It is 1888 and opening night of the German-American Shooting Society Clubhouse. The 1400 club members, made of 24 shooting companies, gather for the last time in their temporary meeting place at the Bowery, and march in unison the short distance to their new home.
The building is festively decorated and draped with the national colors of Germany and America, obscuring the features of its German Renaissance revival style with the flamboyant ornament, steep roof, terra-cotta sculptures, reminiscent of German building style at the time. If you look up you can see the original engraving on the building’s façade.
While today the word militia has connotations of lawlessness and extremism, in 1888 New York militias were a form of neighborhood watch and the German-American Shooting Clubhouse was meeting place for its members.
The building’s basement contained a small shooting gallery, though most of the shooting was done in the ranges in Brooklyn and Queens. Clubhouse activities were not limited to shooting, and the building contained a bowling alley, a bar, a restaurant and meeting rooms.
Shooting was considered a middle class pastime but by the time this clubhouse was founded, in 1888,about twenty years after the Civil War, this hobby was already in decline and it is presumed that the bloodshed and violence of the Civil War made shooting less attractive as a leisure activity.
In the heyday of shooting clubs, this clubhouse remained a link between the neighborhood, Kleindeutschlad, little Germany, and the German-Americans who began to leave the area in favor of Yorkville, on the upper-east side, or for the suburbs.
Today this landmark building is home to Yoga to the People and offers free yoga classes, probably not something the militia members would have envisioned.