TURNER HALL

Turner Hall is the large building second from left. The term “White Way,” by the way, was commonly used to describe a main street lined with electric street lamps. The lamps were installed on Water Street in 1916.

Surprisingly, the City of Princeton Historical Walking Tour plaque regarding Turner Hall, known when we were kids as the Princeton Theater, at 429 West Water Street is correct. That’s surprising for two reasons: (1) So many of the other downtown historic district plaques are incorrect, and (2) the history of Turner Hall was reported erroneously in the quasquicentennial booklet published in 1973 and in Elaine Reetz’s “Come Back in Time” column, and later book, in 1978.

Turner Hall, or Turn-Halle, was built in 1878, destroyed by fire in 1880, rebuilt in 1880 and renovated in 1905.

The local Turn Verein, a German organization popular in many immigrant communities, built the initial Turner Hall in 1878. The Turn Verein, loosely translated as “turning club,” espoused the virtues of physical fitness – gymnastics – and a liberal view of German politics of the day.

The hall was destroyed along with 10 other buildings by fire in April 1880. The Turners quickly rebuilt the hall, and it remained the village’s preeminent gathering spot for concerts, plays, celebrations, community meetings, political rallies, dances and eventually “moving pictures” for many years. It at times hosted roller skating, basketball games and, of course, gymnastics.

The hall was lengthened about 25 feet and renovated in 1905. (Reetz incorrectly reported that the hall was built in 1905.) The work included a new stage and interior decorations, fireproof metal siding and new facade complete with capstone dated 1905.

After World War I the hall was rebranded as the Opera House, Opera House Theatre and eventually Princeton Theatre.

The quasqui booklet incorrectly reported the building was built in 1908. That information was gleaned from a Princeton Republic report that “Contractor Shrew, of Princeton, was in the village and drew plans for the new Opera House to be erected by Charles Thrasher this coming summer.” Unfortunately, the researcher failed to realize the news item was part of the report filed by the newspaper’s Green Lake (Dartford) correspondent and referred to the Thrasher Opera House in that community.

2 comments

  1. Because the surname “Shrew” rang no bells. I checked Wi historical society website: [https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records?&facets=CATEGORIES%3a%22Pre-1907+Vital+Records%22&nodes=*Research*,*Family*&more=County]
    this link takes you to a site that has all recorded births, marriages & deaths in the state from 1800 – 1906, among other things. There is no “Shrew” in these records.

    1. Yes, Jan, that’s because Shrew is incorrect. That’s the spelling as quoted from the quasquicentennial booklet. The architect’s correct name is Bert Shew, a builder who introduced cement block to Princeton in the early 1900s. Shew built the two-story brick building at 439 West Water Street in 1904, the high school addition in 1908, a garage and machine shop on Washington Street in 1909, the cement-block Buckhorn building in 1913 and several other buildings, including some on the farm of Martin Bartol. He received his degree in architecture via correspondence course through the University of Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply