“A sound mind in a sound body.”

In the mid-19th century, Indianapolis saw a tremendous influx of German immigrants to the city. By the 1890s, many German immigrants and their descendants were becoming civic and business leaders in the community. There was a movement to unite several of the German heritage clubs in one location, which spurred the design and construction of “Das Deutsche Haus.” The project was spearheaded by the Indianapolis Turnverein, a group of gymnastics enthusiasts with a desire to promote physical and mental wellness in the community. The building was originally created to advance the Turnverein’s principles of “a sound mind in a sound body” by providing space for athletic and mental endeavors. Since opening to the public in 1898, Das Deutsche Haus has seen many changes, but the commitment to nurturing a sound mind in sound body has endured.

Athenaeum Artifact No.1

Gada Club and Wooden Dumbbells, circa 1894

130 years ago, Turnverein fitness experts agreed, the key to a sound mind, was a sound body. To that end, weights like these were put to use in German gymnasiums across the country.

Here at the Athenaeum, these antique gada clubs and wooden dumbbells were exceptionally popular during the fitness movement of the late Victorian era and would have been used by both men and women alike, to help build arm and grip strength, as well as flexibility.

This original set from the Athenaeum Turnverein, dating back to when the gym opened in 1894, still retains its original logo stamp from the St. Louis manufacturer Medart.

The 1lb clubs and wooden dumbbells were integral to an exercise phenomenon that made its way to the U.S. by way of German immigrants in the middle of the 19th century.

Athenaeum Artifact No.2

Rathskellar Place Setting, circa 1898

This antique place setting comes from our historic Rathskellar’s original collections, and was used to serve up classic German fare, like smoked wurst, sauerkraut, and potatoes.

Not to be confused with English pewter, Germany’s Nickel Silver is actually a durable and beautiful copper alloy that’s made to endure for generations.

This set has been custom engraved with “DH” for Deutsche Haus in 1898 and the stamped “Athenaeum” silverware set was added after the building’s name change in 1918. They were so coveted, in fact, that over the years, silverware like this went missing from time to time. Fortunately for some good judgement, many saw fit to return the stolen merchandise with the kindest notes of apology!

Help preserve the history of the Athenaeum and more artifacts like these.

Make a tax-deductible donation today!

Athenaeum Foundation401 EAST MICHIGAN STREET

Our Mission

The Athenaeum Foundation preserves a treasured historic landmark that welcomes all to nurture a sound mind and a sound body through arts & culture, wellness and community.

The Athenaeum Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization.