The Highland Gymnastic Society, originally known as the “Turnverein”, was formed in 1853.
“It grew quickly and was the pride of every member, as the Swiss and Germans who had settled in the Highlands and the region really believed in teaching gymnastics for body development and in good schools for the development of the mind. ”
The 1853 location was the second floor of the Menz Building, which stood on the northwest corner of Broadway and Pine. It is still in use, after three or more additions.
The Turnverein operated until 1861 and the onset of the Civil War when nearly all of the young men in the class enlisted in the United States Army.
“In 1866 the society was again organized by Jacob Menz, Louis Kinne and Selmar Pabst, the principal spirits of the Highlands. Ferdinand Kaltenbacher (1842-1908) was elected physical trainer.
Ferdinand Kaltenbacher was the great-grandfather of Eunice Kalterbacher (Mrs. Floyd) Rogier, who provided Ferd’s photo with this column and will be with the “Turner” information in the new Highland Home Museum, which will hold its grand opening on April 22 and 23. We also have a “Diamond” bat that was encrusted on the button, “Turner” and the initials “EH” We know that Edward Hebrank was a member of the Turners, but have no evidence that this is. was his bat. This Turnet bat was donated to the museum by a former Highlander Ron Bleisch, now of Glen Carbon.
“The Turners needed a building of their own as the company grew. By October 1869, they had raised the necessary funds. The contract price was $ 3,590 per Henry G. Metzger, and he hired as many carpenters as possible. Their permanent building was finished and on December 26, 1869, the new “Turnhalle” was once consecrated. The marching band performed for the parade, which started at Main and Walnut, and they made their way to the newly built hall, amid the ringing of all the school and church bells. Over 700 people attended the dedication program, the Harmony sang and Adolph Bandelier gave the dedication speech. Three hundred couples were present for the dance that followed that evening.
“The people of Highland immediately put the Turnhalle (later called Turner Hall) to good use. Anything that called a few people together had to stand there. Previously, the place of general assemblies was in the dance halls of the saloons, but after the construction of the Turnhalle all that changed. The first ‘Turnfest’ took place in May 1870. The day’s events took place at Lindendale Park and the evening events at the Turnhalle. Thousands of people attended the weekend’s events, many from St. Louis, and Highland has become a popular location for such events.
Highland had a library as early as 1859. The Highland Library Association had with Adolph E. Bandelier as president and the trustees were Dr Frederick Ryhiner, Joseph Suppiger, Solomon Koepfli and John Suppiger, again “the cream of the crop”.
“They put together a very valuable collection, which would meet the needs of students, teachers and adults. After the construction of the Turnhalle, which included a reading room, the collection of books was moved to the room and was kept there until the construction of the Louis Latzer Memorial Public Library in 1929 by the Latzer family. The library association also sponsored lectures in the hall during the winter months. The lecturers were professors, Baer and Julius Hammer; doctors, Ryhiner, Suter, Bernays and Halter; along with many other rulers, putting Highland on the map in a literary way.
“Turner Hall had been a popular venue for holding political meetings, because of its capacity and the freedom of conduct that was permitted there. General US Grant, when he was running for President of the United States, appeared there and raised the walls of his forensic efforts. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt, nicknamed the “Rough Rider” and “Bull Moose” because of his days of service, ran for President and spoke twice at Turner Hall. The two men, Grant and Roosevelt were elected.
“In the late 1870s an addition was made to the east side of the building. Two bowling alleys were installed and they were in use until 1913. Jacob Janett bought them and moved them to the west side of his apartment building in Ninth and Walnut.
In 1937, when the “Highland Centenary History” was written, the building was called the Albert Kleiner Building. Today it’s called Ninth Street Café.
“Turner Hall was fully equipped with a kitchen and equipped for serving meals to many. During the months when the Lindendale Park Outdoor Dining Room was not available, the Turner Hall was used several times a year. Later, churches and other buildings were equipped, so that the use of the halls decreased.
“The Gymnastic Society had been successful in its primary cause of building the physical health and strength of our young and old (just as the Korte Recreation Center and other fitness venues in Highland are doing today) . Knowledgeable instructors had always been in charge and classes for all ages had been held regularly. They had entered into competition with other filming schools in the Saint-Louis region and had done so with great credit.
In 1948, the Gymnastic Society voted to dissolve and donate the land and building to the Town of Highland to be used at a later date for a new building, which later became the Weinheimer Community Center.