The founder of the Germania Singing Society, Adolph Kuehn, came to America from Leipzig, Germany in 1849 at age 18 and arrived in Poughkeepsie in 1850. He, along with Joseph Bauer, Leander Bantle, Charles Peters, Charles Rausch, A. Ulrich, Peter Zimmer, Otto Rohr, Fred Grimling, Peter Kiessler and Louis Hasselberg formed the Germania Singing Society on May 1, 1850. We are the oldest German singing society in New York outside of New York City.
The first performance of the Germania Singing Society was on Easter Sunday, 1851 in the basement of the First Dutch Church of Poughkeepsie located on the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets (this is where the German Lutheran Church Society regularly met as they had no building of their own). The song they performed was “The Lord’s Own Day” -in German, of course- under the direction of a Mr. Umlauf.
The original meeting place for Germania in the early 1850’s was a room on Main Street below Mulrooney’s Soap Factory. From there they moved to 149 Main Street over Atkins Dry Foods Store–the second floor was used for an assembly room and the third floor for dancing during the Civil War (this building was later used by the Jacob Schrauth Ice Cream Company–Jacob was also and member of Germania).
Professor Charles Grube took over directorship in 1852 and in 1853 Germania took part in the Fourth of July celebration held at the Univeralist Church on Cannon Street, performing several songs in German; thus starting a long and successful career of concert singing which continues through to our Men’s and Ladies’ Chorus today.
A Mr. Reichardt took over directorship in 1857 and held the post until 1865 when Adolph Kuehn took over.
Under the the direction of Adolph Kuehn, in 1865 Germania marched in the parade to honor Abraham Lincoln during the public day of mourning for our slain president as his funeral was being conducted in Washington, DC. In 1868, Germania held the first Sängerfest in Poughkeepsie. A Sängerfest is a vocal music competition between various singing societies which started in this country about 1850. They are usually held every three years and Germania has participated in most of the Sängerfests held since 1868, often winning prizes in their specific group (usually based on size of the group).
On April 27, 1871, Germania was incorporated as “Germania of Poughkeepsie”. Our constitution was ratified on December 18, 1872 by vote of the membership present at the general meeting. The object as stated in the constitution states “the promotion of artistic taste in general and vocal music in particular”.
The next meeting place was Mulreins Hall near the present Bardavon Building. Germania occupied the room over Charles Rosenmeier’s Arlington Café (he was soloist with Germania for many years) until 1889 when we purchased the old Baptist Church on Lafayette. This building was sold in 1899 and we rented a large room on Union Street until 1912.
The building we all knew as Germania Hall for over eighty years was located at 197 Church Street and dedicated January 1912 as “Deutsche Halle”. The building was the former Church Street School which was erected on the site of the former Lancater School which was the first public school in Poughkeepsie (Poughkeepsie was not a city until 1854). The building had been bought by the United Germans of Poughkeepsie on July 15, 1911 and remodeled. The United Germans were formed in 1908 and sold the building to Germania of Poughkeepsie in 1917. From newspaper articles, it is apparent that Germania and the United Germans shared the building-the 1917 deed lists both organizations as having that address-the United Germans disbanded at the time of sale.
In 1925 there was a fire in Germania Hall that caused $11,000 damage. This was also the 75th Anniversary year and in September of that year a large celebration took place. Many of the societies of the Sängerbund sent representatives–150 in all. the banquet was set for over 500 people. The Frauen-Verein (Ladies’ Auxiliary) presented Germania with a banner similar to the faded one that had been presented 75 years earlier by the wives and mothers of the original group of singers. Germania also honored those members who had been members for twenty-five years and one of the those was Charles Gilbert Spross, the internationally known accompanist, composer and pianist. His father, Michael Spross, was one of the original singers and orchestra members of Germania.
There was a Sängerfest held in 1931. To prepare for this, Germania Hall underwent a renovation in 1930. The renovated building was dedicated November 18, 1930 with attendance recorded at over 1000. Germania had a membership of over 700 at that time. The renovated hall had electric refrigeration equipment and a new ventilating system to remove all smoke and fumes.
The large celebration of the 100th Anniversary in 1950 was under Mr. Hochmuth’s direction with Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross as accompanist.
In 1958 a large fire in Germania Hall did extensive damage to the dance hall and also destroyed much of the sheet music and records from the previous 100 years. Shortly after the fire, the hall was remodeled and modernized and in 1964 the front of the building was given a much needed face lift.
The Blue and White Soccer Club was founded by Karl Schnell, Walter Unterborg and Fritz Naedle in 1958.
On January 3, 1966, Germania purchased land on Degarmo Road which includes our soccer field and picnic ground. In February 1979, a smaller piece of land was purchased next to the soccer field, the site of our new Germania Hall. Combined land acreage owned by Germania totals nine acres.
On October 14, 1966, the Dr. Charles Gilbert Spross Unit #167 of the Steuben Society of America received its charter in Germania Hall. The Poughkeepsie unit took the name to honor the many years that Dr. Spross accompanied Germania Concerts. The Steuben Society is a patriotic, fraternal and educational society founded on the principle of duty, Justice, Charity and Honor. to become a member one must be and American citizen of german heritage. While this organization is not a “sister” club of Germania, the club was formed of germania members, continues to support Germania and met in Germania Hall until it was sold.
In 1969, Mrs. Valentina Krueger organized a German School for children which she ran with several volunteers until the mid 1980’s when enrollment dropped. In the autumn of 2006 the German Language School was re-established and has been quite successful so far.
The Gauverband Turnverein Germania Almrausch Schuhplattler Verein was formed in 1970 under the leadership of Founding President Robert E. Rose, Jr. and Charles Angevine, Founding Vorplatter. The group as performed extensively in the Northeast including Hunter Mountain German Alps Festival. Today they visit many feste and are well-known throughout the area. The Kindergruppe” (Children’s group) dances right along side their parents and the Almrausch actively encourages the participation of children in their dances. The Schuhplatter dances they perform are all authentic Bavarian folk dances which require extensive practice on the part of the dancers.
In 1986 the second floor rehearsal room of the Church Street building was refurbished for the Annual Meeting of the New York State Sängerbund.
On December 28, 1999, after agonizing long and hard about the future of our club, Germania Hall on Church Street was sold. We became homeless, but were welcomed into the clubhouses of other local organizations so we could continue our meetings, our rehearsals, our dinners, our performances, and our celebrations. We send tremendous thanks to the Moose Club, the American Legion, the Elks’ Lodge, and the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Construction of our new clubhouse began in 2003, and after cold and snow, and heat and rock, and short funds, and many, many hours of dedicated planning, kvetching and sweat, it was completed and occupied in the fall of 2006.
Since 1850, Germania has been preserving, and educating the public about, German and German-American Culture. With your support, we look forward to another 170 years of providing a truly authentic German experience to our members, and to the general public.