Entertainment & Celebrations
Parks, clubs, theaters, etc.
German Americans celebrated. There were Schützenfests, Turnfests, Sängerfests, Carnival parades, Mai celebrations, Johannis festivals (St. John the Baptist Day is celebrated with the summer solstice). ‘’These festivals afforded Germans in the company of their fellow countrymen the opportunity to indulge in the old time German style and therein acknowledge that their national traditions and moral fiber were valid even this far away from their original source”. The festivals also afforded “the German element the opportunity to depict itself to Americans from its most positive angle; German skills, German strength, German education and German happy ways”.Source: The German Americans-An Ethnic Experience, German Clubs, Vereins By Willi Paul Adams
Noteworthy: Directory of Baltimore published in 1796 contains 3240 names of which 98 are taverns.
Baltimore celebrated ‘German Day’, which was politically charged. The ‘German Day’ festivities were celebrated from 1883 to 1933. The German Festival which had its roots with German Day continues to this day. Click here for a 'History of the German Festival'
Whit Monday Picnics-called ‘Dutch Fourth of July’ (all Germans were called Dutch in those days). They most often picnicked at the Schutzen Parks.
Big German Picnic-Defender’s Day September 12, which is the anniversary of the Battle of North Point. Picnic was usually held at Riverview Park. The picnic was usually held by the Independent Citizens Union which was composed of German residents. Years prior to 1901, German Day was celebrated on October 6 but about 1901 it was changed to September 12th to conform to the municipal holiday.
Germans are also responsible for the mask ball (Fasching).
In 1983, the celebration of the Tricentennial of German Immigration gave birth to ‘October 6’ as German-American Day.
Acton’s Park-opposite side of old Light Street Bridge or Long Bridge. A March 8, 1892 NY Times article announces a ‘shooting contest’ that will take place at Acton’s Park, sponsored by the Interstate Manufacturers and Dealers Association to benefit the Baltimore Gun club, with prizes of $1000 and three classes, beginner to professional.
Amusement Parks: Besides the many cultural outlets listed on this page, I am certain that our ancestors enjoyed the many amusement parks in and around Baltimore. Some of the better known and listed below entertained with rides, side shows, good food and drink, carnival amusements, etc. It is said that H.L. Mencken stated that it was the best way to, "escape the horrors of reality". It was also, unlike the parks of today, somewhere you could take the family on a limited income. In fact, most of the parks were free to enter. If a family just wanted to walk and enjoy the scenery it would cost nothing. Rides were paid for individually and usually didn't cost an arm and a leg. In fact, as a child, I remember the Gwynn Oak rides being about 5 cents. As you see below, there was something for everyone.
- Hollywood Park -Proprietor Joe Goeller, was located on Back River and Eastern Avenue was the 'wild child' of the late 19th century amusement parks. It was described as 'den of iniquity' by some and even was condemned at one point by an investigation grand jury. The attractions here included home brewed beer and whiskey and side shows included tattooed women and other more seedy attractions. Another park along the river front in Baltimore county included Backus Park. Hollywood park was destroyed by fire in 1921.
- Electric Park located on Belvedere Avenue in the area of Reisterstown Road opened in the mid 1890s. The highlights here were a 'Wild West Show', a miniature exhibit which included the Johnstown flood and regular firework exhibitions. The park was lit with thousands of twinkle lights that reflected on the water below the promenades. I have read that they had one large attraction that simulated a washing machine, but it was a ride for humans and included a 'wringer' that could pass a large male. The park closed in 1916 and was torn down.
- Riverview Park located at Point Breeze off of Broening Highway opened in 1890. This was a more typical amusement park that included a roller coaster and other carnival rides. They also hosted many live attractions and hosted annually a reenactment of the Battle of the Alamo. They had a panorama that showed a 'Tour of the Alps'. They also had a swimming pool and a shooting gallery. One of the most popular parts of this park, however, was the bandstand and the talent that was drawn to play here. This was the home to many of the German Day Celebrations. The park closed in 1929. At that time Western Electric purchased the property. It is felt that the parks closure was directly related to prohibition.
