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The Garten Verein (the German phrase for Garden Club) is a social club founded in 1876. Based in Galveston, Texas, the club was opened as a social gathering spot for German immigrants or German speaking citizens of Galveston. The club was built on a five-acre plot of land and provided multiple gardens, a bowling alley, tennis courts, and a dance hall for its attendees. After the deadly 1900 storm, the only structure still standing in the club was the dance hall. The club has been refurbished multiple times and is still used to this day.


  • Outdoor view of the Garten.
  • Indoor view of the Garten.
  • A view of the Garten from within Kempner Park.

              In February of 1876, a community of German-born businessmen from Galveston, Texas purchased a five-acre plot of land from Robert Mills, another prominent Galveston businessman to create a social club that would be called the Verein. [1] The Garten Verein was incredibly popular amongst German immigrants and German speaking Galveston residents alike from the day of its founding. The club was founded specifically for the German citizens of Galveston. However, non-German citizens and citizens who could not speak German could apply for membership. [2] Membership was steady for a number of years until the popularity of Germans in America began to falter as part of US entry into World War 1, causing a drastic decline in membership, forcing the remaining member of the club to sell the Garten Verein to Stanley Kempner. [3] Kempner donated the newly renamed Kempner Park to the city of Galveston, where the Garten Verein dance hall still stands, now managed by the Galveston Historical Society. [4]

            The Garten Verein is recognized by local, state, and federal authorities as a historical landmark and has an estimated 10,000 plus visitors every year. [5] Due to the deadliest storm in United States history, the 1900 storm, the Garten Verein Dancing Pavilion, had to be rebuilt from the ground up. This process had to be repeated multiple times. The most recent reconstruction of the pavilion came in 2008 after Hurricane Ike nearly destroyed the both it and the park completely. However, over $3,000,000 has been spent in restoring the park and pavilion. [6] Today, the pavilion is a popular location for weddings, art walks, concerts, proms and many more public and private events. [7]

            In its early years, the Garten Verein was known as the place to go for superior entertainment. On every Wednesday in the spring, summer, and fall, guests would arrive to experience the finest dining in Galveston accompanied by a big band and cooled off with electric fans. [8] Initially, membership consisted of over 300 founding members, but by November of 1913, there were 600 paying members. [9] These 600 members got to experience electric lighting coming from underground wires, making the Garten Verein the first establishment in the city of Galveston to experience such a luxury. [10]

            The Garten Verein was founded on the principles of bringing a community of successful immigrants together. These immigrants set a standard for fine living in the city of Galveston that lasts to this day. Once known as a pirate town, the success of the Garten Verein led to Galveston becoming a booming port city filled with opportunities for immigrants of all countries. Today, the Garten Verein is considered a must-see v attraction for tourists and remains incredibly popular among the residents of Galveston.


 

[1] "1880 Garten Verein." Galveston Historical Foundation. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/garten-verein.

[2] "1880 Garten Verein." Galveston Historical Foundation. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/garten-verein.

[3] "1880 Garten Verein." Galveston Historical Foundation. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/garten-verein.

[4] "1880 Garten Verein." Galveston Historical Foundation. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/garten-verein.

[5] "Kempner Park | Galveston." Texas Recreation and Park Society. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://traps.org/lone-star-legacy-parks/kempner-park-galveston/.

[6] "Kempner Park | Galveston." Texas Recreation and Park Society. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://traps.org/lone-star-legacy-parks/kempner-park-galveston/.

[7] "Kempner Park | Galveston." Texas Recreation and Park Society. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://traps.org/lone-star-legacy-parks/kempner-park-galveston/.

[8] Texas Historical Commission. "[Historic Marker Application: Galveston Garten Verein]." Page 7 The Portal to Texas History. August 24, 2014. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth477894/m1/7/?q=Garten Verein/.

[9] Texas Historical Commission. "[Historic Marker Application: Galveston Garten Verein]." Page 9 The Portal to Texas History. August 24, 2014. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth477894/m1/7/?q=Garten Verein.

[10] Texas Historical Commission. "[Historic Marker Application: Galveston Garten Verein]." Page 5 The Portal to Texas History. August 24, 2014. Accessed April 19, 2019. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth477894/m1/7/?q=Garten Verein.