. 



07 03       EXERCISES BY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTSAn Immense audience assembled in the Turner Hall last Thursday evening to witness the exercises performed by the pupils of the Watertown High School.  After the introductory address by Supt. Ninnam the pupils proceeded to read their essays, which were on the whole well and carefully prepared.  The most pleasing feature of the exhibition was the singing.  And this the pupils acquitted themselves splendidly, their voices are well trained, proving conclusively that the teachers who have them in charge know how to put them through a proper course of discipline.   WD


07 03       GYMNASTIC AND ACROBATIC EXERCISES, popular games and plays for boys, will take place in Turner Park on the Fourth of July.   WD



The Turners will celebrate the 19th anniversary of their organization as a society [in Watertown], on Sunday, the 17th of next month.  A picnic will be held in the park during the day, and in the evening a dance will take place in the hall. WD    In 1948 the U.S. Post Office issued a 3-cent commemorative stamp marking the 100th anniversary of the movement in the United States.



A picture containing text

Description automatically generated 



06 22       Fourth of July will soon be here and every patriotic American citizen is expected to celebrate the day in a becoming manner.  The Watertown Rifle Company and the Turner Society will furnish amusement for all on that day, at Turner Park.  In the evening in Turner Hall the festivities of the day will close with a ball.   WG




A grand May ball is to be held Saturday evening at Turner Hall by the ladies of the Turner Society.  The finest dressed lady present will be crowned May Queen.  Admission, gents, 50 cents; ladles, free.





G.A.R. (No. 94) meeting, Supper, Philharmonic Band & Dancing







For the first time in Watertown a professional wrestling match takes place at Turner Hall next Saturday evening, January 14, 1888, between Charles Moth, champion Graeco-Roman wrestler of the world, and Bert Scheller, champion catch-as-catch-can wrestler of Illinois.  The regular printed wrestling rules will govern the match.  The winner is to take 65 per cent, and the loser 35 per cent, of the door receipts.  Tickets for the match can be procured at the Post office, Gates & Martin’s and Fuermann & Ditschler’s.


There will no doubt be a large attendance of those interested in sporting not only among our citizens, but from the surrounding towns.  Mr. Scheller has been on the ground here since Tuesday of last week waiting to hear from his adversary and perfecting the arrangements for the match.  He is a pleasant gentleman and evidently means to tackle Moth for all he is worth in the muscular line.      W Republican, 01 11 1888




The Old Lindon House Barn with all its contents totally consumed [not same as Tremont House fire, which occurred on 09 11 1895]; James Casey’s Warehouse burned to the ground; Conley’s Saloon slightly damaged and several other places badly scorched.  An attempt to set Turner Hall on fire.


12 20       IVY LEAF” COMPANY

The ”Ivy Leaf” Co., at Concordia opera house last Saturday evening, did not give very good satisfaction.  With the exception of the characters Murty Kerrigan and Darby Flynn, the members of the company did some very poor acting, the lady portions especially.  Their special stage scenery was the finest ever seen here.     WG




The masquerade ball of the Turner Society held at the opera house, Saturday evening, was a perfect jam in point of numbers, every seat being taken, and each inch of room occupied by masqueraders and spectators.  The tableaux Were on a grand scale, gotten up with considerable care and expense.  Loud applause followed the presentation of each of the allegorical scenes so finely rendered.  The height of enjoyment was realized by all present and everybody was agreed upon the success of the entertainment.     WR



Walking through our beautiful park this morning my thoughts ran thusly:  What a fine thing it would be, to see this park unfold itself into here and there a flowerbed; here a verbena, there a pansy, and then a tube rose, and so on.  A foliage bed in the center with some tall ornamental plant in the midst of it, and so sloping down to the edge, would be exceedingly becoming.  And then the thought - let’s do it — it is just the proper thing to do.  So then I call on all who are like-minded to come together in the park Saturday, May 24th at 9 o'clock a.m., and bring with you a growing plant of the flowering kind, and before noon we will have the park all glorified and beautiful to behold.  Bring along your picnic basket and invite your husband and son.  We will make them welcome in their working suits, serve them lunch promptly at 12 p.m., and dismiss them in time for the circus.  Come one, come all; fathers, mothers, children, all with a flower. Other wards not excluded if they feel inclined to come.



P.S. Aldermen take notice, a few benches would be in order.         WG



01 30       CIGAR-MAKERS' BALL

The cigar-makers' ball at Turner opera house last Saturday night was the event of the season, being very largely attended and a grand success socially.  The hall was handsomely decorated with red, white and blue bunting and United States' flags.  A very large model of a cigar, suspended in front of the stage, was a conspicuous feature of the decorations, and it was a most appropriate design on this occasion.  The vast crowd present had a most delightful time, and the management are to be congratulated on the great success of their undertaking.  All their patrons were well treated, and everything about the affair passed off in a remarkably pleasant manner.     WG



Among the characters at the Turner masquerade last Saturday night none attracted more attention than that of the "Independent Oil Refiner,” represented by Jake Eiffler.  The part was well taken, and on at first sight one would be lead to think that Mr. Eiffler was playing the part of oil inspector.  The large audience, however, caught on and eagerly sought one of circulars he was distributing explaining the merits of the "Brilliant Illuminator.”  Interested spectators shortly sought Jake and filled his brand new oil can with "illuminator."  It was a little off color, but revived the drooping spirits of the inner man with as good effect as the Brilliant Illuminator cheers up the good housewife.    WG



The announcement that "The Muenchener" would appear at Turner opera house in this city on Thursday, March 12th, was received with unprecedented enthusiasm.  The advance sale of seats was the largest ever known here.  The surrounding towns almost without exception were represented by large delegations, Jefferson taking the lead.  Watertown is probably the only city of its size in this country which succeeded in making arrangements for a performance, thanks to a few of our enterprising and art-loving citizens, who were obliged to guarantee a large amount to secure the entertainment.    WG


05 08       "THE COUNTY FAIR" at the Turner

A picture containing text, receipt

Description automatically generated

"The County Fair," Neil Burgess New York success, will be at Turner opera house, Tuesday, May 12th. 


The plot of the piece hinges mainly upon a horse race at the county fair, which is run at full speed for three-quarters of a mile in full view of the audience. 


One of the horses belongs to Miss Abigail Prue, whose prim curls, old maidenish ways, honesty, big-heartedness and willingness to take the whole world into her sympathy, always wins the hearts of the audience.  The colt has been injured by her boy of all work, who has heard of the mortgage on her little home, and is anxious to save the place to his benefactress.  Of course, "Cold Molasses," for that's the horse's name, wins, and the dear old lady is saved further anxiety.  The race is bonafide, with mechanism for revolving tracks.  Besides the race scene, there is a husking bee on the great floor of the old country barn, which is equally true to nature, which will appeal with fully as great strength to memories as bygone days.  Then there is the characteristic old country dance, full of music, merriment and motion, and as likely original as one pea is like another. 


The company is said to be a powerful one, every member especially selected for his or her fitness for the character to be impersonated and includes the "County Fair" quartette.  The "County Fair" is rural in its intent, but it is realistically rural.