- Bay Shore Park which opened in 1907 was one of the newer resorts and had plenty of action rides including two roller coasters. There was also a bathing beach, water rides of that area including a large 'sea swing'. The park also had a 1000 foot 'Crystal Pier', which drew many of the patrons on a warm summer night...just a stroll on the pier. There was also a grandstand and musical guests. The park closed in 1948.
- Carlin's Park opened in 1919 and was located at Liberty Heights Park, also known as 'Park Circle'. The part was opened by founder John Carlin. This park went beyond the amusement park and was truly an 'entertainment mecca'. The park included a large swimming pool, roller rink and an ice rink. The Palace hosted band concerts, dance contests and even some operas. This park also hosted a 'diving horse' similar to that touted by the great Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Many celebrities graced Carlin's stage included the great bandleaders like Tommy Dorsey and Benn Goodman. The park also had a host of rides including roller coasters and most teenagers favorite, the 'Olde Mill' and a forerunner to the famous 'Its a small world'. Carlin's closed in 1955 with the roller rink and the pool remaining open for several more years.
- Gwynn Oak Park was located on Liberty Road and Windsor Mill in the Woodlawn area. It opened in 1893 and I don't believe you will find anyone in that era that didn't have a Sunday School picnic or elementary school excursion to Gwynn Oak. Here were so many rides, including the roller coaster. My personal favorite as a child was the little goat carts near the entry and of course, the whip. The park also hosted a baseball diamond, ice skating rink, tennis courts, pleasure boating and the 'Dixie Ballroom'. There was something for everyone at Gwynn Oak. The park went through some tough times and was finally closed after destroyed by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1973. It was the longest operating park in Baltimore.
This park was purchased by the Arion Singing Society of Baltimore in 1910. It consisted of about seven acres of farmland just beyond the 4000 block of Wilkens Avenue. Here the Society built a central hall purpose hall, with a Ratskeller beneath it and a spacious beer garden surrounding the building. This hall was destroyed by fire in 1914, but rebuilt in the same year.
It is fondly remembered by many of the older Germans and was a central gathering point and the center of social life for many. Here they held their ox roasts, oyster roasts, crab feasts, school picnics and of course their singing competitions. Their specially built kitchen actually had a pit for roasting whole oxen and pig. You can imagine, with the number of German butchers in the area, what a feast one could have in one day. Here beer cost 5 cents for a 16 ounce beer. Actually, it was probably prohibition that killed Arion Park. The park was sold in 1923 and the Society moved to a headquarters building at 11 North Carey Street.
Arion Park held a giant celebration when prohibition ended. They held an old fashioned Volksfest (which had become a commercial picnic ground). The last big affair held at the park was the Cannstatter Volksfest (feast of the harvest) in 1939. This festival boasts the beginning of the monument of fruit (a mainstay in many of the German events, but especially the harvest event). The 1939 festival lasted 10 days. This year the monument was particularly festive with twenty-five different kinds of vegetables and fruits pegged to the 35 foot column. Two truckloads of produce (eggplant, squash, sweet and white potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage celery, beets, green peppers, radishes, onions, corn, red peppers, along with oranges, pineapples, limes, lemons, cucumbers, watermelons, citrons, pears, lettuce, turnips and bananas) were used. The event lasted for a few weeks with special evenings for different ethnic groups and special days for the various different county events.
The park was replaced by a residential area.
[Sources: Baltimore Sunpaper, ‘Arion Park Monument Hail Autumn in Fruitful Regalia’, September 16, 1939, page 7; Baltimore Sunpaper, February 20, 1949, page SM2]
Blob's Park-Founded in 1933; PURPOSE: To provide a bit of the homeland for all to enjoy.
