A small seal still sits atop 12 St. Marks Place in the East Village. It reads “Einigkeit Macht Stark,” or “Unity provides strength,” and is a relic of the historical neighborhood of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany. The neighborhood was home to the vast majority of German immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries, numbering as many as 250,000. By the 1870s, Germans made up about 30% of New York City’s population.
Though most of the signs of this community no longer exist, save an occasional store in homage to Eastern European immigrants, the German population gave the Lower East Side its unique culture and feel. This building stands as a rare testament to this strong history that flowed through the area.
The house of the German American Shooting Society, or Deutsche-Amerikanische Schützen Gesellschaft, was built from 1888 to 1889 by the architect William C. Frohne in the German Renaissance Revival style. The society, which was founded in 1857, had 1,400 members at the time of the building’s construction and was composed of 24 companies. Today, its name has changed to New York Schuetzen Corps, Inc.
In 1920, the society sold the building, and after changing hands a second time it became the St. Marks Community Center, followed by a Ukrainian community center. The building was sold to its current owner in 1992 and today serves as a yoga studio. The façade, though, still stands intact with German writing and a magnificent terra cotta relief depicting a target and rifles. The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a landmark in 2001.
Also check out the tenement museum on the Lower East Side, which preserves the unique history of 19th century immigrants in NYC.
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