Turner park is now illuminated with an arc light which lights up the grounds in a beautiful manner and will add greatly to the pleasure of evening entertainments.  WR




Monday evening the Watertown Chorale Union made its initial appearance in concert and a signal triumph in every particular was achieved.  Nothing but unqualified success marked the debut.  The strains of the orchestral introduction sounded.  Turner Opera house was completely filled by as fine and large an assemblage as it ever contained.  The best classes of town people were in attendance, together with splendid delegations from Oconomowoc, Columbus, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson and other neighboring places.  The receipts of the house reached about $600 and notwithstanding the enormous expense of the production the union reaped a handsome surplus.


05 22       NEW FENCE

An eight-foot board fence, with advertisements of business houses thereon, is to be erected by the Turner Society around its park in the First ward.


09 25       "MALONEY'S WEDDING"

A great many people wonder and ask why on earth Dan Maloney ever selected the Turner Opera House as a place for holding his wedding on Sunday evening, September 29.  More especially those who are aware of the fact that the intended bride's parents strongly object to the union.  Maloney gives as his reason that he has an untold number of friends, a large majority of whom he expects to attend, consequently he secured the Turner Opera house, on account of its capacity and location, as he expects everybody to make merry and laugh as loud as they choose; and he will exert himself to make each and every one enjoy themselves that evening, sure.   WR


10 02       "MALONEY'S WEDDING" at Turner Opera house Sunday night was not largely attended.  The play is of the rough-and-tumble order, the comedy elements being not those which appeal to the higher senses.  A few of the company, notably Mr. McCabe as MaIoney, interpreted abundant amusement of the kind offered.   WR



01 04       SYLVESTER BALL

A merry crowd danced the old year out and the New Year in at the annual Sylvester ball at Turner Society Saturday night.   WR



An effort will be made by the Turner society to sell the south 100 feet of its park, located in the First ward, and adjoining Turner Opera house.  If the property is disposed of the proceeds will go towards defraying some of the society's indebtedness.  The members have found it difficult to make ends meet and keep their large property in good condition, the revenues not being adequate to the demands that have been made.   WR WR



That great pastime of the "colored aristocracy" - the cake-walk - was much in evidence at the Turner Opera House Saturday night, when was held the annual masquerade ball of the Turner Society.  It was of different grades of quality good, bad, indifferent but it nevertheless provided genuine amusement for the throng of spectators who filled the large hall.  There were considerably more maskers than a year ago, and taken all together the ball was a great success.  The stage features were well conceived and carried out with precision under the able direction of Paul Thom.  One of the numbers was a cake-walk in which several well-known citizens competed, the prize being awarded by vote of the spectators to Ed Schultz and Mrs. G. Glaser.


05 30       Lewis Monument dedication participant.



02 20       ANNUAL MASQUERADE BALL of the Turner Society

Bear in mind that the grand masquerade of the Turner Society, February 24.  The program will include rubber neck giants, a Spanish castmette dance by sixteen people, a large caterpillar turning into twelve beautiful butterflies who perform a fancy dance, Prince and Princess Carnival and court, and many other interesting features.


08 17       NEW SCENERY

E. W. Smith and H. Schindler have just completed the painting of new scenery for Turner Opera House, as well as two new curtains.  The work is very fine and patrons of the house will appreciate it very much   WG



“A Wise Member” at Turner Opera House last Monday night was about the biggest sell in the amusement line that has ever been produced here, the audience being very much displeased with the performance.  The management of Turner opera house did not play the company here, and were not responsible for its appearance.  Such combinations as this prevents people from patronizing better attractions when they appear, and it is to be regretted that there is not some way of exposing such poor attractions in advance.    WG



[same date]  William J. Bryan, the champion of the people.  Was met with an enthusiastic reception from the dense throng which filled the spacious building to overflow, every available foot of room being filled with men and women who were determined to see and hear the next president of these United States.   WG



Milwaukee Bundesturnhalle

Gymnastics room in the National Gymnastics Hall at Milwaukee, ca. 1900




A delightful dancing party was opened Easter Monday night at Turner Opera House under the auspices of the Young American Athletic club, the patronesses of the hall being Mrs. Otto Hahn, Mrs. Geo. H. Stanchfield and Mrs. Lilia Parks.  The punch bowl was presided over by the little Misses Emily Weber and Lydia Schmutzler.  The opera house was most beautifully decorated for the occasion, purple and white ribbons suspended from the ceiling, falling festooned, and several arches were trimmed in light colors, and hung with Japanese lanterns, making a very pretty effect.  Potted plants ferns also added beauty and interest to the scene.  Music was furnished by Blaesius’ orchestra.  The affair was a very incredible one.   WG



Last Monday evening in a mass meeting of citizens called together at the city hall by Mayor Brusenbach about memorial service at Turner opera house at 2 o’clock P. M. on Thursday, September 19, 1901, commemorative of the funeral of our lamented President, Wm. McKinley.  There were a large number present, and the meeting was called to order by Mayor John J. Brusenbach, who was also selected to preside at the meeting, ex-Mayor Henry Mulberger was elected secretary. . . . Business was quite generally suspended during the afternoon; the banks closed at noon and the usual holiday hours were observed at the post office.  The public schools held memorial services shortly after the time of school in the morning, and then


11 08       “HARD TIMES” PARTY

One evening of last week a “Hard Times” party was given by a number of Watertown young ladies at Turner Opera House, and it proved to be one of the most novel and entertaining social affairs ever given here.  Many of the costumes worn were very grotesque, and several of them may have been in the ark with Noah, or probably resurrected from the ruins of Pompeii.  Hambitzer’s orchestra, of Milwaukee, furnished music for the occasion, and a delicious luncheon was served on the stage.  Miss Clara Saksky and Oscar Wertheimer were awarded the souvenir prizes given by the management of the affair for the best costumes.    WG




Turner Opera House was well filled with people Thursday evening of last week to witness the entertainment given by the Watertown Dramatic Club, and the Amateur Musical Club, assisted in vocal numbers by Miss Lula Bertram, and Wm. Sproesser. Edw. L. Schempf directed the musical part of the program in his customary efficient manner.  The music furnished was high-class and was most excellently rendered. The singing of Miss Bertram and Mr. Sproesser was very much appreciated, both responding to enthusiastic encores.  Miss Lydia Pease accompanied the former, and the latter was accompanied by his wife.


“Mr. Bob,” presented by the Watertown Dramatic Club is a very funny little comedy and in every detail was perfectly portrayed. Mrs. W. J. Lee as Patty, was very clever indeed, and came in for a good share of the applause of the evening.  John Chapman, as Jenkins, with whom Patty was in love, provided a capital actor; and John W. Schempf, as Phillip Rayson, was placed in so many ludicrous predicaments that he furnished no small amount of the amusement of the evening.  The whole affair was excellently carried out, and about $135 was realized.   WG



03 14       JOHN PHILIP SOUSA performs in Watertown  

Our music-loving people have not been given such a treat for many a day as was vouchsafed to them last Monday afternoon when John Philip Sousa and the famous band visited our city, giving one concert.  Turner Hall Opera House was filled with a most admiring and appreciative audience, composed of some of our best people, and quite a large contingent from neighboring towns , special trains being run to accommodate them.  From the moment that Sousa, with his fine military bearing and the numerous decorations bestowed upon him during his recent visit to Europe, made his appearance on the stage, until the close of the concert, the interest manifested was intense; each number was enthusiastically applauded and the musicians were very generous in responding to encores.  The trombone solo by Arthur Pryor, the soprano solo by Miss Maud Reese Davies, and violin solo by Miss Dorothy Hale, were all very much enjoyed and heartily applauded.  While every number was good, we think the ones most enjoyed were the part from La Tosca and "The Night Hall."  Sousa went from here by special train to Fond du Lac.   WG

Cross Reference:




Common Council:  Resolved, That the Watertown Electric Company keep burning the electric arc lamp now placed in front of the Turner hall the same nights and length of time that the other city electric arc lamps burn throughout the year, and that said company be paid for so doing twelve dollars ($12.00) per year in addition to the money paid for street lights annually. 