Blob’s Park opened in 1933 in Jessup Maryland in Anne Arundel County. Admission at that time was 25 cents. It was home to Maryland’s first Oktoberfest in 1947. It was opened by Max Blob as prohibition ended. It was opened and remained a German Beer Garden for over 80 years. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1956, but was remarkably repaired and reopened within six weeks. The family of Max kept the business opened after his death in 1969. They built a new hall in 1976 and made the location of the old hall an outdoor pavilion in 1980.
Unfortunately, the owner, John Eggerl, nephew of Max, retired and in 2007, New Years Eve, the last polka was played at Blob’s park, or so everyone thought. The property was sold to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore but delays in development, etc., led to a reopening. It was the grand-nephew of Max, Max Eggerl that restored and renovated inside and out. He re-opened in 2009. Blob's Park was voted as the "Best Place to Polka" in Maryland by Baltimore Magazine and has been nationally televised on CNN News, Good Morning America and had featured articles many area Newspapers. Blob's featured a 2,500 square foot wooden dance floor with seating capacity for nearly 1,000 people, an outside Pavilion, a lighted parking lot, plus lots of great German/American food with full Bar and Restaurant facilities.
Unfortunately, in 2014, the new property owners were ready to begin development and Blob’s closed for good on March 31, 2014. The property is scheduled to be razed the end of 2014.
Max Eggerl, the nephew has since opened a new venture, the Bavarian Brauhaus, located in Hanover.
Dancers from Blob’s still meet: http://blobsparksocialdanceclub.com/
*Courtesy Kluge, Kuenzel, Brooke Family
The building was located on the southwest corner of Eutaw and German (Redwood) Streets. It was erected by the Concordia German Association. The cornerstone was laid on September 5, 1864 by G.W. Noedel, president of the association. The cornerstone dedication was a big event with poetry readings and musical presentations by the German Männerchor Singing Association. The first meeting was held on September 10, 1865 at which time it was formally opened. The building cost about $150,000. In February 1868, Charles Dickens gave a course of readings in the saloon of the building. This reading drew a huge crowd.
The Concordia Club had a library located at 8, 10, 12 South Eutaw Street. This Library was founded in 1852 by Dr. George Fein, of Germany. It was supported by the Club by appropriating a certain part of the regular dues.
There were in 1876, about 3,000 volumes in the Library, and a constant circulation of over 400 volumes. Nearly all of the books werein the German language, and included all classes of works, especially in the department of literature. The Library was open daily. Mr. G. Schweckendick was the Librarian.
In 1876 catalog of rental halls: *Concordia Hall, Eutaw Street, near German. Seating capacity 1300. Rents per single night for Concerts or Lectures for $8o.
*George L.] [from old catalog] [Smith. Baltimore hand book of colleges, schools, libraries, museums, halls, &c. 1876.
Darley Park- (terminal for the Baltimore and Hall Springs Railroad horse car lines). The park was founded around 1874 as a place where German families could celebrate and enjoy their summer days. It is said that the name was the name of a parish priest that used to work in the area.
The park was initially operated by an individual (Frank Debilius), but later passed through many of the brewery operator hands including Levy and Henry Straus, the United Breweries, Maryland Brewing Company and of course Darley Park Brewery, which was actually under the name Gottlieb-Bauernschmidt-Straus Brewing).
It was a picnic park and had flying horses (today’s carousels), bowling alleys, swings, a shooting gallery and game tables. Service was furnished by white apron waiters and a glass of beer and ham sandwich cost 10 cents.
The name of the park was found in the 1900 and 1901 issues of ‘The Music Trade Review’. In both issues there were articles relating to Stieff’s Annual Picnic (the 58th and 59th Annual in these cases). Meetings were held during the day and in the evening ‘nearly every German singing society in Baltimore attended and made the groves sweet with tuneful song’ [The 1900 issue lists the Germania Maennerchor, Harmonie, Arion, Metzger, Gesenagverein, Frohsinn, Baltimore Saengerrunde, Eichenkranze, Musical Art Club, Verdi, Young Liederkranz, ArbeiterMaennerchor, Arbeiter Liedertafel, Thalia, Orpheus and Mozart Maennerchor.
The park was closed around 1906 with the exception of one building that continued to be used by the German clubs as a gym. The last piece of property, however was sold in 1914 so that the grounds could be used to extend Broadway to Hartford Road.
[Source: Baltimore Sunpaper, May 25, 1914, page 3]
The Deutsches Haus, Inc.
Located at 1212 Cathedral Street in Baltimore, The Deutsches Haus officially opened on April 3, 1938 at the corner of Cathedral and Preston Streets (see article below). It was built in 1890 and was a four story structure costing approximately $400,000. It was built to serve the Bryn Mawr School. At that time, the school was the only one with an indoor swimming pool. Of course, like other German events, the opening was a huge production beginning on Howard Street at Lehmann Hall, where choirs and representatives of the German clubs were gathered.
The building could and was often compared to the castles that line the Rhine River. So many persons, not all German, celebrated at the Deutsches Haus. The opening was attended by then Governor Nice and Baltimore's Mayor Jackson. It was also not limited to age or socio-eco status, as the young and the professional, students and teachers joined in the dancing the music and the great outdoor Biergarten.
German celebrations, such as German American day the halls and garden were graced with patrons in traditional native dresses, while feasting on bratwurst, sauerkraut and of course, beer. The crowds were entertained by local artists and troops that danced traditional German dances, such as the Schuhplattler, the shoe slapping dance that Chevy Chase made famous in European vacation. Keep in mind that this area was predominantly German and that much of the entertainment hailed from the Baltimore symphony (founded by Gustav Stube-See the Arts), and the Peabody Conservatory.
Many of the German clubs in the area (numbering at least 23) met and made the Deutsches Haus a gathering and central point for their German-
American community. Patronage began to decline, of course during the escalation of WWII, but other factors led to the demise of the Haus. In fact, numbers began to rise again after the war. As stated on the document written by Mark Duerr of the Baltimore Kickers, other factors included the murder of the Haus President, Heinz Heymann (found at the restaurant within the building), the riots of 1968 and urban flight and the perception that the area was no longer safe. He goes further to state that the younger generations were just not as interested in ethnic activities. We can sympathize with the latter, but do see a slight surge in ethnic pride in the younger generation, even in the German community.
The Deutsches Haus was spared from demolition in 1962 and 1970, as plans for expansion of the Jones Falls Expressway and plans for a new Boulevard, moved away from the Haus.
The Deutsches Haus closed after New Year’s Eve celebrations, January 1, 1972. The building was sold to Joseph Meyerhoff, President of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Association in 1972 and today is the new Symphony Home.
Some interesting articles:
Germania Männerchor Hall-The architects were Lupus and Robey.192 and 194 West Lombard Street, has a seating capacity of 890 and a fully equipped stage. The rental per single night for Concerts or Lectures is $60. Apply at the Hall or to E. L. Witthaus, 181 West Pratt Street.
Lehmann Hall (around 850-856 N. Howard St.) was the site of theatrical and musical events including performances of a Männerchor, a JungerMännerchor, and a Kinderchor (children’s choir). Lehmann Hall also housed a German movie theater, ratskeller, bowling alleys, and a dance floor, and was the meeting place of a club known as the Deutsches Ring.
*Lehmann's Hall, 277 North Howard Street, between Madison and Richmond Streets, has a seating capacity of 800 and rents per single night, for a Concert or Lecture, at $35. Apply to Edward G. Lehmann, at the Hall.
Meeter’s Park(later Kirby’s Shadyside)- In the early 1800’s a resort known as Spring Gardens was opened on the location now containing the BGE Spring Gardens gas storage facility on the northeastern shore of the Middle Branch. By 1815, an elegant resort known as Fletcher’s Fish House operated on the south shore of the River, with a marina, restaurant and other facilities for recreation.
