The Fritz Reuter Home
THE FRITZ REUTER HOME
To be Erected in Union Hill (N. J.) Schuetzen Park.
PROJECT OF THE LOCAL LOW GERMANS
History of the Plattdeutsche Volksfest Verein—The Progress of the Memorial to the Great Dialect Poet.
The prevailing impression that the Plattdeutsche Volksfest Verein is an organization with purely social and jovial functions is erroneous. While this society has been brought into prominence mainly by the successful manner in which it manages the annual reunions of the Low Germans of New-York and vicinity, its chief object, nevertheless, is charity and benevolence.
The latest work of charity undertaken by this organization is the erection of a home for the aged and indigent, as a memorial to Fritz Reuter, the greatest dialect poet and humorist of Germany. Fritz Reuter died in 1874, after having accomplished more toward the perpetuation and elevation of the Plattdeutsche dialect than any littèrateur known in German history. No writer is
William F. Grell
In New-York and vicinity the subject has received much careful consideration, and, of the many ways proposed of perpetuating the memory of their beloved author, the United Plattdeutsche Society finally conclueded that the establishment of a home for the aged and indigent would be the most fitting. The movement has met with the heartiest support, and the expectations of the most enthusiastic workers in this cause have been far more than realized.
the last day of the twenty-first annual volksfest, which takes places at the Union Hill Schuetzen Park to-day, is devoted exclusively to this object. The entire receipts of the volksfest to-day will be turned over to the Fritz Reuter Memorial Fund. In addition to this, the probabilities are that a considerable portion of the net proceeds of the successful festival of the past week will be contributed to this fund.
The Plattdeutsche Volksfest Verein was founded May 1, 1875, by Louis Glander, August Schwartze, George Gensch, H. Storch, G. Timcke, and Martin Börsmann. These six men issued a call upon all Low Germans interested to meet at 165 Bowery on the evening of May 3, 1875, there to form a permanent organization. This meeting was called to order by Friedrich Flinte, and August Schwartze was selected as Chairman, and Theodor Weber as Secretary.
Invitations to a mass meeting on May 9 at the Beethoven Männerchor Hall were issued to all Low German societies of New-York and vicinity, and on the evening mentioned the following societies were represented by delegates and a permanen organization was effected.
Porgelunen Club, Union Hill, N. J.; Society of the First Fifty; Society of the City of Verden; Roland Verein; Old Münsterländer verin; Oldenburger Verein; North German Club of Hoboken; Amt Rotenburger Club; Empire Brewery Guard; Amt Hugener Club; United North German Club of Greenpoint; Nineteenth Ward Club, No. 1; Amt Lilienthaler Verein; Benevolent North German League, No. 1; Greenville Plattdeutscher Club; New-York Schuetzen Corps; mecklenburg-Pommeranian Society; Jersey Schuetzen Liedertafel; Fritz Reuter Club of Brooklyn; Jersey Schuetzen Corps; Atlantic Brewery Sharpshooters; Plattdütsch Vereen of the Nineteenth Ward; Claus Groth Twenty-second WArd Club; Bremervörder Sociay Club; United Schuetzen Association of New-Jersey; Gehrder Freundschafts Bund; Hudson City North German Club; Ninth Ward Bowling Club; Hamburger Verein, and Yorkville Plattdeutscher Club.The delegates were addressed by D. H. Busch, Herman Raschen, B. Behrens, and others, upon the object of the meeting and the necessity for forming Low German organizations for the purpose of assisting unfortunate fellow-countrymen, and to bring the Plattdeutsche of this section in closer contact with each other. A permanent organization was effected under the title "Plattdütsch Volksfest Vereen." The following officers were elected for the first year; President—George Gensch; Vice Presidents—D. H. Busch, H. Stemmermann, Anton Meyer, Herman Raschen, and J. F. Rottmann; Secretary—Theodore Weber; Assistant Secretaries—August Schwartze, L. Gottschalk, George Simoke, William
Weyhausen, Henry Röttger, and Franz Kreyemborg; Financial Secretary—Louis Moor; Treasurer—J. N. Crusius; Manager—H. Von Fahje.
At the following meeting, May 30, it was resolved that the first Plattdeutsche Volksfest should be given in Schuetzen Park, Union Hill, N. J., Sept. 6 to 10, 1875. Seven other societies joined the general organization in the month of June, so that at the time the festival was opened, the outlook was extremely favorable. The different committees patterned this festival after the popular Cannstatter Volksfeste, which had been given with much success annually for some years previous by the local Swabian constituency, and added many features such as are only to be found in the homes of the Plattdeutsche. The ultimate popular success of this first reunion of the Low Germans astounded even its promoters. The admissions to the grounds sold in the five days of the festival figured up over 150,000. Casten Vatt, which was a genuine "Plattdeutsche Bauern Hochzeit," at which the Rev. Mr. Moor of Hoboken officiated, was witnessed by 50,000.
The cornerstone of the Fritz Reuter Monument, which now stands near the "Castle" in Schuetzen Park, was laid on the second day of the festival, in the presence of an immense crowd. The total gate receipts were $24,000 at 25 cents per ticket. To this must be added the large number of membership tickets admitting a member and family. Yet the preparations were so expensive that no profit resulted that year. The second Volksfest again took place in the Union Hill Schuetzen Park on Sept. 4 to 7, 1876, and resulted in netting a neat sum. The third Volksfest was celebrated at the same place Aug. 26 to 29, 1877, and again a bonus of several thousand dollars was obtained. Some of those following in the next few years were given in parks in this city, but it soon was demonstrated that Union Hill was the most advantageous place for the festival.