William J. Bethke will hereafter be manager of Turner Opera House.


The Turner is to be improved in several ways, among the improvements to be the enlargement of the stage, which will allow any show on the road to be staged at this popular theater. 


Mr. Bethke will book only first-class attractions.   WG


      Cross reference note:  In 1903 William Bethke organized the Watertown Philharmonic Orchestra. 



12 15       TAMING A HUSBAND

The management of the Turner opera house was unfortunate in booking the musical farce comedy - “Taming a Husband,” which appeared at that place Thursday evening.  It was certainly the worst kind of a farce from beginning to end, so much so, that it was a comedy of idiocy.  The aggregation could neither sing nor act, and there was nothing in the plot and the small audience, which should have been much smaller, soon tired of the farce, for it was such in fact.  The management was not to blame for it came highly recommended and was booked as a first-class attraction and reliance was placed upon the representations made.  There is one thing in connection with the play that deserves condemnation and that was the hissing indulged in by some in the audience.  If they were dissatisfied they should have retired and not have disturbed those who desired to remain and suffer the agony of which they were the victims.




To say that there was an immense gathering at the grand prize masquerade ball of the Turner society last evening would be a mild expression.  The Turner opera house was taxed to its utmost capacity and some idea of the enormity of the crowd can be conceived when it is stated that there were nine hundred paid admissions.  Nothing like it was ever before experienced. The dancing floor was crowded like a box of sardines and comfort in stepping the light fantastic was out of the question.


While no foreign costumer was here to carry away a large sum in the loan of costumes, there were nevertheless a large number of handsome costumes on the floor.


Many of them were historical, although we fear that the wearers took very little interest in the sentimental part of the business.  What they cared for most was that the disguise fitted them perfectly and gave them a good appearance . . . As it was, the mingled pageantry and mystery of the whole show, the costumes, the light, the music, the company, the flittering uniforms, the handsome ladies, etc., . . . were so dazzling that this reporter came down onto Main Street after midnight feeling as if he had been pushed from the clouds where he had been leading a romantic life for ages into an ill-lighted Rough and Ready dam wrangling miserable world.

12 27       The Turner society gave their annual ball at the Turner opera house last evening.  There was a good attendance and it goes without saying that there was a good time.  The inspiration was furnished by the Weber-Stube orchestra.   WL




Quite a treat is in store for the public of Watertown and vicinity.  Years ago, as is well remembered by most of our citizens, the Turner Masque Ball was the talk of the town, although for the last years this has dwindled down to a, so to say, common affair.  The committee in charge of this year’s event has spared no time nor expense to bring it back to standard again and has made arrangements with the Carnival Costume Co. of Milwaukee, (the same company which furnished the elaborate costumes etc. for the Imperial Minstrels the last two seasons) which will enable them to furnish costumes of any character and description at a much more reasonable price than they could be rented elsewhere.  The public is urged to help make this Masque Ball a unique and nice affair as of old, by leaving orders with the committee or any Turner in due time.  LET US HAVE ONE GREAT MASQUE BALL.  WL


05 07       Application for the transfer of a liquor license rejected    WL


11 13       Week day production booked because many do not attend theatres on Sunday; Mgr Bethke has booked "The Two Johns"   WG



02 19       Watertown Imperial Minstrels performance   WG


04 02       Greatest aggregation of dramatic talent ever put upon any stage in Watertown; "Union Depot for a Day"   WG


06 11       Nortense Nielson Henry Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”   WG


06 25       Eighth grade graduation exercises held at hall   WG


07 02       Watertown High School commencement exercises held at hall   WG


08 13       Redecorated; new opera seats added   WG



      M. Koenig, Art Goeldner, Otto Kohls, James O'Brien, William Asmus, William Streich, Henry Moser, William Kuetser, and Bill Korgrest.


01 21       “The Gay Morning Glories”   WG


03 04       Stanley, "The Great," peer of all hypnotists   WG


03 11       High School inter-class basketball games at Turner   WG


04 15       Lawrence University Glee Club concert   WG


06 10       Senior class play   WG


06 24       High School commencement at hall   WG


August      The old Turner Opera House, as the predecessor of the present hall was known, was one of the busy places here and the Turners were an energetic and busy lot, working toward clearing the debt on the building.  This was finally accomplished with a mortgage burning ceremony held in August of 1910.


07 29       Will Celebrate 50th Anniversary — Sunday evening, August 7, at Turner Opera House, the Watertown Turner Society will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of their society in this city.  A banquet and other amusements will be furnished.  Emil Tanck will act as toastmaster at the banquet.   WG


07 29       50th anniversary, Watertown Homecoming coincides with   WG


08 07       50th anniversary celebrated by Watertown Turner Verein   WG


08 12       Musical Comedy “Mother Goose Up To Date"   WG


08 12       Southern play "Tempest and Sunshine"   WG


09 16       "Paid in Full"   WG


09 30       "Ishmael"   WG



The initial number in the entertainment course was given Monday evening at Turner Opera house.  A fair sized audience greeted Sarah Wathena Brown and the Chicago Boy Choir.  Mrs. Brown announced to the audience that she did not present the boys as finished musicians, but she wished to show what could be done by patience, perseverance and good hard work.  She contended that any boy that can talk, can sing if he is only taught right and the tones properly managed; certainly the four boys who accompanied her possessed very sweet, clear voices.  They appeared first as Scots in highland kilts and plaids, playing the bagpipes; after singing some Scotch ballads, they danced the highland fling.  As choirboys in cassock and cotta, they sang a number of familiar hymns.  Later they appeared as Irishmen, Germans and as very natural school boys, tired of study and looking for some fun which they got in a game of baseball which was so naturally played that the audience gave them the most hearty applause.  In all their work Mrs. Brown accompanied them on the piano.  The harp, a most beautiful instrument, with full, rich tones, was expertly handled by Mrs. Brown and she rendered several beautiful selections.  She also recited a number of short poems to musical accompaniment, all of which were much enjoyed.  The management is to be congratulated on so auspicious a beginning of the winter's program.   WG



The second entertainment in the course being given this season occurred Thursday evening, December 8th, at Turner Opera House.  It was a pity that a larger audience was not present as the concert was very fine indeed.  Signor Giuseppe Bartolotto is possessed of an exceptionally fine tenor voice and when he reached the higher notes the opera house fairly resounded.  His voice is compared to Caruso's and he is credited with being a pupil of the great tenor; we are surprised that he is not a member of some of the grand opera companies.  His little mannerisms were quaint and piquant.  As a reader and impersonator, Miss Chaffee was excellent; she was at a disadvantage in her first number, as so many late arrivals were being seated that it was an interruption . . .   WG



