|1862 Sängerbund in Washington, D.C.|
In the mid-1870s, Washington's German population stood at 5,000, a sizable number considering that all were crowded into the small business and residential districts in Northwest Washington. There were many German clubs at that time -- the Columbia Turnverein, the Arion Quartette, the Humbolt Lodge, a German Veterans' "Bund", the Prospect Hill Cemetery Society, the Concordia Evangaelish Society, a "German-American Club", the German Fishing Club, the mighty Schuetzwenverein, complete with its own park and hotel, as well as clubs devoted to poetry, theater, and literature. The Sängerbund seemed to attract a predominantly well-to-do and prosperous segment. Starting in 1874, and continuing for the next 19 years, the Sangesbruders met in rooms above Charles Dismer's restaurant at 708 K Street, NW, where the smaller functions were held. Larger functions were held at the Masonic Temple on Pennsylvania Avenue. Boat trips down the Potomac (including to Marshall Hall) and to the Bay became a regular form of recreation. During the 70s and 80s they delighted in sponsoring activities for the children as well. The Hall provided "Lebensgreude" or a "joy of living", done with a certain eye to propriety in the best German manner -- but the beer, the hearty laughter, the stories, the song were always there.
A part of Sängerbund life was purely intellectual. The Club attempted to fill the gaps in the formal education of its members, with large lectures on diverse subjects and philosophical discussions. These lectures also took place at Washington's All Souls Unitarian Church and the 8th Street Synagogue. Although the Sängerbund started with singers from the Lutheran Church, its membership was not religiously-restrictive; it sought to keep German tradition alive, not Christian. Washington contained a sizable jewish population, and "more than a handful" of German Jews were members, including Simon Wolf, an "elite member" and intellectual who conducted many of the lectures.
|1901 Sängerbund in Washington, D.C.|
In 1894 the Sängerbund bought a property for the club at 314 C Street for $15,000, a 19-room home with wide marble steps, and elegant furnishings, including Bohemian crystal chandeliers, rare oil paintings, and a Steinway Grand piano. The Society contracted for additional space to include a large hall and bowling alley, a garden and summer theater. The entire building was lit with electric light, and every night the rooms were filled with members of the club and their friends and the "motto of the club seems to be sing, eat, drink, and be merry." There were lines of applicants for membership at every meeting, and membership was over 800. The Sängerbund Club House was open seven days a week, from ten in the morning until midnight. At least once a week some sort of social activity would be in progress -- a children's party, a banquet, an oyster roast, a Fashingsball. It was a family-oriented club, catering to the hundreds of German families who lived within walking distance of C Street.
By 1901, at its 50th Anniversary, the Sängerbund had a total of 3,179 members, including 398 active singers, 2,754 passive members and 27 honorary members. The gala festivities lasted for three nights, starting with a performance at National Theater. In conclusion was a banquet at Sängerbund Hall. It is assumed that the Bischoffs were among those who attended, probably with all their children.
The Sängerbund is still in existence today, having weathered severe financial problems during the 1920-1933 Prohibition.