Turner Hall razed

Turner Hall 1914 shortly after it was completed

Turner Hall 1914 shortly after it was completed

The old Turner Hall at 720 SE 8th St was demolished last week.  For many the Central Turners was where they learned to swim or practice gymnastics.  With another iconic building now in the history books, VCHS takes a look at what this German club was all about.

Evansville Turnverein was established locally in July 1853 and was affiliated with the Berlin Turner Society.  The German translation is literally “gymnast club.”  An article in the 1980s described the club as “midway between the YMCA and a county club.”

In 1909, the German club bought the old Kingsley ME Church at the corner of 8th and Gum and remodeled it into its new quarters.  In a few short years the club opted to erect a new building.  After a couple iterations, plans were worked up by A J Capelle in summer 1913 for a new building that would occupy the same location.

Sketch of the new hall for the Turnvereins

Sketch of the new hall for the Turnvereins

In September 1913, the church was torn down, and in October ground was broken on the new Turner Hall.  It was was made of brick with stone trimming including a large stone inscription of “Central Turnverein” over the entrance (seen in picture below).  The estimated cost was about $26,000.

The first floor included a dance hall and gymnasium separated by folding doors for enlarging the space when needed.  Turner Hall also had a white enamel pool in the back.  The basement held dressing rooms as well as a rathskeller and billiards room.  A full list of activities accompanied the club’s grand opening in mid April 1914

Great picture during the 1937 Flood showing detail of the building's original entrance (Courtesy 1937 Flood book)

Great picture during the 1937 Flood showing detail of the building’s original entrance (Courtesy – Over the Banks of The Ohio:  The Flood of 1937)

At some point around 1950 the front was remodeled covering over some of the details of the original facade.  A dining room addition to the side was also probably added around that time.

The club prospered for years, but began to struggle with membership in the 1970s when many of its members flocked to the suburbs.  The club was on the verge of closing in 1981, but rebounded quickly looking to bring in new members.  That success was short lived though as the financially strained Turners filed for bankruptcy in March 1983.

As the hall looked in recent years when it served as Impact Ministries

As the hall looked in recent years when it served as Impact Ministries

When the club closed a handful of suitors came for the property.  In February 1984, WNIN planned to move in to the building but the bank stalled on the project.  The TV station would wind up in the old Carpenter Home a year later.  Next, Krieger-Ragsdale looked to move its printing plant and bought the property.   Retrofitting the building was not viable so the company relocated elsewhere, and the old Turner Hall was sold to Christian Fellowship Church which operated its Impact Ministries out of the facility.  That nonprofit served the Center City community for years until it closed last August 2014.

After the Turners lost their home, there was some mention of the club continuing to meet, but nothing more recent was found of the once grand German club.  As for the building, it is still listed as belonging to Christian Fellowship Church, but nothing was found to justify tearing down the 100-yr old landmark.

View along Gum St.  Turner Hall sat where the street bends at 8th

View along Gum St. Turner Hall sat where the street bends at 8th

Lecture to Discuss Life and Times of Benjamin Bosse


Lecture to Discuss Life and Times of Benjamin Bosse

On Thursday, August 13, 2015 6:30 p.m. at the Evansville Museum, Jeffrey A. Bosse will discuss the life and times of Benjamin Bosse.  The author of the book When Everybody Boosts Everybody Wins: The Untold Story of Evansville Mayor Benjamin Bosse, and the great-great nephew of Benjamin Bosse,.Jeff Bosse, will detail the life of the dynamic man who led the city from 1914-1922.  In his talk, Jeff Bosse will not only look at the successes of the Bosse administration, but also scandals and allegations during his time in office.

Benjamin Bosse enjoyed successful careers, as a businessman, a church leader, a politician, and a public servant.  Despite coming to Evansville penniless, by the time of his death he had been the president of more than 25 local businesses and a shareholder of more than 40, including the Evansville Courier, the Vendome Hotel and the world’s largest furniture manufacturing company.  During his terms as mayor, the city acquired Garvin Park, Bosse Field, the Coliseum, and the Market House.  He chaired the campaign to bring the University of Evansville to the City and he increased the city’s parks from 220 acres to more than 700 acres.  Benjamin Bosse was also responsible for bringing Evansville its first major north-south highway.

Jeff Bosse is a graduate of Bosse High School, Vanderbilt University and Northwestern Law School.  He has practiced corporate, real estate and estate planning law in Evansville since 1975 and is the president and founder of Bosse Title Company.  Jeff has been active in our community and his industry for many years.  He has been the president of the Evansville Museum, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, the Vanderburgh Community Foundation and the Indiana Land Title Association.  He was the second person in the United States to receive the National Title Professional designation from the American Land Title Association and he is the recipient of the lifetime meritorious service award from the Indiana Land Title Association.