02 23       THE MUSIC MAKERS Next Monday Night

The last attraction on the Popular Entertainment Course comes to the Turner next Monday night in the shape of the Music Makers, Musicians, Singers and Comedy Artists.  This bids fair to be not only the best attraction on the whole course, but one of the best shows seen here this year.  Seat sale now on and the management has reduced the price to 25c for the best seats, and 25c for the balcony.  The Music Makers are clean, manly young fellows, ambitious and musical to their finger tips, with a “style and presence" that immediately captures the audience.  These are the qualities that have made the past tour of "Musicmakers" but little short of sensational.  With Ralph Dunbar of Dunbar Company, as a pilot, they have been safely guided around the shoals that wreck many new companies.  Theirs is new and it "moves."  No tiresome waits.  When they undertake the classic they do it so perfectly that even the devotees of popular music enjoy it.  If they launch out on one of George Cohan's Syncopated effusions, it is performed with such perfect rhythm and balance that the lovers of classical music are not offended, and when they take up the strains of one of "Loves Old Sweet Songs" or one of the old "hymns" it is done with a reverence and a grace that is at once satisfying.  Comedy encores with action are a feature, as are the vocal solos and "stories in verse and song."  But it is as a "Marimbaphone Band" and when rendering selections such as the "Poet and Peasant" overture, the "American Patrol” or the "Light Cavalry” overture that the work of the company becomes sensational.   WG


02 23       LOCAL THEATRICALS [same date as preceding]

Monday evening there was a large audience at Turner Opera House to witness an advanced vaudeville performance by Watertown's own artists for the benefit of the Popular Entertainment course.  Dr. E. J. Hoermann looked after the stage settings and Miss Lydia Pease was piano accompanist for the various numbers.  Raymond H. Fuermann opened the program with his original ragtime musical act, musical medley of airs, and other very clever musical stunts, all of which brought forth great applause.  Two recitations by Miss Edna Chadwick, Watertown's talented young elocutionist, followed, Miss Chadwick was at her best and acquitted herself most creditably, and judging by the great applause given her, she pleased her audience greatly.  Some very clever artistic dancing was done by Miss Marion Thom, which was greatly appreciated, and this was one of the very best numbers on the program.  The vocal numbers by the Misses Anna Smith and Miss Genevieve Mullen were decidedly good, and as on all previous occasions when they sang to the public, the Misses Smith and Mullen were on this evening received with great favor.  Frank P. McAdams' and Mrs. S. E. Holmes' interesting dramatic sketch "Forget-Me-Nots” was very cleverly rendered, and elicited much applause.  The musical five, Watertown High School students, Kathyrn Blair, pianist, Ben Thauer, violinist, Rachael Cooley violinist, George Henke, celloist, Herman W. Walthers, flutist, did excellent work, and their number proved a decidedly popular one.  The readings of Mrs. E. J. Hoermann were very good, as was also the farce "Lend Me Five Shillings." The Imperial quartette composed of Messrs. Franklin Edwards, E. C. Wolfram, Will Schlueter and Richard White closed the entertainment with a beautifully rendered "Good Night" song.   WG


May           Eagles May Ball, 1911, possibly Turner Hall



-- --           PARTICULARS

Turner Opera House.  William J. Bethke mgr.  Joe Glaus treas. S. c., 920.  Prices vary according to attraction all the way from 50c., 35c. and 25c. to $1.50, $1 and 50c.  Illum gas and elec.  Volt 112 alternating.  H Moser elect.  Stage dimensions: Width prosc, opening 30 ft.  Height 28 ft.  Depth footlights to back wall 37 ft.  Distance curtain line to footlights 5 ft.  Between side walls 53 ft.  Distance between fly girders 40 ft.  Height to rigging loft 48 ft.  Scene room.  Fred Justmann, prop. man.  A. Henze stage carpenter.  Wm. Weber orchestra leader, 6 in orchestra.  Wm. J. Bethke bill poster.  Transfer Co., E. Roth.  Express offices, U.S. and American.  T.F. Shinnick physician.  Davis & Mulberger lawyers.  Newspapers: Daily Leader, Times, Republican, Gazette and German paper.  Hotels: Commercial $2 single, $1.50 double;  Otto's $1 single and double; Washington House $1.25 single, $1 double; Wisconsin House $1 single and double.  Railroads C M & St P, Geo W Webb agt.  CNW, F.M. Newton agt.  Publishers of programme: Glaus & Jaeger.  Empire Theatre Vaudeville only, Joe Oppenheimer mgr., S. c. 6oo.  Opened February 1 1909      [Source]



05 02       THE MILWAUKEE THEATRE COMPANY in "Ein Gluecklicher Familienvater" at Turner opera house last Friday evening drew a large audience.  The comedy is a very amusing one and it was well put on.  The large audience thoroughly enjoyed it.   WG



Harold Bell Wright, who is said to be the most popular of the younger American novelists, with the assistance of Elsbery W. Reynolds, has made a dramatization of his most widely read novel, "The Shepherd of the Hills."  Its initial production in this city will take place at the Turner Opera House for an engagement of one night only, Thursday, Sept. 5th.



-- --           TURNER HARVEST BALL

A screenshot of a computer

Description automatically generated with low confidence  



A crowded house greeted the production of Powhatan at Turner Opera House last Tuesday evening under the direction of W. A. Raker and given under the auspices of the Congregational Church.  The piece is full of interesting scenes and they were beautifully portrayed on this occasion and the vocal and instrumental music rendered would do credit to professionals.  Those worthy of special mention taking part in this entertainment were:  Miss Ethel Bates as Pocahontas, Miss Margaret Emmerling as Laughing Star, Lewis W. Parks as Captain Rolfe, J. Wolfram as King Powhatan, Miss Elsa Schempf, Miss Louise Sproesser, Miss Mabel Triplett, Miss Florence Heismann, Will Richards, Jack Racek and Tom Williams.    WG




      for theater at Opera House




The annual meeting of the Turner Society last Thursday evening 15 members were added to the role of the society.  A banquet was served, at which City Treasurer Emil Tanck officiated as toastmaster, and William Weber led in the musical program given.  The society decided to make several fine improvements this year in their opera house, including toilet and wash rooms.  The following officers were elected for the ensuing year:  WG


President — Emil Kehr

Vice President — Arthur Kleck

Fin. Secy. — Herman Hilgendorf

Cor. Secy. — Carl Block

First Treasurer — Edward Specht

Second Treasurer — E. Peters

Gymnasium Instructor — A. Henze

Theatrical Director — William Grossert

Theatrical Manager — Joseph Glaus



The indoor fair at Turner Opera House during the past week has been a great success.  The attractions and amusements were all of a wholesome character and all who attended had a splendid time.  Miss Alma Neitzel was voted the diamond ring at the fair and William G. Pritzlaff secured the splendid davenport.   WG



03 18       ANNUAL MEETING

At the annual meeting of the Turner society held last Thursday evening the following officers were elected:


President — Arthur Kleck.

