Augusta’s Schuetzen Platz

Before World War I, Augusta had a very active German population. One of the highlights was the formation of the German Schuetzen Club (or German Rifle Club) on February 17, 1873. After formation, the club quickly began work on building a Schuetzenplatz. 

Intent on observing a long-standing German tradition, in late April, after the framework of the main building was completed, President Charles Spaeth and members celebrated with a pole raising. A 30-foot high pole was elevated near the center of the building’s frame, rising 15 feet above the top of the structure. Decorated with bouquets of flowers, the pole had black, white, and red streamers, colors of the German national flag, spread out from its top to the base. The German flag hung was also hung on the pole.

Completed a couple of months later, the two-story building featured a wraparound porch and balcony. Inside, the Schutzenplatz contained several shooting galleries, game or card rooms, a bowling alley, a rifle gallery, and, of course, a beer garden. In one of the shooting galleries, men shot at moving targets from the distance of 100 yards. Laurel and German oak adorned the halls. On the grounds, there were also numerous amusements. For instance, there were swings and a greased barrel.

To commend the opening of the Schuetzen Platz, a concert was performed by the Augusta Quartette Club at Girardy’s Opera House located at 826-828 Broad Street (where Pyramid Records is now located). Opened in 1869 by Isadore P. Girardey, the venue, unfortunately, was destroyed by fire in 1887. According to The New York Times, the fire started in-between performances of Lady Audley’s Secret. The fire spread rapidly and also destroyed the Masonic Hall, the Globe Hotel, and the stores of Daly & Armstrong and James G. Bailey.

The following day marked the grand opening of the Schuetzen Platz. Opening festivities lasted from September 22 through September 25, 1873. Activities commenced with a parade. Members of Augusta’s Schuetzen Club, along with German contingencies from Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, and Selma, AL, marched alongside the German Hussars, Oglethorpe Infantry, Irish Volunteers, and Clinch Rifles from downtown to the Schuetzenplatz. The parade route was lined with people waving German flags and handkerchiefs. Once at their destination, the marchers were greeted by a thirteen-gun salute. Shooting, dancing, and abundant food followed the parade.

In addition to holding regular shooting contests and monthly dances, the German club opened up its grounds to numerous civic groups over the years. Non-Germans were accepted for membership as honorary members. Annually, in September, the club would host a spectacular Schuetzenfest featuring the Schuetzen Band, dancing, shooting, etc. At the end of the week-long festival, a Schuetzen King would be crowned for earning the lowest score in the week’s shooting contest.

One of the last events held at the Schuetzen Platz was the Deutscher Schuetzen Club’s Annual Barbecue. Although sauerkraut was not on the menu, barbecued lamb and shoat (young pig) highlighted the entrée selections. In 1914, the property was sold to the Board of Education for relocation of Tubman High School.