Photo from 1905 of the building that served as Turner Hall in 1880 and 1881. This building had been built in 1864 as the Church of the Immaculate Conception , and served in that capacity from 1859 to 1864, when the present church at Broadway and Market Street was put into use. From 1882 until 1924 the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No.5 of the G.A.R. met at this building.

Turner Hall held a prominent position within the German-American community in Camden and played a multifaceted role in promoting athletic, political, and social activities. Following the unsuccessful 1848 revolution in Germany, a substantial number of German immigrants, including members of the Turners, sought refuge in the United States. Turners swiftly established societies known as Turnverein or Turngemeinde in various American cities, serving as vital centers for German communities.

The first Turner Hall, originally the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was built in 1859 at the intersection of South 5th Street and Taylor Avenue. However, its tenure as a church was brief, as a new church building was erected shortly thereafter. The Turn Verein acquired the vacated building and underwent extensive remodeling to transform it into a vibrant hub for German-American activities. Yet, their ownership was relatively short-lived, and by the mid-1880s, the Thomas M.K. Lee Post No. 5 of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) took over the premises. The G.A.R., an organization of Union Army veterans, eventually gained complete ownership, and the building continued to serve as a meeting place. The City of Camden later purchased the building around 1914, while the G.A.R. still held gatherings there as late as 1924.

In 1890, the Turners completed a new and grand Turner Hall at 516-520 Pine Street, solidifying their presence in the city. This remarkable facility became a focal point for German-American cultural, athletic, and social events, hosting a wide array of activities such as gymnastics, sports competitions, concerts, dances, and theatrical performances. Frederick Finkeldey, a prominent member of the Turnverein, played a pivotal role in managing the athletics programs and fostering the growth of Turner Hall. Finkeldey’s remarkable contributions extended beyond the confines of the hall as he spearheaded the establishment of Camden’s playground system and later assumed the position of Director of Physical Education within the local school system. His dedication left an indelible mark on the community.

However, in 1918, Turner Hall underwent a transformation when it was sold to the Hurley’s chain of department stores. The reasons behind the sale remain the subject of speculation, with some suggesting that declining membership in the Turn Verein due to anti-German sentiments during World War I may have influenced the decision. Others propose that the club received an irresistible offer from Hurley. Following the sale, the building became home to the Hurley’s department store until 1956 when the chain closed its doors. Subsequently, the structure was repurposed as a warehouse for the House of Ruttenberg store, located on Kaighn Avenue, until its eventual closure. Remarkably, Turner Hall remained in use until as late as 1968, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of the German-American community and its vibrant history in Camden. The rich tapestry of events and contributions associated with Turner Hall reflects its pivotal role in shaping the cultural and social fabric of the community throughout its storied existence.


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