Rose House on Gay Street (established soon after the Revolutionary War by John Hart, a German resident) and at one time hosted many of Maryland’s prominent citizens. The second owner, William H. Rose gave it its’ reputation and many of the Holliday Street Theater actors would stop at the Rose House. Daniel Webster made the Rose House his headquarters when in Baltimore. Had an exclusive patronage between 1820 and 1850, when at that time seafaring men took the place of the local celebrities. The building was demolished to make room for Municipal Plaza.
Raine's Hall, Comer of Baltimore Street and Post Office Avenue (now the site of the War Memorial Building), had a seating capacity of 600 and rented for Concerts, Lectures, &c., at $25 to $30 per night. [Apply at Office of German Correspondent, Corner of Baltimore Street and Post Office Avenue.]
Schlegel’s Orchestrion Halle- 1887 Directory shows address as 19 N. Frederick Street.
Schlegel's was an Orchestra Hall and was the location of many German events in the Baltimore area.
[Of ten years back, I built a dedicated Vergnuegungslocal Speciel German entertainment, which, as far as taste and elegance, cannot be surpassed. Carefully avoiding anything offensive, it is able to give me my establishment into a recreation space for families, and every night we find our Germans gathered in the company of woman and child in the juke-Hall. (From Souvenir book, page 42, ad)]
It was purchased in 1900 by the newly formed 'Bavaria National Hall Association of Baltimore'. (incorporated in 1900 by August Strauff, John Munder, Frederick Jaecklein, John Winfelder and Engelbert Engels). The Association bought the Hall and turned it into a concert, theatre and dancing hall.
[Source Baltimore Sunpaper May 10, 1900, page 7]
Schützen Parks in Baltimore were established by the Germans in the mid 1850’s. Most were recently emigrated and most were founded on the pooled resources of the new arrivals. They were established just outside the city limits as Schützen vereins…or shooting clubs. They became well established as more German immigrants arrived.
The parks would often host elaborate contests such as target shooting (both gun and archery), bowling competitions, etc. The grounds featured gardens, bowling alleys, dining halls, formal ballrooms, cottages, bars and of course, beer gardens.
South-Western Schützen Park (where Carroll Park now stands)-Carroll Park, Baltimore's third country landscape park (after Druid Hill and Patterson Parks), is significant for its association with the early development of the park system in Baltimore. Located in southwest Baltimore, Carroll Park is 117 acres. Originally part of the Mount Clare estate of Charles Carroll, Barrister. The park includes one of the oldest Federal style mansions still standing in Baltimore City. In the 30 years prior to becoming a park, the area surrounding Mt. Clare was leased from the Carroll’s and became Southwestern Schützen Park--a private recreation area used by German immigrants in Baltimore.
The Park was also called the Western Schützen and its’ inaugural procession was held on August 1, 1871. It included a huge parade that wove its way through Baltimore from Mechanics Hall to the park, which was at that time was located in the Southwestern suburbs. There were so many events including competitions, singing events by the many Baltimore choirs, amusements, etc. The first medals awarded to shooters that day include Charles Lemkuhl-Gold; Mr. Kramer of Baltimore and Mr. Beyer of Washington who vied the next morning for the other medal. The women Mrs. Mosaner, Mrs. Nolte, Mrs. Wm. Eckhardt, Mrs. Dietrach, Mrs. K. Eckhardt, Mrs. Vetter, Mrs. J. Eckhardt, Mrs. Kroh, Mrs. Horst, Mrs. Heisemann, Mrs. Carle, Mrs. Friede. (Sunpaper, August 1, 1871, Page 4.
The park offered a pastoral setting with carriageways and pedestrian walks was planted with trees, shrubs, and flower beds and included a picturesque Victorian conservatory. Carroll Park also hosted the German festival each year until 2008.
