Fire – Again

On January 6th, 1920, the hall was again destroyed by fire.

The destruction of the hall was complete and the loss very heavy. All musical instruments, records, uniforms, etc , were lost. But through the great will power of the members a new hall was soon in course of construction.

Again the kind hearted Turn Verein offered us their rooms to hold our meetings, until sometime in September when we again moved in the new rebuilt hall, with music and song. It was prohibition in the country at that time, but through the great efforts of Robert Riedel, then president of the society at that time presented each member with a treat.
The members who served on the building committee to rebuild the new hall were as follows: Henry J. Gradwohl, R. Haberkorn, Charles Schmalz, Andrew Schillinger, Joseph Bittman, Joseph Goller, Harry E. Hipp, John Reiser and Rudolph Niessner. officers_committees

Members of Committees and Officers, date unknown.


For 14 long years of prohibition the society suffered greatly in finances, etc., until finally the constitution was changed and today we can sell intoxicating drinks to the members, not only on week days, but on Sundays as well, at any hour of the day or night.

For the third time the hall was slightly damaged by fire in 1928—but was totally covered by insurance. Since the society was first organized approximately 200 members have passed away, and amounting to an average of about $20,000 death benefits, which was paid to the survivors of the deceased.

From 1935 to 1944, the membership was increased to approximately 300 and shortly after the war with the young men returning from the service, the membership was increased to slightly better than 400. However, starting around the year 1950, the membership started declining due to lack of interest on part of younger members. Up until this time, and with the aid of certain advantages inherent to fraternal organizations at the time a sizeable savings in cash and government bonds had been obtained, however with the start of declining membership the savings also started to decline and by the early part of 1954, the savings were beginning to dwindle at an alarming rate. By the end of the year 1954, the future of the organiza­tion was beginning to look rather dark. At this time a committee was formed to look into the situation and make recommendations that would remedy the problem.

bowlingThe committee, after considerable investigation of nearly one year, concluded that the best all around solution was “Bowling Alleys”. It was felt that bowling alleys would not only provide badly needed additional income, but just as important additional and younger members, therefore this recommendation was made during the early part of 1955 and at a meeting attended by nearly every then existing member, the members were informed of the committee’s recommendation and fact that the cost would be approximately $35,000 to $40,000, with this in mind, the recommendation was unanimously approved.

W. F. Benford and H. E. Kirchner were named co-chairmen of the building committee and with the invaluable aid of many other members obtained bids on the bowling alleys, repairs to the building, etc., and primarily due to the fact that the members themselves did the bulk of the “tearing out” work, the Project was completed and on October 10, 1955, the bowling alleys were opened for business.

In addition to the installation of the bowling alleys, a completely new and modern bar was installed. This was made necessary and possible by the increased membership resulting from the installation of the bowling alleys. The organization now boasts of a better than 850 membership.

It can be said the bowling alleys have accomplished their prime purpose as they have provided badly needed additional income, but just as important provided the organization with over 400 new, young and actively interested members. As a result, we can look forward to providing many more improvements for the benefit and comfort of our membership.

In the early 60′s the club’s membership was on an uphill climb peaking in 1965 at a total of 900 members. Shortly thereafter, late 60′s and early 70′s the membership took a drastic dive, two things were a major contributes to this. First of all the death benefit was dropped in 1968 which caused a lot of people dropping from the Association. Secondly this was the time period of the Viet Nam War and the club sent its share of men to the service. During this period the active membership slipped below 100 and the social below 500 for the first time ever. As of the late 70′s to the present date membership has shown a steady increase.

The Austrian Hall Today