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All posts for the month August, 2022

Arbeiter Hall 608 N. Grand, Lansing, MI

This is the only image that has been located that shows the early Arbeiter Hall along with the later 1887 addition at the rear. CADL/FPLA

Recently I came across a reference to a new hall being built for Deutschen Order of Harugari, the Einigkeits Lodge, now I am familiar with the German fraternal societies in Lansing, the Die Arbeiter Unterstuetzungs Vereim and the Lansing Liederkranz society but know next to nothing regarding the Deutschen Order of Harugari, or D.O.H. as it is commonly referred to. The Einigkeits Lodge 575 was located at 420 N. Grand Avenue, just north of Shiawassee Street on the east side of the street. The other German societies were, the Arbeiter Hall at 608 N. Grand and the Liederkranz society, 536 N. Grand.  The concentration of German societies in the area of North Grand Avenue may be attributed to the settlement patterns of the German immigrants and the location of the business at which they worked, i.e., Lansing Wheelbarrow, Bement & Sons, Lansing Wagon Works, and industries in the surrounding area.

I decided to examine the history of the Die Arbeiter Unterstuetzungs Vereim, first, or as it is more commonly known as, the Arbeiter Society or the German Workingmen’s Society, at a later date we will look at the Deutschen Order of Harugari. The Lansing Arbeiter Society was organized on July 8, 1875, with twenty-two members, which grew to 130 members in 1887 than to 400 by the turn of the century. The first officers of the Arbeiter Society were: President, John Herrmann; Vice President, Fred Vollmer; Secretary, C. H. Mann; and Treasurer, Martin Lang. The organization was more than just a social club, true they stage plays, both musical and dramatic, along with a German band the society also held dances and Kirmes, a type of German Festival. The society also provided a death benefit for its male members of $500, plus an additional $100 to cover funeral expenses, it also paid $4 a week in sick benefits. For members of the women’s auxiliary it paid a sick benefit of $3 a week, and a death benefit of $125. In 1880, the Order decided to build a hall. The building was constructed of brick and trimmed with artificial stone, one story in height, with a trussed roof, and its size was 36 by 48 feet. The building was one long hall. Orville V. Fuller designed the clubhouse. Seven years later the building was enlarged by the board. This time Fuller designed an addition to the rear of the building. The addition was two stories high, 33 by 54 feet. The lower floor was divided into two large, connected sitting rooms, a bar room, ticket office, cloak room, etc., and the upper floor contained the hall, dining room, 19 x 35 feet and a large kitchen. The structure cost $4,000.

Arbeiter Hall

The New Arbeiter Hall, note the increase in size of the building and the large hall which occupied the second floor. The building must have been difficult to cool in the summers. CADL/FPLA

In 1904 the building was no longer meeting the needs of the Arbeiter Society and the board engaged the Lansing architectural firm of White & Hussey to redesign the building. The architects developed a plan to completely remodel the building while keeping some architectural elements from the older structure. The main floor was raised so that there will be a basement for storage purposes and the size of the building was increased by expanding the building by nine feet toward Grand Avenue and fifteen feet to the north.

Arbeiter Hall

An architectural rendering of Arbeiter Hall, it was quite an imposing structure.

On the first floor there was a large dining hall, a modern kitchen, a bar, amusement room, bowling alley, ticket office and cloak room. The second floor contained a large room, 49 by 55 feet with a stage, the hall was used for lodge meetings and as a concert venue. There were two ladies’ parlors and bathrooms on the second floor. The façade of the building was in the German Renaissance Revival style. It was constructed with pressed brick, and trimmed with buff Bedford stone.

Aerial view of theArbeiter Hall site

A image from 1948 that clearly shows the Arbeiter Society Hall still standing but part of the Lansing Board of Public Works facility.

In 1920 the building was sold to the Michigan Ice Cream Company which moved its plant into the old hall. Kind of an odd business use for the building, but the Michigan Ice Cream Company felt that given the size of the lot 120 by 250 feet the factory had room to expand. Arctic Ice Cream Company of Detroit acquired the Michigan Ice Cream Company and a year later decided to close the Lansing plant and the city of Lansing purchased the property. The city debated what to do with the property. Finally in 1939 it was decided to tear down Arbeiter Hall and Liederkranz Hall to build a city garage. However, the city only tore down Liederkranz Hall. Arbeiter Hall was incorporated into the Lansing Board of Public Works complex that was just south of Saginaw Street on the Grand River. the hall was finally torn down on August 7, 1959, and replaced with a paint shop. Today, the site is home to Adado Riverfront Park, a location that is well worth a visit.

For more information see:

LR 10/28/1880, SR 4/15/1887, SR 6/20/1904, LJ 10/11/1904, SR 10/11/1904, LSJ 10/31/1919, LSJ 1/1/1921, LSJ 9/27/1923, LSJ 8/25/1924, LSJ 2/11/1925, LSJ 8/3/1939 and LSJ 8/7/1959.

One day the architectural work of Orville V. Fuller in Lansing may be reviewed.

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