Turn Verein (Lawrence, MA)

The American Turners is a national organization founded in Cincinnati,Ohio in 1848 by German immigrants. Their motto, “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”, explains the purpose of the American Turners. It is a family organization, encouraging people of all ages to be mentally and physically active.

Lawrence Turn Verein was the creation of Fritz Matthes and Wilhelm Patschkel.  In the year 1853 these two with a number of followers began to practice a variety of gymnastics at a house on Union Street.  The gym was composed of a high bar and parallel bars.  The dedication was enlivened by a five-man band, which was composed of three guitars, one accordion, and one fife.  Financial difficulties led to a dwindling of membership.  In 1859 with an increased number of German immigrants another Turn Verein was started at the corner of Jackson and Common Streets.  Continued membership and financial difficulties were eventually overcome when the original Mr. Matthes along with Fritz Schubert and fifteen others laid the groundwork for a Lawrence Turn Verein.  The new headquarters was on the third floor of a house on Essex Street.  Two years later in 1867 a summer Turnfield was prepared on a lot on Park Street.  The membership had reached 50 men.  In an effort to raise money to build a Turn Hall the membership presented a theatrical production.  At a cost of $1,675 Turn Hall of the first German Hall was built in 1868.  Lawrence Turn Verein joined the Boston Turn District.  In 1872 a large hall was built.  On November 23, 1894 the hall burned to the ground.  The new Turn Hall was dedicated June 12-14, 1896 was located at 44 Park Street.  The membership had reached 500 by the year 1900.  Women were first admitted in the nineteen fifties.

The 42nd national convention of the National American Turner Association met during the first week of September 1948 at Turn hall inLawrence.  300 delegates met over several days.  The Ladies Auxiliary met at the same time at the HoodSchool.  At the end of the first day a banquet was served at Turn Hall with a Kommers cabaret scheduled for evening entertainment.

One Response

  1. Does anyone know what’s going on with this site? Since 2007, plans were there was to be a church built here. Since the fire in 2008, Turn hall was demolished, the lot closed up by a fence, and for 4-5 years, all they’ve done is cut down trees and put in a staircase going down the hill to a big square cement platform near the old Holy Trinity School Rectory. I heard they put a garden in summer on top of the hill and a hose attachment near the stairs going down the hill. This is a complete waste of land. The best thing is Groundwork Lawrence takes over it and transforms this into a big neighborhod park and community gardens, basketball courts, tennis couts, et., open to Durant, Bruce, Kendrick, and Park Streets. There’s so much potential for one. They could call it Turn Park.

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