Living history that's still going strong

The Athenæum/Das Deutsche Haus was built for the Indianapolis Socialer Turnverein (1893-1898) as a “house of culture” for the mind and body. It was awarded the National Historic Landmark designation in 2016.

Learn more about the rich and storied background of this Indianapolis treasure, and come visit!

A look back in time…

1851 1st Turnverein formed by Clemens Vonnegut et. al.

1892 Socialer Turnverein Aktiengesellschaft (Stock Association) formed to raise funds and build Das Deutsche Haus (“DDH”)

1893-94 DDH East Wing built

1897-98 DDH West Wing built in “seiner Vollendung” (in its completion)

1900 Walter Reed’s Yellow Fever speech in Concert-ball Room

1907 DDH becomes home of Normal College of the North American Gymnastic Union, founded 1866 to train Turnlehrer, Gymnastic teachers for Turnvereins and public schools

1912 Carl G. Fscher unveils plan for privately funded coast-to-coast highway later named Lincoln Highway in this building

1917 USA declares war on the German Empire and German-American culture

1918 DDH name changed to The Athenaeum

1941-1945 USA at war with Germany and its allies

1956 Melbourne Olympiad: 2 US Women’s Gymnastics Team members trained in Athenaeum Turners program

1970 Normal College leaves Athenaeum after 63 years

1973 Athenaeum Listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1 of 3)

1972-80 Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) in Concert-Ball Room

1982 Athenaeum Listed on the National Register of Historic Places (2 of 3)

1987 Athenaeum Listed on the National Register of Historic Places (3 of 3)

1989-2009 American Cabaret Theater (ACT) in Concert-Ball Room

1991 Athenaeum Foundation founded succeeds STv Stock Association as owner

1992 YMCA returns to downtown as tenant of gym and East Wing

1993-94 New Slate roof installed

2001 Renovations to building including HVAC, sprinkler system

2005 IndyMetro Church becomes a tenant of the building

2008 Young Actors Theatre (YAT) returns as a tenant

2008 First GermanFest on New Jersey Street

2009 A rain garden was created in the front of the building adding benches

2012 During the tuckpointing of south side of building a crane crashed into the building which required extensive restoration to the east wing of the building

2012 The chimney was lowered returning it to its original height

2012 The YMCA renovated the gymnasium and turned it into a wellness center

2014 Sidewalks were added to the biergarten making it more accessible for people with disabilities

2014 Visit of Archduke Markus Salvator and Archduchess Hildegard von Hapsburg of Austria

2015 Tuckpointing and window renovation of west side of building

2016 The Athenaeum was designated National Historic Landmark

 

An architectural gem in Indianapolis

The Athenæum/Das Deutsche Haus is an excellent example of Germanic architectural influence in the Midwest during the latter part of the 19th century. It is also a monument to the organization of Americans of German descent in the United States who dedicated themselves to cultural and physical development in their new country.

The Indianapolis firm of Vonnegut and Bohn was responsible for both phases of the structure. The entire building is in the German Renaissance Revival style – a popular style in Germany during the Second Reich (1871-1918). It revived the architecture of Renaissance Germany of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Atheneaum is listed three times in the National Register of Historic Places, for (1) individually listed for architecture and historical significance; (2) as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Commerical District; and (3) within the Lockerbie Square historic district; specifically for location and historical theme of the Germantown area.

Look for these key features when you visit:

  • 2 Elaborate Gables (the vertical triangular end of a building from cornice or eaves to ridge) that rises above the roof line in two places
  • 3 storied brick tower with a conical slate roof
  • Semi-circular limestone arched entrance with two free standing Roman Doric Columns
  • Dark red brick walls in common bond (the systematic lapping of brick in a wall)
  • Limestone belt course defines the second floor line
  • Rock faced stone foundation laid up on an ashlar (hewn or squared stone) coursing
  • Arched upper windows
  • Bulls eye gymnasium windows
  • West Wing facade is in the German Renaissance Revival style – incorporating German architecture with renaissance elements focusing on a highly decorated gable (1897-1898)
  • Steeply pitched, massive Hipped roof
  • Decorative stepped gable facade in stone and Terra Cotta rising into a baroque pediment above the cornice
  • Sculptured panels are found above the middle gable
  • Arched and stained-glass windows, bulls-eye and transom windows
  • Alternating horizontal bands of stone
  • 3 storied brick tower with a gently curving mansard roof and spire
  • Small hooded-copper domed dormers with dwarf spires
  • Small eye brow louvers near the ridgeline
  • Copper covered cupolas with dwarf spires at each end main roof
  • Semi-circular stone arched doorway
  • Faces of the alternating stone voussoirs (one of the wedge-shaped pieces forming an arch or vault) are projected
  • Stone columns with Doric caps flank the arched doorway
  • Terra Cotta grotesques – figures – Athena in the top arch, figures, shields on west wall
  • Stone lions and shields with lyres