Eastern Schützen Park–out Gay Street-German immigrants in Baltimore established a Schuetzenverein, or shooting club, in the 1850s. Shooting matches were often held between local and visiting individuals and teams, whose records of marksmanship were carefully preserved. In addition to a target range, the park's facilities included bowling alleys, a dining hall, ballroom, bar, billiard tables, and summertime accommodations for member families and their guests. There was a forty five acre park with numerous gardens. There were festivals held regularly and it has been reported that these festivals often drew crowds in excess of 50,000 for weekend events. The parks had multiple pavilions, tents, etc. The park was located on Belair Rd., which is now Gay Street in Baltimore City right near the city line. This was just blocks away from the Weissner, Rost’s, Jacob Seeger’s and Bauernschmidt Breweries who were more than happy to provide refreshments and featured their own beer gardens and music pavilions. The architects of the park were Lupus & Roby and in 1871 there were 800 members. Even though the clubs were for Germans and those of German ancestry, the parks were often open to the public for special events.
This 45 acre park also boasted formal gardens. The park had annual events in May and August. The public was often charged for entry. The events would last for several days and include special events for children such as magicians, dancers, clowns etc. Adults enjoyed dances, concerts and other events. Each evening usually ended with a fireworks display.
Every year a Schützenfest was held here where a ‘König’ (King) and ‘Königin’ (Queen) were crowned for the year. The Königin did not shoot, but was chosen by the president of the Society. It was a great day of festivities.
The Eastern Schützen sold most of their property in 1897. The mansion and banquet hall formerly owned by the Eastern Schützen Park Company was purchased by the Simpson-Doeller Company and was converted into a label printing establishment. The mansion was erected around 1800 and was the home of George Appold. (Baltimore Sunpaper, February 27, 1897)
From Nova Numismatics (January 23, 2012)
Recently, we became aware of tokens that were used in the parks. The tokens were probably used by members and the public alike for different events being offered. They were in specific denominations and had crossed rifles with the words ‘SCHUTZEN PARK’ BALTO. The one we saw was dated 1875. (See http://www.novanumismatics.com/va-md-dc-tokens/baltimores-schuetzen)
Efforts to reactivate the Schuetzen were not successful. This is a Sunpaper photo from June 26, 1933.
Deer Park (George Reushling made his professional debut….’The Great Lafayette’).
George Kahl’s Ferry Bar Pavilion. Kahl built, in the early 1900s, a floating barroom out in the river and beyond the city limits. Kahl billed it as ‘the coolest spot in Maryland’. It was eventually industrialized and then in 1979 given back to Baltimore with the stipulation that it would always remain a park. The Kahl’s, George and his wife Elizabeth lived, according to the 1900 U.S. Census at 9 Ferry Street. George was born 2-1863 and Elizabeth 10-1862. His occupation was listed as a ‘resort owner’ and both he and Elizabeth’s parents were born in Germany. They, however, were born in Maryland. According to the 1920 US Census, the Kahl’s had retired to Vienna in Dorchester County.
This is a shallow part of the Patapsco River at the point between the Northwest and Middle branches. It is nearly a mile in width, and is crossed by a trestle bridge to Brooklyn, a settlement in Anne Arundel county. The bridge cost $42,000 and has a draw forty-two feet wide for the passage of vessels. Capital boating, fishing, crabbing and swimming, are all to be had here, in the midst of a beautiful scene of land and water. Opposite the City are several extensive and picturesque woodland shores, which are visited daily by families and social parties on picnics and fishing excursions. Street cars convey passengers to Ferry Bar, which is at the extreme end
of Light street. Boats are also to be had at the foot of Hanover, Eutaw and South Paca streets, at the base of Federal Hill and other points on the water side.
Source: Stranger in Baltimore 1896, John F. Weishampel, Printer and Bookseller (No 6 N. Greene Street)
Both the Ariels and Arundels had their own boat houses fronting the Patapsco. And nearby was a public bathing beach as well as George Kahl's pavilion and restaurant.
In the 1880s and 1890s, this part of South Baltimore functioned as Baltimore's Deep Creek Lake and Ocean City. Sunpaper 10-11-1990
There is currently a great deal of activity going on in the area. A large company, Underarmour, plans to build a large complex in the area.