Vice President — Carl Block.

Secretary — Herman Hilgendorf.

Corresponding Secretary — Archie Erickson.

First Treasurer — Edward Specht.

Second Treasurer — Ernst Peters.

Turning Teacher — Arthur Ullrich.

Theatre Director — William Grossert.

Theatrical Manager — Joseph Glaus.


The Weber-Stube orchestra furnished music and an elaborate luncheon served in the dining room on the lower floor was a big feature of the evening.   WG



A mass meeting of citizens is called to meet in Turner Opera, under the auspices of the German-American Club of Watertown.  Neutrality in the present European war will be the subject.



01 14       Birth of A Nation” moving picture shown at Turner.


-- --           TURNER HALL, ASSUMED





Singer’s Voice put in comparison with Re-Creation.



Saturday evening was the date of the Helen Clark recital at the Turner Opera House, Watertown, when, by previous arrangement, the well-known mezzosoprano consented to sing with the Edison phonograph allowing her voice to be compared with the laboratory recreation of the wizard’s perfected instrument, the most severe test to which any mechanical tone reproducer was ever subjected.


The curious, the critical and the skeptical were there.  All came away convinced that Edison recreation is as nearly like the original voice as could possibly be imagined.  Every test was greeted with hearty applause from the great audience which packed the Turner to the doors.  The recital was not only a revelation but a rare musical treat as well.


Miss Clark sang in unison with her own voice.  Some of the numbers were “Face to Face” by Johnson; “Nightingale Song” by Keller; “For You” by Montague and “Bells of Lee” by Adams.  Except perhaps for the difference in the volume of the tone, one could not be sure when Miss Clark sang and when she did not.  It is true, her lips could be watched, but some of those who sat close to the stage are quite sure that at times Miss Clark formed words with her lips but in singing of “Bells of Lee” the lights went out. The volume of tone increased materially at the end.  Perhaps the majority of the audience believe that Miss Clark was adding her voice to that of the instrument, but when the lights flashed on again, she was not upon the stage.


Perhaps the most charming feature of the entertainment was Miss Clark’s “duet with herself”, “Swing High, Swing Low,” by Bennett.  In singing with this record, she sang a counter melody to that originally recorded in the laboratory.  The duet was a most remarkable one in many respects, for it would be manifestly impossible to find any two artists who would be in such complete accord as to enunciation and interpretation as Miss Clark with herself, or two voices so alike in quality as the same voice.  The blending of tones was perfect; the whole effect superb, and a fitting climax to a most convincing test.    Juneau Telephone newspaper

















Special thanks to Leonard Kottwitz for his help in providing much of the research for this article.


It was a sad day in Watertown, when, on March 9, 1928, Turner Opera House caught fire and burned down.  Not only did the Turners lose their entire facility, but a performing show lost $10,000 worth of equipment and the National Guard, which was headquartered there, suffered another $10,000 loss of weapons and a huge arsenal of ammunition.  The wintry setting helped prevent the fire from spreading off-site, but it did not minimize the spectacle of Watertown's oldest building being ushered into history by a rising crescendo of exploding-shells.


The fire swept through the building just hours after the annual meeting of the organization had concluded.


A $19,000 insurance payment helped meet the cost of rebuilding. The cornerstone for the new, and current Turner Hall was laid in October, 1928, with the grand opening the following January. Amazingly, the entire structure cost only $54,000 to build.


The Watertown Historical Society has a set of images of the 1928 fire.





A picture containing timeline

Description automatically generated         A picture containing text

Description automatically generated

Maas Bros. Construction project



built for Watertown Gymnastic Association


Tidbits derived from 27-page set of specifications by architect


. . . CONCRETE - The water used in mixing concrete shall be fresh, clean and free from all earth, clay, loam or sewerage, or other impurities liable to injure the concrete.


Concrete for walls, footing, columns or floors placed on earth or cinders must be mixed in proportion of one part cement, two parts sand and four parts stone.  Concrete for beams, reinforced slabs or lintels much be mixed in proportions of one part cement, one and one-half parts sand and three and one half parts stone.


All concrete shall be machine mixed.  No hand mixed concrete of any description will be tolerated.  The concrete shall be mixed wet, sufficient water being used to make a mass they will flow readily, and be of such consistency that the reinforcing steel will become thoroughly coated with a protecting coat of fine mortar, but at the same time an excess of water must be carefully avoided, as it causes a separation of the materials. . .


. . . FLAG POLE – Furnish and place wood flag pole 36 ft. long x 7 ½ inches turned diameter at base by 3 ½ inches diameter at top.  Flag pole to be complete with rotating Lignum vitae truck and sheave, brass rod, 20 oz. spun 9-inch diameter copper ball, halyards and fastening cleat.  Top fixture to be made to cap top of wood pole to prevent rotting.  Carpenter to paint flag pole four good coats of lead and oil paint before erecting.


Completion of the building ushered in the era of basketball in the main hall, professional wrestling matches on Friday evenings and Sunday night dances. As the years went by the Turners found it more and more difficult to compete with other halls and businesses that offered large group facilities. A primary reason was the lack of a liquor license. 


Up to that time, the Turners had a license to sell beer, but did not have a license to sell hard liquor. It was a long and difficult fight but matters finally came to a head in 1965 when the Turners announced the facility would be closed and the building sold unless a liquor license was granted. The Watertown Common Council relented and a liquor license was granted.


With that new beginning, the Turners continued to enjoy tremendous success in fulfilling their historic purpose. In the 138 years since their founding, the Turners' organization has been an inseparable part of Watertown's progress and history. While it is easy to focus on the beautiful landmark that has been the center of their activity, it is the Turners themselves that have made the greatest mark for good in the community.


Perhaps the finest glimpse of the Turner Society and their commitment to service and Christian charity was conveyed through a prayer given at the 100th Anniversary Banquet in September 1960:


"O Lord, we pray that Thou woulds't continue to make this Christian organization a blessing to the community and to all men. Christian fellowship and wholesome Christian recreation is also a blessing. Enable us as members of the Christian organization to continue to live in love and in harmony one with another. Make us all mindful of what love means in an organization. As we thank Thee this evening for this Christian fellowship, yes, of some 100 years, we are made very mindful of Thy love and what it means to an organization and to a world."


1929, Opening


The corner stone of the present hall was laid on Oct. 14, 1928.  Dedication ceremonies of the present building were held with the opening of the hall on Jan. 29, 1929.


Home talent plays are still in vague, but radio shows and talkies have largely replaced the old-time stage plays and the waltz and two-step have given way to modern forms of dancing.


The present Turner members have worked hard and long toward the goal of clearing the debt on the present building and wiping out the mortgage.


Movement Found Momentum in Watertown


Mention the name "Turner Hall" and the first thing that comes to mind may be great fish fries, gymnastics, or the beautiful building that has hosted so many community celebrations and private receptions over the years.  But the long and colorful history of the Watertown Gymnastic Association, more commonly known as Watertown Turners, is far richer than the gourmet food they have served for decades. In fact, it is inspiring.


The Turner movement began in Europe in the early 1800's, an outgrowth of both lofty ideals as well as practical innovation.  It was the era of Napoleon and the empire that he was piecing together encompassed most of western Europe, including the German principalities.  While historians have praised his military skills and emphasized his many accomplishments, Napoleon governed as a typical military dictator.


