Austin County has a true Texas treasure in the Turnverein Pavilion Gut Heil (good health).
Queen of the many dance halls that liven the countryside of Austin County, the Turnverein Pavilion was the first of several designed and built by Joachim Hintz.
The Germans & Czechs who settled in the Austin County area in the early & mid-1800’s kept alive the traditions of their old country. Practically every settlement, be it ever so small, had their hall or gathering place. They were home to “Vereins” or societies of widely-varying interests… from gun clubs to singing groups.
In the late 1800’s Bellville had two organizations that sponsored community-wide social activities. In 1883 the Social Club purchased this 14.7 acres of land from Herman Miller for the sum of $760 and had planned construction of a pavilion that didn’t materialize.
In 1885 the Bellville Turnverein Gut Heil was formed by German immigrants – encouraging gymnastics (turnen) and athletics, a club (verein) for good health (gut heil). With the need for a place for community-wide social activities including physical exercise, dances, celebrations and meetings, they purchased the property in 1895 from the Social Club.
In August of 1897, a contract was let to German immigrant carpenter Joachim Hintz of Milheim to build a social hall. The hall, which seated up to 400 for dances, was completed in October of 1897 at a cost of $2,500.
This innovative 12-sided wood-frame hall is 80 feet in diameter with elaborate, elegant roof supports with precision joinery, and utilized a central support pole, Hintz’s trademark.
Austin County had become a hot spot for political speeches and social events in the day, and the new Turnverein caught the attention of all who saw it. They returned home, many by train, to parts all across Texas…inspired and influenced by this new and exciting structure.
Ghosts of the past abound in the pavilion. You can hear the oom-pah of the concerts and the swish of skirts as townfolk danced the Schottische. Outside, 2,000 people mingle around beer kegs, singing “Auch du Liebe” and exchanging stories. The Bellville Turnverein was the center of activity from the moment it opened its doors, and has become a historical architectural icon today. It was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark in 1996 and continues today as a focal point for many community events & gatherings.
Hintz was later called upon to build two more halls in Austin County, utilizing modified designs; the Peters-Hacienda Schuetzenverein (Shooting Club) in 1900 and the Cat Spring Landwirth Schaftlide Verein (Agricultural Society) in 1902. But the Bellville Turnverein is the most revered historic architectural gem because it was the very first of its kind, and influenced the design of many other buildings all across Texas.
In 1937 the land & building was sold to the city of Bellville for $5,250. In 1996 it was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark.
Today, the Turnverein still plays a central role in the social, civic, & cultural life of Bellville and some 45,000 people come from all over Texas to attend the Austin County Fair, antiques shows, and other colorful events on the same grounds as our forefathers.