This lecture is FREE and presented in partnership with the Evansville Museum.  For questions about the program or the Vanderburgh County Historical Society, please contact VCHS President Chris Cooke at 812-455-5121 or ccooke@evansville.in.gov.

Facebook Event Page for Bosse Lecture

VCHS Bosse Cover

The “old” Old National Bank

Old State National Bank 1894

The Old National Bank building 1894

Old National Bank, one of Evansville’s most prominent financial instituions, can trace its history back to 1834.  Situated at the corner of Main and Riverside, the bank was officially established as a branch of the Old State Bank of Indiana. The growing back became the Old State National Bank (of Evansville) and constructed its own building at 20 Main St just one year later.  It was designed in the Greek Revival style and resembled a temple with its four Ionian columns. It should be noted that years ago banks would often erect grandiose buildings to project an image of security.  In 1885, the bank was renamed Old National Bank


Sketch of the Old State National Bank

Sketch of the Old State National Bank which dated back to the 1830s.

This iconic building served the bank until 1916. Following a trend, it built a larger, more substantial bank just up the street on the 400 block of Main St. The vacant bank was bought by the Loyal Order of Moose and became Lodge No. 85. The organization made this their Moose Home for decades. Looking to freshen up the building, it was refacaded in 1950 to this sad plain front.

A modernized Moose Lodge (1950)

A modernized Moose Lodge (1950)

You can imagine the demolition it would take to undo such a beautiful front. When the portico and its pillars were removed, it mentions in the article that the support beam across was a single piece of wood measuring 14 in x 11 in and 40 ft long. It would have been cut out by hand with and ax and was as solid as the day it was put up. The pillars looked like stone but were actually solid brick. Each was over 30 ft tall and more than 4 ft thick so a crane was used to remove them. Thankfully the 1st block of Main St was blocked off during demolition because when one pillar toppled it broke the sidewalk and smashed into several chunks.

When the Moose Lodge left the building for smaller quarters in 1956, the Petroleum Club picked up the building. Plans were in place to remodel it into their new headquarters, but after a few years the organization opted to move in to the Citizens Bank’s new building. Old State National Bank was one of the oldest buildings on Main St–if not the city–when it was razed in 1959. It should be no surprise that the site became a parking lot.

Below are a few more images with the old bank clearly visible.

0 block of Main St during 1937 Flood

First block of Main St during 1937 Flood.  The bank steps are visible in front of the car at right

Main St from Riverside c1950 (before remodeling)

Main St from Riverside c1950 (before remodeling)

THEN AND NOW: Feldman Baking Co

Here is a view of Feldman Baking Company in November 1935.  It was located at the corner of Division and Edgar in the former Jacob Baker & Sons building.

Feldman Baking Company displaying their fleet of International trucks 1935

Feldman Baking Company displaying their fleet of International trucks 1935

Here is that same view present-day.  The bakery was later bought out by Colonial Bakery and the surplus building was storage.  It was razed around the mid 1980s likely for a Berry Plastics addition

Lloyd Expressway access ramp about where Edgar St used to connect

Lloyd Expressway access ramp about where Edgar St used to connect

For more information on the Jacob Baker & Sons building, check out HistoricEvansville.com


Evansville Historic Preservation Month Activities May-June 2015


Evansville’s Department of Metropolitan Development, Preservation Alliance of Evansville, and the Reitz Home Museum present a full slate of lectures, tours, activities, and events.  

Preservation Keynote Address and

Display of Original William Wesley Peters Architectural Drawings

William Wesley Peters: The Evansville Years

William B. Scott, Jr., Hon. AIA

Thursday, June 11, 7:00p.m. University of Evansville; Schroeder School of Business Room 170/Smythe Lecture Hall

      This year’s Amy W. MacDonell-Randall T. Shepard Historic Preservation Lecture features respected architectural historian William B. Scott’s presentation on William Wesley Peters’ years as an architect in Evansville—1934-1936.

     Scott’s presentation introduces hundreds of pages of Peters’ groundbreaking work that sat unappreciated in the Frank Lloyd Wright archives—drawings for the Peters-Margedant House, the Jerome Salm house, the John Price House, Interstate Finance spec house, and renderings for renovating the Evansville PRESS.  The drawings reveal Evansville’s Peters to be a pioneer of Modern Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian concept.