Napoleon oppressed freedom everywhere, yet he was especially harsh in the conquered lands. Meetings for any political purpose were banned but it was permitted to gather for athletic activity. So Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the "father of gymnastics" and a fervent German patriot, began organizing Turnverein (gymnastic clubs) all across Prussia. Jahn believed that physical education was the key to national vitality and equally important in strengthening individual and national character.


Members of the gymnastic clubs, which always included large numbers of German youth, would gather after each workout to discuss political goals and their dreams for freedom and justice. After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, the powerful combination of gymnastics and politics continued to influence the next generation of Germans. When the Revolution of 1848 broke out, the prospect of achieving the freedom which had been so commonly discussed at the Turnverein led mand "Turners" to support the revolution.


When the revolution was suppressed, those who had supported it were forced to flee and many emigrated to America. Some of the political refugees settled in Wisconsin, and quickly formed Turnverein. However, with freedom in their new land already a reality, Turner Societies broadened their purpose to include the "cultivation and improvement of the faculties of the body and mind of its members and the management of musical and theatrical entertainment for amusement of the society and public as well."


Watertown Turners, originally named the Independent Gymnastic Society of Watertown, was formed on Aug. 21, 1860.  Early meetings were held in the old Cole building at the corner of South Second and Main streets (at the location of the former Kline's Department Store). Within a year, the Turners had put on their first theatrical performance.


By 1869, the original Turner Hall was constructed at a cost of $28,000. It was located at 301 S. Fourth St., the site of the vacant circus grounds and the same location as the present Turner Hall. On Dec. 11, 1869, the new three-story hall opened. An audience of 1,300 people enjoyed a performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute.”


Interestingly, there was a prejudice against theaters in those days. So, to avoid needless criticism, the first Turner Hall was called Turner Opera House. For the same reason, when the Concordia Musical Society purchased the building which is now the Elk's Club, it was called the Concordia Opera House. Whether the performance was a play, musical, or concert, it apparently met with greater acceptability when viewed in an opera house.


For 59 years, Turner Opera House was the center of cultural events in the city. The Turners used the building to fulfill their original purposes in the broadest sense - "entertainment for amusement of the society and public." In addition to the theatrical use, the building hosted dances, weddings, conventions, union meetings, political rallies, wrestling matches, and of course, many gymnastic events.




Was theatrical manager of the Turner Society; one of Watertown’s Best Citizens



1936 Centennial Parade

Turner Hall float



09 28       AN ATOMIC BOMBARDMENT of Music













Officials of the Watertown Gymnastic Association announced that they have decided to withdraw their offer to the city regarding possible off-street parking lot plans for the vacant property they own at Turner Hall.  The Turners have decided, it was said, not to cause any ill will among property owners and residents in the vicinity and have therefore decided to drop the proposal which they made to the City Council some weeks ago.     04 29


1956       Legal question with the pending transfer of tavern license.     03 25



02 23       Cooking school among events at Turner during ’59.


07 30       Supermarket proposed for Turner Hall site; new Turner Hall proposed   WDT


09 16       PLANS FOR 100 YEAR CELEBRATION IN 1960  

The Watertown Turners will be 100 years old as an organization in 1960 and plans have begun to stir for observing the event.  Harley Lehmann, president of the Turners, has named a steering committee to launch the movement for the centennial.  Fred Loeffler has been named chairman, Waldo Potter, secretary.  Other members are: Orval Steffen, Clifford Hanson, Marvin Bredow, Don Gerth, Emil Kihslinger, William Schultz, Howard Weihert, Charles Graff, Ernest Kubly, Duane Steffen and Henry Schaller, publicity.


-- --           ROCK AND ROLL SHOW

Watertown's First Rock and Roll show there in 1959.



-- --           HILL FOR SLEDING

MEMORY:  There is a slight little "hill" behind the hall.  In the 1950's all of us in the neighborhood used to sled there in the winter. . . . Best memories!  Also used to go to Turner Hall every New Year’s Eve!




Edward Hinterberg, president of the city council, plans to come up with a new proposal in connection with the general plans for a new post office building for Watertown.  Under his plan the city would enter into direct negotiations to sell the site of the present recreation building to the federal government.  At the same time the city would explore the possibility of acquiring the Turner Hall and several nearby lots which were announced as available last year for the site of a new supermarket, a plan that did not materialize.  If the Turner Hall site is still available and the lots can also be secured, Mr. Hinterberg believes that the hall could be turned into a recreation building, centering all recreation activities there.   WDT



       City Assessor Note



The Watertown Turners have set the dates for the celebration of their centennial which is being observed this year.  The dates are Sept. 19 to 25 and work on the plans is now well underway.  Chairmen of the various committees in charge of the celebration have held several meetings and the next general meeting of the committee is to be held July 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Turner Hall at which additional phases for the jubilee will be discussed.  Members of the steering committee are:  Marvin Bredow, Clifford Hanson, Emil Kihslinger, Ernest Kubly, Harley Lehmann, Waldo Potter, Henry Schaller, William Schultz, Duane Steffen, Orval Steffen, W. C. Strache and Howard Weihert.   WDT



The Watertown Turners, who over a period of 100 years have dispensed and experienced the well-known brand of Watertown gemuetlichkeit, enjoyed some on Saturday night when they sat down to long banquet tables in Turner Hall to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization.  The event, which had been observed all week, wound up with a banquet and program that drew 90 per cent attendance of the members.  The large hall was completely filled, both members and their ladies attending.   WDT



01 07       Mrs. Leonard Kresinske was elected president, succeeding Mrs. George Sauer.  Other officers named were Mrs. Robert Kehr, vice president; Mrs. Earl Weihert, secretary; and Mrs. Fred W. Borchardt, treasurer.   WDT


03 10        Charles F. Haven, manager of the Ace Hardware Store, elected head of the Watertown Gymnastic Association.  Other officers are:  Donald Gerth, second speaker; George Zoelle Jr., first secretary; William Hertel, second secretary; Arthur A. Ullrich, first treasurer; Wayne Saniter, second treasurer; Donald Brink, gymnastic director; Arden Piper, theatrical director, and Harley Lehmann, manager of Turner Hall.   WDT


05 24       The Watertown Gymnastic Association at a meeting last night voted to make the Turner Hall property available to prospective buyers, according to a statement issued today by officers on behalf of the organization. It was reported there are several prospective buyers but as yet no decision had been reached. Two of the offers are for purchases of the property for a new supermarket site. Some years ago the Turner Hall was offered for sale but the deal was not consummated.   WDT




The common council committee recently delegated to meet with representatives of the Watertown Turners to obtain information about the availability of the Turner Hall property for city recreation department purposes held such a meeting last night but there were no final developments.  The Turners recently indicated the property is for sale, since there are no options outstanding on it at the present time.  At one time a food chain was interested in the property for a supermarket but this project did not develop.  It was made clear at the last council meeting that the meeting with the Turners would be only to learn what price range they have in mind and that there was no direct intention, at this time, for the city to acquire the property.   WDT



