The History of the Buffalo TurnVerein/Buffalo Turners

1848 Thousands of Germans left their homeland seeking greater freedom and opportunities in the United States. They brought the ideals of Turnerism as laid down by Friederich Ludwig Jahn. They also developed the Turner exercise program.

1853 On March 3, twenty-two German immigrants organized the “Buffalo Turngemeinde”, located in Roth Hall at Cypress and Michigan Streets. Soon more space was needed and they moved to Gillig Hall on Genesee near Michigan Street. Dramatics, a singing group and musicals were added to the Cultural Program.

1855 Buffalo hosted the National Convention of American Turners. Showing fearless character and love for liberty, a platform denouncing slavery was adopted. A system of education in development of mind and body was requested for all children.

1856 The Unrest-Young Turners bought land on Ellicott Street near Genesee and began calling themselves “Vorwaerts” (Forward). The Genesee Street location added a shooting gallery and called themselves “Socialen Haenner Turnverein”.

1861 The Civil War broke out and all but ten of the “Vorwaerts” joined the Union Army. They were forced to give up their building. When they returned after the war, another building was leased on Ellicott Street.

1865 The two groups consolidated into one society on Ellicott Street and adopted the name of “Buffalo Turn Verein”.

1867 The Buffalo Turn Verein was incorporated on May 13.

1870 The building on Ellicott that was previously owned in 1856 was repurchased and enlarged. It had been known as “National Hall”, then “Sangerbund Hall” and now was called “Turn Hall”

1895 Steps were taken to introduce physical education into the public schools. It succeeded and in 1910 there were two Turner teachers in ten schools.

1904 Heavy financial burdens followed by a fire destroyed the Ellicott Street building. Temporary quarters were found at 22 Genesee Street, then a church at 378 Oak Street, back to 264 Oak Street and finally to club rooms at 27 High Street.

1912 A lot was acquired at High and Ellicott Streets and the cornerstone for a new building was laid in 1913.

1924 The High Street building was enlarged and remodeled to accommodate the growing club.

1930 The 30th National Turnfest was held in Buffalo at All-High Stadium. The largest and most successful event held to date attracted over 5000 athletes. Dorothy Wilhelm of Buffalo won the athletics competition in a field of 2500 women.

1935 The Depression brought financial difficulties. Through the efforts of influential Turners substantial mortgage reduction was realized and they were able to keep their building.

1945 The mortgage was retired and a celebration was held on November 24.

1951 June 29 began the week long 38th National Turnfest.

1973 Forced out of the High Street location due to urban development, money received was insufficient for a new building. Facilities at Park School were rented for two years.

1975 A church with school was leased at 383 Wheatfield Street in North Tonawanda. Again through the efforts of Turners’ members additional monies were received for the High Street building.

1977 The Wheatfield building was purchased and remodeled. Two health studios, sauna, two gymnasiums, cultural room, game room and Rathskeller were added.

1980 Due to high utility costs and the weak economy, Turners was forced to sell the Wheatfield building.

1981 New home in Lincoln School in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. The gymnasium was equipped, the cafeteria was remodeled into a Mini-Gym with wall to wall carpeting and a spring floor and one classroom was used for fitness and meetings.

1986 Turners moved to our current location in the former Phillip Sheridan School at 3200 Elmwood Avenue. The facility includes a fully equipped Main Gym and a smaller Mini-Gym with equipment especially designed for younger children.

1999 Buffalo TurnVerein was reincorporated and officially became Buffalo Turners, Inc.