     While in Evansville Peters married Frank Lloyd Wright’s daughter.  In 1936 he rejoined Wright and became Wright’s primary assistant—becoming the engineer behind Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, Falling Waters, Johnson Wax, and more. Peters briefly put Evansville at the cutting edge of Modern Architecture and honed his skills as the leader of Wright’s Taliesin Fellows.

     On public display for the first time this evening will be key pieces of Peters’ Evansville work.

     Mr. Scott is a founder and editor of the JOA & D:  Journal of Organic Architecture and Design a professional publication devoted to the history, development, and current influence of Wright’s Organic Architecture concepts.  He is the Secretary of the Taliesin Fellows.

North End of North Main Street

     Thursday, May 14, 5:30p.m.-8:30p.m. Walking tour starts from Bosse Field parking lot.  This new tour covers Garvin Park and Evansville’s old industrial and commercial center.  Evansville’s industrial history in the 20th century had its roots here. Guides: Joseph Engler and Jennifer Mason

 Landmark Look: Peters-Margedant House

     Saturday, May 16, 10:00a.m.-Noon. 1506 E. Indiana St. The Peters-Margedant House is key to the development of Modern architecture and the Frank Lloyd Wright story. A prototype of Wright’s Usonian style, it was designed by William Wesley Peters, Wright’s unsung protégé.  See it in its original setting before it is moved to the University of Evansville and restored. Reservations: petershouselook.eventbrite.com Park: Garvinwood Baptist Church, Inglewood at E. Division St.

Midcentury Modern Architecture: Evansville’s Residential Neighborhoods

     Tuesday, May 19, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m. Tour starts at Hebron School, 4400 Bellemeade Ave.  In the 1950s and 60s a new styles of architecture took root.  The Hebron Meadows plats here has some cutting-edge local architect’s interpretations of Modern, contractor’s copies, and early variations on the Ranch style.  Guide: S. Alan Higgins

 Washington Terrace-S. Alvord Blvd. Tour

     Thursday, May 21, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m.  Walking tour of this early 20th century development begins at 761 Alvord Boulevard.  When platted in 1909, Washington Terrace was on Evansville’s far-east side.  This beautiful boulevard features quaint Bungalows, Colonial Revivals, and English Cottages.  Guide:  Dennis M. Au

Saving Evansville: Owen Block, McCurdy Hotel, and Greyhound Bus Station

     Saturday, May, 30, 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Starts at Owen Block building, Chestnut at S.E. Second Streets.  With Indiana Landmark’s help, these downtown architectural gems are being saved. Get an update on efforts to renovate them.  Tour also covers other buildings in these sections of the Riverside and Downtown historic districts.  Tour Guide: Dennis M. Au

Oak Hill Cemetery

     Sunday, May 31, 2:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Tour departs from the veteran’s memorial to the right of the main entrance. Walk features the 19th century section of the cemetery. Nowhere else but in Evansville’s ‘city of the dead’ does history come alive as it does here–tombstone art, biography, history, and folklore. The African-American section, a sadly forgotten history, will be featured.  Guides: Jane Davies and Dennis M. Au

South End of North Main Street

     Thursday, June 18, 6:30p.m.-8:00p.m.  Tour begins at the Zesto at 102 W. Franklin St.  Jacobsville, N. Main Street’s neighborhood association has been working to improve and promote their area. Historically this was truly an extension of Main Street.  It had unique shops, businesses, and even manufacturing facilities – with some fine residences.  Learn the history, see the architecture, and be a part of the revitalization.  Guides:  Joseph Engler and Jennifer Mason

Special Activities and Presentations

Building the Past: A Survey of Evansville’s Early Architecture

    Wednesday, May 13, Noon-1:30p.m. Browning Gallery, Willard Library.  Willard Archivist Pat Sides presents historic images of Evansville’s early buildings, many which are now gone.  Images are newly scanned and have not be generally seen by the public.

Reitz Home Free Admission Day

   Sunday, May 17, 1:00p.m.-3:00p.m. Evansville’s Victorian jewel, the Reitz Home, 224 S.E. 1st St., offers free admission in observance of Preservation Month.

 100 Years of Vintage Clothing

  Wednesday, May 20, 7:00p.m.-8:30p.m. Reitz Home Carriage House, 224 S.E. First St.  Jennifer Greene, USI Archivist, gives a ‘tour’ of one family’s clothing collection that speaks to the fashions and handwork, from 1870 to 1970.  Talk features splendid dresses, skirts, and aprons.

Reitz Home Nooks and Crannies Tour

    Saturday, May 23, Beginning at 1:00p.m. Reitz Home, 224 S.E. First St. Limited space tour of places not seen on regular tours – the cellar, family safe closet, 3rd floor servant’s quarters. $7.50 admission. Reservations: 812 426-1871. Guide: Matthew Rowe

Re-lighting the Historic Greyhound

Neon Sign and Ice-cream Social

    Wednesday, June 10, 8:00p.m.-9:00p.m.  Greyhound Station, N.W.3rd and Sycamore Streets.  Greyhound Station exterior renovation is drawing to a close. See the neon on the blade sign come back to life! Celebrate this victory, see the dogs on the sign run again!  Host: Indiana Landmarks

 History of Evansville’s Parks

   Tuesday, June 16, 6:00p.m.-7:30p.m. Browning Gallery, Willard Library.  Learn about Evansville’s earliest parks. Topics include Mayor Bosse’s transforming of our parks a century ago.  Presenter: Pat Sides, Willard Library Archivist

Evansville’s Biggest Booster:

The Life of Mayor Bosse

     Tuesday, June 23, 7:00p.m.-8:30p.m. Reitz Home Carriage House, 224 S.E. 1st St. Based on his new book, Mayor Bosse’s great, great nephew, Jeff Bosse, presents the city’s most dynamic and influential mayor. Bosse’s term—1914 to 1922— was an unmatched era of economic and civic expansion. Reception follows.

 Evansville HISTORIC PRESERVATION month activities-page0001Evansville HISTORIC PRESERVATION month activities-page0002Evansville HISTORIC PRESERVATION month activities-page0003Evansville HISTORIC PRESERVATION month activities





North Main Historical Walking Tour Part One

What: As part of May’s Historic Preservation Month in Evansville, Jacobsville Join In is partnering with the Vanderburgh Historical Society to bring a Historical Walking Tour to the North Main industrial corridor in the Jacobsville neighborhood. The community is invited to join the tour of North Main Street near Garvin Park and the old factories and warehouses along Morgan Avenue. Tour begins at 5:30 p.m. and departs from the Bosse Field parking lot on Thursday, May 14th.

Who:  ECHO Housing Corporation’s Jacobsville Join In, Vanderburgh Historical Society, Joe Engler (local historian, founder of historicevansville.com, and guide) and interested individuals.

Where: Meet at the Bosse Field parking lot, Evansville, IN

When: Thursday, May 14, 2015, 5:30 p.m.



Knotty Pine meets its end

Knotty Pine around the time it closed

Knotty Pine around the time it closed

The Knotty Pine at the northwest corner of Main and Virginia
dates back to around 1894. It was built for J August Ritter who relocated his confectionery here from W Franklin St.
Ritter was a manufacturer and wholesale dealer in candies. He and his wife Henrietta lived upstairs.

Entry for J August Ritter's confectionery from the 1899 city directory

Entry for J August Ritter’s confectionery from the 1899 city directory

Around 1914 the store became Becker’s Confectionery. It continued for a number of years until the mid 1940s when it became Stewart’s Confectionery.

Todd's Cafe 1950

Todd’s Cafe 1950

Around 1950 the building became a restaurant. Todd’s Cafe was open 24 hours and specialized in plate lunches. It was around this time Shirley Todd, the proprietor, built an addition in the rear along Virginia St.

About 1958 the restaurant became Dottie’s. Service around the clock was continued by its new owners Harold and Dorothy Townsend.

In 1962 the restaurant became the the Knotty Pine Cafe as most will remember it.

1964 ad for the Knotty Pine Cafe

1964 ad for the Knotty Pine Cafe

The Knotty Pine operated at the corner for nearly half a century. Economics forced the restaurant to close around late 2011.  It was torn down last week.

Waterworks Collapse 1904

Water Works collapse

Water Works collapse 111 years ago

The new Water Works was built from 1898-1900 after the original one closer to downtown became obsolete.  The land where the plant resides today was purchased in 1895 and has been in service ever since.  There was however a fiasco in 1904 that almost saw the new structure become short-lived.

Water Works postcard c1900

Water Works postcard c1900 (Courtesy Thomas E and Gina Topper Collection, EVPL)

A cave in at the Water Works emerged around New Year’s Day 1904.  It was near the intake and was only 50 feet away from the river-facing wall.  The collapse ate out the ground and caused cracks in the building.

Almost immediately, the old West End pumping station was prepared for emergency use.  The original Water Works on Riverside Dr, which had been abandoned since the new one became operational, was also considered.

Water Works

Cartoon of the Water Works asking for help January 8, 1904.  The building at right is the original Water Works that was abandoned when the new one was built

Additional cave ins occurred January 9 and the dry well, and caisson were abandoned.  A new trench along the route of intake pipes was proposed. There was some concern that water supply to city would be affected, but the water department assured it would not.