With very few exceptions, the annual reunions have taken place there, and at present circumstances are such that it is almost a certainty that this park will be the home for all Volksfests for many years to come.
The Plattdütsch Volksfest Vereen has done much in the field of charity since its formation, in 1875. It has contributed to many local philanthropic institutions, both German and American, and no appeal from abroad for any worthy object has been unheeded. The expenditures for charity in cash contributions reach almost $45,000,and most of the prominent local charitable institutions receive regular yearly contributions from its treasury.
The movement for a Fritz Reuter memorial was first started at the Directors' meeting on Oct. 8, 1887. At that session $5,000 of the society's capital was appropriated as a nucleus of a fund for this purpose. Every year after this there has been added to from the receipts of the festival. A committee was appointed, consisting of the following, on Oct. 14, 1888, to devise ways and means for an appropriate Reuter memorial; Henry Kröger, Chairman H. H. Hingslage, John C. Hilser, George H, Wehrenberg, and Frederick Finken. This committee submitted three plans at the meeting on Feb. 9, 1890. These were a statue of the dead poet, a memorial hall, or a home bearing his name for the aged and indigent.
The decision as to which should be adopted was left to a vote of the Plattdeutsche societies, and resulted in a large majority in favor of the latter. Mr. Kröger, Chairman of the committee, was elected to the Presidency of the general organization in 1891, and John Riefe was thereupon appointed Chairman of the Memorial Committee, which was augmented by four members, who were Frederick von Axte, August Bewig, Henry Maass, and Louis Lübben. The committee was again enlarged in 1893, when four names were added, three honorary Presidents, and a Secretary. These were: Honorary Presidents—George Landwehr, Adolph Schreitmüller, and Henry Kröger; Secretary—Bernhard Meyborg.
Active work for a speedy completion of the memorial was then begun with a will, and much progress was made in a a very short time. An opportunity presented itself to purchase the Sheutzen Park, at Union Hill, and, after proper investigation, it was ascertained that there was ample space in the park to erect the old people's home without encroaching upon the picnic grounds. Thereupon John C. Hüser, Henry Kröger, and George H. Wehrenberg were appointed a committee empowered to purchase the property. The Scheutzen Park finally became the property of the Plattdütsch Volksfest Vereen Nov. 14, 1895.
The second payment on the purchase was made last Tuesday, when $51,252.50 was paid, by which the first mortgage was lifted. There still remains an indebtedness on the property of $40,000, which, from the present outlook, will be wiped out before the close of the present year.
The property consists of thirty-two acres of land, of which it is proposed to take eight acres, near the intersection of the Hackensack Plank Road with the New Boulevard, for the site for the home and grounds, with gardens. This plot will be in a separate, thus leaving the park with twenty-five acres. The picnic grounds have been improved and beautified to a considerable extent since the society acquired the realty. These improvement have entailed an expenditure of $20,000.
The plans so far decided upon for the old people's home are the building of a section as soon as possible and the additions thereto as speedily as funds will permit. The first section of the edifice will be ample to accommodate the sixty inmates and will be the centre of the entire when finished. Architects are now at work on plans, which are expected to be finished in time to exhibit at the coming fair, early in October.The ladies from the Plattdeutsch section of the Fatherland residing in this city and environs have arrange to hold a fair at Terrace Garden Oct. 2 to 14, 1895, for the benefit of the memorial fund. They have received much encouragement and are
assured many liberal contributions from prominent firms of New-York and other cities. The men of the society are aiding them to their fullest extent, and the committees have all been at work on the preliminaries of the fair for some time. The officers in charge of this fair are: President—Henry Kröger; First Vice President—H. H. Hingslage; Second Vice President—Frederick H. Ehien; Third Vice President—Adolph Schreitmüller; Recording Secretary—Bernhard Meyborg; Corresponding Secretary—Conrad Heede; Financial Secretary—John P. Friedhoff; Treasurer—John Holler.
The following have been appointed as the heads of the respective committees; Bernhard Meyborg, Chairman Press Committee; John Riefe, Chairman Ladies' Committeel Henry Kröger, Chairman Reception Committee; Conrad Heede, Chairman Communications Committee; John Holler, Chairman Finance Committee; William F. Grell, Chairman Arrangement Committee; Henry C. Elbs, Chairman Amusement Committee; Charles A. Elwers, Chairman Committee on Privileges; John P. Friedhoff, Chairman Door Committee.
The fair association will be aided by the Board of Directors of the Bullwinkel, H. H. Hingslage, George Landwehr, John C. Hüser, Adolph Schreitmüller, John Riefe, Henry Kröger, George H. Wehrenberg, Frederick H. Ehlen, Henry Meinkin, William P. Rinkhoff, Charles A. Elwers, and Charles F. Holm.
One of the first to encourage the project of the old people's home was Bismarck, who sent a letter to Secretary Meyborg in February last, of which the following is a translation:
Friedrichsruh, Feb. 16, 1893.
Through your kind letter of the 2d of this month, I have received with much interest knowledge of the blessed workings of the Plattdeutsch Volksfest Verein of New-York.With my sincerest thanks for your information, I couple the expression of the wish that the efforts of your society for the welfare of the distresed countrymen on both sides of the ocean may in the future succeed as well as they have in the past.
Many other communications conveying words of encouragement have been received from prominent Germans abroad and in different sections of the United States. From these and the support proffered from local business men, the officers and committees feel assured that they will accomplish the desired results.