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Demolition Hyde Park North St. Louis

Demolition Finally Comes to the Nord St. Louis Turnverein

by Michael R. Allen

Looking southeast from 20th and Salisbury.

Yesterday a crew from Z & L Wrecking started taking down the ruinous northern portion of the Nord St. Louis Turnverein. This was deja vu to those who recalled the day when Z & L arrived to take down the buildings after the devastating fire on July 6, 2006 that destroyed the northern section. This time, the failing structural state led to the Building Division’s issuance of an emergency demolition permit on March 29, 2011.

The same view nearly five years ago in February 2006.

Developer Peter George stopped demolition and valiantly tried to find financing to rebuild the Hyde Park landmark. With the southern gymnasium addition of 1898 largely intact, rebuilding seemed like a reasonable path. Five years later, an imbalance of time and money has led to a more conservative approach.  George came along late in the life of the building, purchasing it after the fire.

The remaining section of the front elevation.

The fateful decisions came earlier when the remaining Turners rejected the membership applications of a contingent of new members (including many leaders of Metropolis) in 1999, and when the group sold the buildings to a future felon named Doug Hartmann in 2004. Even before the fire on July 5, 2006, heavy winds had destroyed the roof of the older north building on April 2, 2006. The loss of a building can take time, and the loss of a community anchor can tragically drag out for years.

9 replies on “Demolition Finally Comes to the Nord St. Louis Turnverein”

Rehab was seriously in doubt once the building was “bombed” by the windstorm, For years it sat sacked and an eyesore. How long should a building in this condition be “preserved”? It was probably beyond repair cost wise before the winds knocked it down. Going into the hands of an unqualified developer just helped seal its doom. Which says nothing of markets. Had the building been located in Soulard or Lafayette Square, it might have seen a different fate. In Hyde Park, the sum of the challenges were overwhelming. Sad story but lessons to be learned.

Any explanation of why the new applicants were rejected? Is the Turnverein, minus the building, still in business?

No facts here, just speculation on my part, but by the time Metropolites would have approached the Turners, the hall was probably already closed or just a shadow of its former self. The Turners were doubtful interested in maintaining gymnastic enterprises, and were probably just trying to liquiditate their interest. 60-100 years ago, the neighborhood was heavy German. Not any more. Look at Bethlehem Lutheran for more of the same cultural abandonment

If I’m not mistaken, the only remaining Turner Hall operating in the CIty of St. Louis is on Gravois south of Loughborough. Michael surely knows more about this, but at one time, there were lots of culturally-based athletic facilities in St. Louis. Most of those have long closed. There were also beer gardens, dozens of breweries, street cars, 800,000+ residents, etc. St. Louis is a different place today than it was in 1940.

I brought numerous punk rock bands to Turner’s from 1984-1986. What a great venue. Other than having to load the gear up 2 flights of stairs. Sad to see it go.

The building, while not perfect was in decent shape until Doug Hartmann bought it for $50,000. Until it caught fire it could of been rehabilitated. Heavy winds may have damaged it, but it was still intact. Actually it was water damage that allowed the winds to penetrate. It is a shame, it was a future (and actual) centerpiece for this neighborhood for years. The demolition derby that is St. Louis continues unabated for the benefit of a few.

What a delight to see the intact structure. I just got an article from a relative the other day, and it started my family quest again. I knew little or nothing of my maternal side, but things are coming together. Edward O. Harrs came from Germany in the 1860’s, and either owned or operated this Turner Hall. My great grandfather was born there in 1882. His obit of 1947 said he was a recorder of the Armistice of WWI in France. I have a newspaper article of the socialites at a dance there, where he met his future wife in the early 1900’s. I’m almost 60, to you young-uns, get your family history written down.

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