The granting of a liquor license in connection with the offer of the Turner Hall building to the city was not a condition of the proposed sale, the board of directors of the Watertown Turners Society said.  The building had been under consideration as a possible location for the Watertown Recreation Department.  Now plans call for locating the department in the basement of the new municipal building, to be erected on Memorial Park.  At a special meeting of the Common Council, Mayor Robert P. White stated that the granting of a liquor license was a condition to the proposed sale and that the council is not in favor of acquiring the building with this condition attached.   WDT



03 11       Mayor Robert P. White has called for a definite decision on the part of the council on the application filed by the Watertown Turners for a liquor license at Turner Hall.  At present only a class “B” beverage license, beer, is carried at Turner Hall.     WDT


08 06       The Watertown Turners last night lost their latest attempt to secure a tavern license for Turner Hall, the vote by the common council being 7 to 6, but there is still one chance that a license may be granted, providing the present city tavern ordinance is amended.  Such a move was begun last night in the council and it will come up for a test at the Aug. 20 meeting. Last night’s council action on the latest license application was the third time this year that the council has refused to approve the license.   WDT


09 03       The Watertown Gymnastic Association announced today that petitions bearing 937 names are being filed with the office of the city clerk for presentation to the common council at its meeting tonight supporting the Turner Hall liquor license request.  The council is due to vote on the second reading of the ordinance tonight which would pave the way for granting a license to the association to operate a bar in Turner Hall.  The first reading was approved by a one vote margin — 7 to 6, with one alderman absent.     WDT


09 07       Mayor Robert P. White announced that he has vetoed the ordinance adopted at Tuesday night’s meeting of the common council under which the Watertown Gymnastic Association would have been able to file a new application for a liquor license for the Turner Hall.  The council vote was 8 to 5.  The mayor had informed the Times yesterday morning that he definitely decided on a veto today.  He had also stated on Aug. 20, when the council approved the first reading of the ordinance, that he would veto it if it was adopted on its second reading.    WDT


09 17       Five members of the common council last night supported Mayor Robert P. White in his vote of the ordinance designed to pave the way for the Watertown Turners to obtain a tavern license for Turner Hall.  Alderman Charles Yeomans made the motion to sustain the veto, thus blocking the way for a Turner Hall license. Voting with Yeomans in support of the veto were four other aldermen — Paul Archambeau, William Wiegand, Marvin O. Niehoff and James Bloor. The nine aldermen who voted against supporting the veto were Wallace Block, Herman Gerth, Christie P. Coogan, Floyd Shaefer, Ronald Moser, Melvin Lange, Armund Turke, George Shephard and Eric Nuernberg.     WDT



02 06       WAYNE KING

Wayne King, “The Waltz King,” and his famous orchestra at Turner Hall Thursday night, Feb. 6, when they play for a dance.



The Watertown Turners today announced results of the annual election of officers.  Named were: First speaker, William Ulm; second speaker, Donald Cowan; first secretary, Robert Lischka; second secretary, Edward Zubke; first treasurer, A. A. Ullrich; second treasurer, Wayne Saniter; hall manager, Leonard Kottwitz; gymnastic director, Ronald Bohn; theatrical director, William Kehl.  Henry Schaller was appointed publicity director. Various committees are to be named at a future meeting.



The Watertown Memorial Hospital capital funds drive got another boost Saturday when the Watertown Gymnastic Association, better known as the Turners and the Auxiliary jointly pledged $1,500 to the campaign fund and paid $1,000 of that amount to Martin Uttech, a captain in the advance gifts section of the campaign organization.  It is understood that the subscription is being made equally by both the Turners and the auxiliary with the women paying their subscription in full.  According to the president of the Turners, William H. Ulm, it will be necessary for them to make special effort to raise




An application for a beer and liquor license for the Watertown Gymnastic Association, which owns and operates Turner Hall, filed with the common council last night, was referred to City Attorney David Fries, in order to check into several legal aspects.  The Turner Hall had previously been denied a license because of certain conflict with state statutes but since then there have been several new developments and the possibility of securing a license now appears a bit brighter.  WDT



Based on provisions in present city ordinance the common council cannot grant a liquor license to the Watertown Gymnastic Association, owner and operator of Turner Hall, City Attorney David J. Fries said last night in a written opinion which he presented to council members.  The opinion confirmed what he had previously told the council following a study of the subject but the opinion spelled out the facts in detail.  The attorney also pointed out that if the council members wish to change the existing ordinance provisions to enable issuance of such a license they may do so, but the present working will not allow a license for Turner Hall.  WDT



Based on provisions in present city ordinance the common council cannot grant a liquor license to the Watertown Gymnastic Association, owner and operator of Turner Hall, City Attorney David J. Fries said last night in a written opinion which he presented to council members.  The opinion confirmed what he had previously told the council following a study of the subject but the opinion spelled out the facts in detail.  The attorney also pointed out that if the council members wish to change the existing ordinance provisions to enable issuance of such a license they may do so, but the present working will not allow a license for Turner Hall.  WDT



[same date] One course and one course only still is open for the possible granting of a tavern license to the Watertown Gymnastic Association for its Turner Hall operation and that step could be taken at next Tuesday night’s meeting of the common council.  The only course that remains, following at least three previous rejections by the council, is for some aldermen to move for the introduction of amendments to the present city ordinance covering liquor or tavern licenses that will meet legal state and city requirements.  One of the changes refers to wiping out the present provision that calls for taverns to be at ground level, or at least at such a level that a routine police check can be made from the street.  The other deals with the limitation involving neighborhood dwellings and distances from churches, etc., of the building to be licensed. WDT



The Watertown Gymnastic Association last night lost its chances of obtaining a liquor license for Turner Hall from the present common council when the aldermen voted 9 to 5 not to amend one of two ordinances designed to pave the way for granting the license.  The amendment to the measure would have changed the section referring to taverns in residential areas.



The Watertown Turners held a special meeting with the Turner Auxiliary last night and it was decided to sell the Turner Hall and possibly disband the organization which is more than 100 years old and which has been an integral part of Watertown’s community life for well over a century.  Sale of the property is being advertised in Milwaukee, Chicago and Madison newspapers, following last night’s decision, it was announced this morning.  The Turners also canceled several coming attractions, including the famed Sammy Kay and his Band as well as Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians who were scheduled to come to the Turner Hall for an appearance the second Sunday after Easter.  The Turners however, will fulfill their local contracts.    WDT



As a result of action by the common council at its meeting last night, the Watertown Turners inched just a bit closer toward an opportunity to secure a liquor license for Turner Hall. But still ahead lie four more council roll call votes before such a license can be issued. Last night council voted to reconsider its previous vote, taken on Sept. 21, by which it had rejected acceptance of the first reading which provides for a change in the city ordinance relating to taverns in residential areas.   WDT



Mayor Robert P. white last night broke a 7 to 7 tie vote in the common council and this removed another of the obstacles confronting the Watertown Turners in their quest for a liquor license for Turner Hall.  The council can take no action on the actual granting of the license until its Dec. 7th meeting.  Last night’s tie vote came on a motion to adopt an ordinance which enables the granting of a liquor license in a residential area.    WDT



Dec. 7th remains the target date for granting a liquor license to the Watertown Turners to operate a bar at Turner Hall.  At last night’s meeting of the common council the second to the last remaining hurdle was passed when the aldermen, by a vote of 11 to 3, approved the first reading of the one remaining ordinances that will make it possible to grant a license.  The 11 to 3 vote came as somewhat of a surprise, since the previous ordinance, which was also a step in the direction of a license, passed only after Mayor Robert P. White broke a 7 to 7 tie vote of the council.    WDT




A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated with medium confidence 

Mrs. W. A. Klinger, president; Mrs. Earl Weihert, secretary; Mrs. Leonard Kresinske, vice president; Mrs. Fred Borchardt, treasurer.



A picture containing text, building, old

Description automatically generated 








The Wisconsin Department of Revenue determined that the Watertown Gymnastic Association, Inc., Watertown, Wisconsin, does discriminate in its membership on the basis of race and have terminated the income tax exception granted them under Section 71.01(3)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes.  Letter from WI Dept. of Revenue to John Surdick, Watertown City Assessor.  Filed in City Assessor Collection with document WHS_013_046 (301 S. Fourth St).








The Watertown Gymnastic Association, better known as the Turners, held its 122nd annual banquet at Turner Hall.  Officers were introduced.  They are: Donald Borchardt, president; Warren Schmidt, vice president; Sam Stangler, first secretary; Stanley Kuehl, second secretary; Robert Lischka, first treasurer; Mark Othmer, second treasurer; Harley Rupprecht, hall manager; William Richter, theatrical director; Leonard Kottwitz, gymnastic director; and Henry Schaller, publicity director.   WDT



The common council at its meeting last night learned that a report prepared by City Attorney O. Harvey Krause, in compliance with a request made at Monday night’s council committee meeting, shows that there are buildings in the area of Turner Hall, which lie within the 300-foot radius of the Turner building.  Of the 45 structures, 33 are residential and 12 are commercial.   WDT




An ordinance to rezone property at Turner Hall was tabled Tuesday by the Watertown Common Council to allow the organization to work out a compromise with a neighboring property owner.  The Turners have asked for B-2 (business) zoning for 301 S. Fourth St., the location of their existing building, and an adjoining vacant lot at 310 S. Fifth St.  The property currently is zoned R-3 (multifamily residential), even though the use has been commercial in nature.  The Turners need the rezoning to allow expansion of their building onto the vacant lot. In its recommendation to the council, the planning commission is requiring the rezoning and combining of the two parcels before the expansion can take place.



                Renovated Pub Room on second floor   WDT



09 11       125th ANNIVERSARY

The old phrase “you're not getting older, you're getting better” was obvious Saturday night as the Watertown Turner members reminisced as they celebrated the society's 125th anniversary.  The Turners, also known as the Watertown Gymnastic Association, celebrated the anniversary with a private dinner and dance for members Saturday and opened the hall to the community for a large dance celebration Sunday with four bands performing.  The Turners are one of the oldest organizations in the city.  The group was organized on Aug. 21, 1860, solely for the purpose of cultivation and improvement of the faculties of the body and mind of its members and the management of musical and theatrical entertainment for amusement of the society and public as well.   WDT



-- --           THE TURNER HALL WOMEN  /  Seeking ID’s

     Back Row, Center:  LaVerne "Mousie" Ziebell




New officers and committee chairmen were introduced at the annual Watertown Gymnastic Association annual banquet Saturday night at Turner Hall.  New officers and committee chairmen are Bill Connor, first speaker; Dale Lenius, second speaker; Gene Kelm, first treasurer; Matt Von Rueden, second treasurer; Shawn Stangler, first secretary; John McConville, hall manager; Richard Doman, theatrical director; Mike Peirick, gymnastics director; Leonard Kottwitz, publicity; Don Borchardt, upstairs bar; Leonard Braunschweig, assistant; Jim Arndt, downstairs bar; and Doman, Richard Buss, Stangler, Peirick and Gary Zastrow, entertainment committee.   WDT




Despite several objections about spot zoning, the Watertown Common Council Tuesday approved business zoning for property owned by the Turners’ organization.  The council voted, 6-2, to adopt the second reading of the ordinance, which will change the zoning to downtown business (B-2) on Turner Hall, 301 S. Fourth St., and an adjoining vacant lot at 310 S. Fifth St.  The previous zoning classification was multifamily residential (R-3).  The zoning change was required by the planning commission to allow the Turners to expand their building upon the vacant lot.  The two properties will be combined into one lot as well.  The organization wants to increase its kitchen facilities through the project.




The city of Watertown Site Plan Review Committee recommended on Monday to approve the site plan for an addition to Turner Hall.  Turner Hall is proposing to build a 3,600-square-foot one-story addition south of its present building at 301 S. Fourth St. The proposal will now go before the Plan Commission for review.  Rich Doman, manager of Turner Hall, said the Turner organization wants to combine the two bars in the hall into one bar in the new addition, which would be located on a lot south of the current building and owned by the Turners. Currently, the hall has a bar upstairs and a bar on the main level. The plan also calls for the bar on the main level to be converted into a meeting room where smaller gatherings could be held. The new addition will also be used to expand freezer facilities.



With the stipulation that a parking lot expansion must take place within a year of building occupancy, the Watertown Plan Commission approved a conditional use permit to allow an addition to Turner Hall.  The expansion will take place on the southeast corner of the building and will provide a new entrance and courtyard off South Fourth Street.  This will allow the Turners to consolidate two bars into one.  The conditional use permit was approved by the commission Monday, but not until after a public hearing was conducted.  Several people who represented the Apostolic Gospel Lighthouse Church that is in the neighborhood of Turner Hall said they feared an expansion of the hall would compound an already challenging parking situation in the area. WDT




MADISON — Prompted by an incident at a 15-year-old’s coming out party at Turner Hall in Watertown last winter, the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate unanimously passed Assembly Bill 460 and Senate Bill 266, which will clean up an outdated Wisconsin law that restricts anyone under 21 unaccompanied by a parent from attending wedding receptions and similar events where alcohol is served.  The bill will, under specific certain instances for the purposes of such ceremonies similar to weddings, bar mitzvahs and quinceaneras, allow those under the legal drinking age unaccompanied by a parent to participate in the commemoration even if the establishment holding the ceremony has a liquor license.    WDT



Watertown Gymnastic Association still resided at Turner Hall.



01 31       Amateur boxing returned to Watertown; event held at Turner Hall   WDT




Employees at the Johnsonville Sausage facility in Watertown have been volunteering around the community since a fire in May 2015 shut down meat-processing operations.  Most recently employees have been giving Turner Hall a fresh coat of paint.  Adolfo Contreras paints trim at the hall and Erasmo Arguijo paints near the ceiling in the upstairs bar.  Employees have been working at Turner Hall for about two weeks.  Employees have also deep cleaned the kitchen.  So far about 60 gallons of paint have been used to paint the walls and ceiling.  It’s been about 15 years since the walls at the hall have been painted and the ceiling had been painted for many years before that.




     Image Portfolio 






Watertown Gymnastic Troup - Real Photo Postcard, 1910's.


Cross References:

During his early career Prof. Hardege was director of the musical department of the Turner Society.



THE MEMORIES-----dances after the football games!!!




Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin