Archives Find of the Month: German House, 1930s

Home » Archives Find of the Month: German House, 1930s
Bandshell with flag, 1932

Seattle Municipal Archives photo collection, item no. 30482

In the late 1930s, the existence of a German club on First Hill caused some consternation among the club’s neighbors. A Richard G. Lewis repeatedly wrote to the City Council complaining about excessive noise, swearing, and drunkenness. He protested the “disgraceful conditions” and claimed that “it is nothing to see a young or middle aged lady drunk.” He went on, “It was a great mistake for them to come up here at all. The way they carry on they should be on the tide flats.” He often got his neighbors to sign on to petitions complaining about the club, and some neighbors wrote their own protest letters complaining of drunkenness and immorality.

The police chief sent a report to City Council in response to one of Lewis’s letters, saying the police had investigated the complaints and had found no reason to make any arrests, finding the club to be in compliance with local and state laws. He wrote, “Mr. Lewis has made some very slanderous statements of the German people. My own experience with men and women of German ancestry is that they are law abiding citizens. Their fraternal societies surely cannot be conducted in the manner described by Mr. Lewis.”

In response to the barrage of complaints, the License Committee eventually recommended that the German House no longer rent out the building for dances, so that the only ones held there would be events sponsored by the organization itself. The club agreed to do this “if it will be helpful in dealing with this class of problems,” but noted that “this requirement is not made of other similar organizations.”

As Germany gained more power on the world stage, a new sort of complaint arose about the German House. In 1937, newspapers reported that a pro-Nazi meeting took place at the club, and the License Committee was asked to investigate. In response, the club’s leaders stated that they rented the hall without knowing the purpose of the meeting, and had “no direct knowledge” of what happened. “However, as loyal American citizens, we pledge ourselves not knowingly to rent our premises to any individual or organization for the purpose of anti-American propaganda be that Communist, Nazi or Fascist.” This satisfied the Committee and the club’s dance hall license was not revoked.




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