• An architectural rendering of the exterior of a new Turner Hall, as envisioned by Mustard Design architects. While the exterior will have a new look, organizers hope to keep the interior similar to the old layout.

Turner Hall could break ground this year

Q&A with Duane Durst, president, Turner Hall Association

Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein heads into 2018 looking to raise more money, break ground and start construction on a new Turner Hall, replacing the historic structure totally destroyed in a June 2016 fire.

A Fredericksburg landmark at 103 W. Travis St., it dated back to 1871 and was a social center for generations in Gillespie County who celebrated their German heritage, weddings, birthdays and more before flames reduced it to ashes.

Following Turn Verein’s annual New Year’s Eve Dance to raise reconstruction funds, Duane Durst, the organization’s president, provided an update and look ahead.

 

Where do things stand with fundraising?

Right now, we’re probably about half way to our goal. We have our basic architectural drawings now, and once we approve the two renderings, Mustard Design is going to get them to their engineers and start running with it. Then we’ll just be trying to do enough different fundraisers to make the money we need.

 

What is your fundraising goal?

Probably around $1.5 million.

 

So you have about $750,000 now?

Yes. We have enough so we can get started on construction this year. But to put the final touches on a completed project — no, not enough for that yet.

 

When do you plan to start construction?

As soon as the architect gives us the final blueprints and we get them out to bid — probably about the middle or end of summer (this year). We’re probably about four months out on getting the final blueprints done.

 

Has the Turner Hall site been cleared and is it ready for construction?

Some shrubs and bushes are on it (laughs), but the building is gone. It’s been gone for eight to nine months now.

 

If you start in the summer, how long will construction take?

Hard to say. A lot depends on which type of construction we put up. For example, in the middle of the building, where the dance floor will be, it would be easier to span with metal than with wood. If we go with steel, it won’t take as long. If we go with wood frame, it will take a little bit longer. The architect firm hasn’t totally said which way to go.

 

Is there a big cost difference between wood and steel?

Not really, not with what we want to do with it. The new Turner Hall will look new on the outside, but as much as possible, we want the inside to kind of resemble what the old one looked like. That’s our goal. The original was old, antique and people just loved the way it looked. We want to try to build some of that back into it.

 

Is there a deadline for raising the rest of the money you need?

I’d hope by the end of construction (laughs). We want to try to raise it as soon as we can. We have approval from the state to apply for getting our 501(c)(3) (nonprofit designation) back. It lapsed quite a few years ago, but I, as president, didn’t realize that until after the building burned.

Everyone keeps telling me, “We’ll give you money, but have you got your nonprofit (status)?” Now we can apply with the IRS (U.S. Internal Revenue Service) and I’m told it won’t take them very long to approve it.

We hope to have the paperwork in before our next fundraiser and we can tell donors it will be in place by mid-February.

 

Has this prevented you from doing fundraising over previous months?

No, we’ve been doing small fundraising, but most has been done with prize drawings and such. People have come in and donated $100 or $200 or bought auction items over costs. But we have people around here who are willing to donate more once we’re a nonprofit again and we can go after grants.

You can get a grant faster and easier if you’re a nonprofit. We have people who have said they’ll look at giving us a grant if we’re a nonprofit.

 

Was there no fire insurance on Turner Hall? Or was the coverage way below the cost of replacing it?

It was way below it. I’ll be honest: Turner Hall was run by the skin of its teeth for a lot of years, just like a lot of nonprofits. The last five years or so, we finally started to turn a profit, we were actually making money and starting to do improvements inside. We repainted inside and replaced all the exterior windows on the building. The windows hadn’t been in the building three months (before the fire).

 

Do you feel you’re on schedule for fundraising?

Yes.

 

When is your next fundraiser?

Saturday, Jan. 20, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Gillespie County Fair Grounds. There will be a 42 tournament, auction, dance, food, beverages and an antique car show, with live music by Sammy Geistweidt and the Wagon Aces, Koncrete Kings, Billy Burdett Band and Quincy Harper. Donations — no set amount — are requested.

We’re also planning our annual first-Sunday-in-March pork barbecue meal and gun give-away, on March 4. We sold 930-some-odd plates last year. These all are things we do to put money into this building, and we’re going to get there. It may be a little bit, but we’re going to get there.

 

Are you facing new, unexpected costs in replacing a historic building with new construction?

Yes, even for our parking. We have to do something about rainfall that falls on our premises. Our concept was that we were going to do the parking lot all in concrete or asphalt, with the water draining to the street. But now, we need to go with higher-dollar pavers (spaced apart) so water seeps underground. That’s an added expense we hadn’t thought of and weren’t planning on. And then, of course, we have to put in new flowerbeds and greenery — that’s another added cost. There’s been a lot of hidden things we never thought of.

 

What about sprinklers inside the building, in case of fire?

Absolutely — and adding a sprinkler system to a building this large is going to cost about $20,000.

 

What will be some of the new Turner Hall’s new features?

The bar is going to be nicer looking. We saved one of the bowling lanes after the fire and the bar top is going to be made from it.

We also saved a portion of the old wooden dance floor that we’re going to include in certain areas of the new wooden dance floor. We’re asking the architects to find the nicest places to put it. That’s one of the things we all said — we’re not going to have a concrete dance floor. We’re going to still have a wooden dance floor.

We’re putting in small meeting spaces for up to about 150 people and a modern sound system. That was one of the things Mustard Design said, that it would be good to have all your plugs in place for music, computers and meetings and a big drop-down screen.

Anyone who was in old Turner Hall knew our restroom facilities weren’t worth a darn. They were small, they were terrible. Now, we’re going to have one of the largest restroom facilities in the county.

Overall, the building size will be a fraction smaller, but it’s going to be more open and friendly to users. In the old building, for New Year’s Eve dances, we had to carefully get 300 people in. In the new building, we’ll put 300 people in and it’ll be easier to move around. The dance floor will be a little bit bigger and we’ll have more parking.

We’ve already got people telling us, “When you get it built, we’re renting it.” We expect to rent it out more often. The challenge will be finding enough volunteers sometimes to work events. We (Turn Verein members) work the bar ourselves; we don’t pay anyone to do that.

 

Has Turn Verein membership increased since the fire?

Oh, yes. Before the fire, we had 80 members, maybe. Right now, we’re about 250 and still growing. We have people from all over Texas who are members.

I hope that, by the time the new building opens, we’ll have 350 members. I’d like to say we can fill that new building with all the members because we already said that, once this building is built, there will be a barbecue and beer party for all the donors.

And I’ll have music, too. Sammy Geistweidt told me he and his band will play for the grand opening. He said, “Whenever you get the doors open, I want to be the first band in.”

 

What does it cost to be a member?

It costs a grand total of $15 per person for a year. All you have to do is talk to a director and fill out our little bitty application. If you’re a member, you get a monthly newsletter.

 

Are you looking for companies in the building business to donate in-kind or give you generous cost estimates to build this project?

We’re still looking some, but we’ve had some come to us and say we won’t be able to give you money, but if you have the materials, we’ll come in with a crew and give you a week’s worth of labor. We had one organization that said if we want to have a wooden dance floor, they’d be interested in doing all the work on it. So there’s a big cost we wouldn’t have to.

We plan to have a kitchen with countertops, a nice serving area, commercial refrigerator, commercial deep freezer and we’ve had people say they’ll try to get us that stuff at cost.

The business community knows what we need and is willing to help. We’ve just got to get to the point where we’re breaking ground, and we have to find a contractor who’s willing to work with us and make this happen.

 

Who should potential donors contact?

Contact me. Most people know I’m knowledgeable about what we’re doing. Also, my directors are good about working on something and reporting back. Our members are the same way — a lot of them come back with some good ideas and we’re trying to implement them, too.

Cash donations can still be made at Security State Bank and Trust. Several accounts are open there so you can designate money for something specific, if you want. We also have a Go Fund Me page you can get to via our Facebook page. You can go in and then ask all your friends to match your donation. We’ve already had some donors do that.

 

 

 

FUNDRAISER

Saturday, Jan. 20, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Gillespie County Fair Grounds. There will be a 42 tournament, auction, dance, food, beverages and an antique car show, with live music by Sammy Geistweidt and the Wagon Aces, Koncrete Kings, Billy Burdett Band and Quincy Harper. Donations — no set amount — are requested.

 

For more information or to make a donation, go to facebook.com/rebuildturnerhall or gofundme.com/TurnerHall. Contact Duane Durst at (830) 998-0023.

 

 

Fredericksburg Standard

P.O. Box 1639
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228
830-997-2155