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Statewide Endangered

2011 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places 















Belleville Turner Hall

15 N. First St., Belleville
(St. Clair County)


This brick-and-limestone building, with Art Deco and Gothic ornamentation, was constructed by the German community in 1923-24 as a social and civic center.  Its primary purpose was a venue for physical fitness and educational programs for the community. Owned by the City of Belleville since 2006 and vacant, the building is in need of a new use and immediate repairs.  A grassroots organization has offered to raise funds for repairs and to develop a plan for converting the building into a visual and performing arts center, but the City has not expressed interest.


The two-story, corner building was built as part of the German Turnverein movement with a “strong mind in a strong body” philosophy that prospered within the German population of Belleville. The gymnasium was the core of the structure and the largest Turner gym ever built in the United States. The building served as an armory during World War II and the Korean War, as a teen center in the 1950’s, and as a home to the YMCA starting in1959.  Due to its own financial constraints, the YMCA did minimal upkeep of the building.  In 2006, the YMCA gave the building to the City and it has since remained vacant and in a deteriorating state.


In 2009, the Mayor appointed a committee to generate reuse ideas for the building.  The committee recommended that the City issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to redevelop it, but the RFP resulted in no feasible responses.


In 2010, a group of citizens formed the Belleville Arts and Culture Society (BACS) and proposed to the committee a plan for a visual and performing arts center.  Despite local interest, from both residents and area arts organizations, and a $10,000 donation to make temporary repairs to the roof, the City has not allowed the plan to move forward, citing lack of funds.  The City has estimated, at minimum, $500,000 for demolition costs, while the cost of stabilizing the roof is estimated at approximately $45,000. Some fear that the City may prefer to sell or give the building to the County for parking, since county offices are across the street. 


What You Can Do


The non-profit Belleville Arts and Culture Society (BACS) have offered to take responsibility for the building and to spearhead a fundraising campaign.  Urge Belleville city officials to allow BACS to pursue this plan by contacting:


Mayor Mark W. Eckert
101 S. Illinois St. 
Belleville, IL  62220
(618) 233-6810

To assist the BACS with its efforts, join its Save the Old YMCA/Turner Hall Facebook page or contact: BellevilleArtsandCulture@gmail.com


Additional Links




St. Louis Public Radio
April 6, 2011

St. Louis Today
April 6, 2011

St. Louis Today
May 3, 2011







Landmarks Illinois
Suite 1315
53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604 
tel. 312-922-1742 
fax 312-922-8112



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