Water Works

Continued problems for the new Water Works plant

The administration brought in an expert engineer from St Louis.  Walter Luddington designed an interlocking steel piling to seal off work around the dry well.  The cave in kept growing larger and mud passing into pipes January 27 forced the Water Works to post a worker at the old plant and the West End Station too.  The Courier was very against the administration and demanded who would pay for the repairs and reported an incident where the Akin-Erskine mill had its machines clogged by muddy water.  Contrarily, the Journal-News downplayed any problems and said the muddy water was due to high flood waters and not the present issue.

On January 30, Cincinnati Water Works offered to send Evansville a pump boat, but their boat was in disrepair and would need fixing.  To make matters worse, the river wall of the Water Works was showing signs of settling, and it was claimed that the auxiliary stations were incapable of handling the whole load of the city.  Nonetheless superintendent Charles Thuman remained optimistic that the Water Works would soon be restored.

Water Works

Cave in in the basement of the Water Works February 3, 1904

On February 3, a section of the basement caved in and pipes broke at the entrance to the caisson.  This would most likely cause the intake to choke, and it was feared the plant would have to shut down.  The outer wall sank 8-12 inches, and a collapse was expected .  The next day the roof was braced, and the plant was closed to the public.  Things seem to worsen as the Cincinnati pump boat was delayed by ice, and Luddington was called back from St Louis to build new intakes.

Water Works

Braced wall at the Water Works

The deteriorating condition caused Evansville’s mayor to issue a proclamation to conserve water February 5.  When the building settled the next day carpenters stopped working, and excavation for intakes halted.  The Courier claimed the administration was asleep at the wheel as the city engineer was off to Mardi Gras, whereas the news didn’t event make the front page on the Journal-News.

Water Works

Water Works collapse on the west (river-facing) wall

On February 10, the river wall was knocked down with a battering ram and the greatest threat of collapse was managed.  That day Chandler School was closed as water pressure there (and over much of the city, really) was low.

The Water Works station officially closed February 13, and the old Water Works plant and the West End Pumping Station were used.  On February 15, the plant was attempted to go back online, but it didn’t work.  Problems were compounded when ice broke off the West End Pumping Station and again when the tunnel shaft began to cave during the next week.  During a fire at Babcock & Seitz February 25, it was discovered that there was no water pressure.  Pump boats from Cincinnati and St Louis were utilized, but the damage was significantly more than it should have been.

The Water Works plant was back online March 5 after having been delayed by high wind.  A temporary intake was utilized with a more permanent design to be implemented at a later date.  All in all, the bill to fix the collapse neared $50,000, but with the building being so new Evansville citizens were perplexed as to how something like this could happen.

Water Works

The collapse at the new Water Works left residents wondering who would foot the bill and why the new one was even built

Brown’s grand opening

Browns (c1949)

Brown’s Master Market


Brown’s Fine Foods at 1301 West Franklin St was Evansville’s largest grocery when it opened.  Vernon A Brown plugged his store as a “master market”–a grade above a supermarket–and heavily advertised its grand opening, which took place on September 19, 1946.

Browns Supermarket - interior (1946)

Interior of Brown’s new store


Brown’s new store boasted a clean interior with bright displays.  The buzz about the grand opening saw 3,000 avid shoppers waiting outside for the doors to open. People lined up at 6 a.m. and by 8 a.m. the crowd extended a block down Franklin St and another block down Fifth Ave.  Police were summoned and the police chief ordered barricades

Browns Supermarket - grand opening (1946 Sep 19)

Crowd of over 3,000 for Brown’s grand opening (9/19/1946)


Then it went bad…

The anxious shoppers trampled down barricades, pushed back a human wall of policemen, and threatened to cave in the glass front.  Brown conferred with the police chief and agreed to close the doors until the crowd thinned.  Attempts to let a small number of shoppers were stopped short as the crowd again swelled.  Trucks were eventually called around 10 a.m. and formed a funnel to control the flow into the store.  The rest of the day finished smoothly.

Browns Supermarket - grand opening (1946 Sep 19) 2

Brown writing “CLOSED” on the storefront to diffuse the raucous crowd

Browns Supermarket (1946 Sept 19) 2

Trucks in front of the store to control the grand opening crowd


Ultimately no one was hurt, but it was one of the more intriguing store openings in Evansville’s history.

The store was closed some years later, and the building now serves as a training center for the local Sheet Metal Workers Union

Oscar A Bippus Training Center

The old Browns Supermarket now covered and being used as the Oscar A Bippus Training Center