Historic Hermann, Inc. is a local organization devoted to preserving
Hermann's heritage for future generations. One of its main
projects is to maintain the museum at the German School building
at Fourth and Schiller streets.
The original building, built in 1871, had four rooms, two per
floor, separated by a central hall and staircase. The first
school bell in Hermann was housed in a small bell tower on the
By the 1950s, the swelling student enrollment prompted the
construction of a new school. On December 23, 1954, the last
classes were held at the German School.
Sitting proudly atop the school is the town clock, housed in the clock tower that was added to the school in 1890. It is a Hermann landmark. Before the advent of wrist watches, people sitting on benches alongside the school often went across Fourth Street to the newspaper office to ask about the time. To put an end to these constant interruptions, Carolyn Graf, a newspaper employee, spearheaded the effort to get a clock placed on the public schoolhouse. A fund was established in 1886 for the construction of the clock tower. In 1890, the school board ordered a tower clock for $435. A German clock maker at the A.E. Pollhans Company of St. Louis built the clock, and Henry Tekotte, a local contractor, was enlisted to construct the tower. On August 27 of the same year the project was complete.
The clock still strikes every hour, letting anyone within hearing distance know the time of day. A committee of volunteers keeps the clock ticking by winding the time-keeping and striking mechanisms twice a week. The inside workings of the clock can be viewed from the second floor of the building.
The Heritage Room
When the German School was deeded to Historic Hermann in 1955, Mrs. Laura Graf, a Hermann native, got the idea to start a museum following a trip to Germany. She offered financial assistance to start the museum and created the Heritage Room to house items from a small museum that was operated by the Brush and Palette Club in the basement of the Gasconade County Courthouse.
With the help of many volunteers, display cases were found in country stores. They were restored and filled with Hermann memorabilia donated by local families.
Currently on display are items dating to the early 1800s. In one corner is a loom from the Civil War era that was used in the Berger area. Other displays include a collection of Hoeschel Pottery that was made in Hermann's Frenchtown section that was donated by Mrs. Graf. Items from the former Sohns Bros. Winery include a picture given by Virgil Sohns that shows Hermann's Hungry Five Band performing at the Lions Club Convention in St. Louis in 1932.
The River Room
The River Room was created by Delmer Ruediger, Dr. E.B. Trail and Capt. Ed. Heckmann four years after the Heritage Room opened.
Dr. Trail was a dentist in Berger. A river historian, he was most interested in sunken boats. Ruediger was a river captain who worked on Massmann Construction boats. Massmann built the dikes that revamped the Missouri River to its present course. Capt. Heckmann, whose father also was a riverboat captain, worked on the Gasconade, Osage, and Missouri rivers locally, and on the Yukon in Alaska.
Items donated by these three men formed the nucleus of the River Room. Other displays include gifts from Capt. Kermit Baecker, former curator of the River Room, local river buffs and their families, and the Gasconade Boatyard. A replica of a pilot house with an original seven-foot wheel is the focal point of the room. Pictures of many of the riverboat captains who called Hermann their home are displayed.
The Kinder Room
Bill and Maurine Coe were the architects of the Kinder Room (Children's Room), which opened in 1967. While designing the room, Mrs. Coe got the idea to go to the courthouse, where old railings were being removed, and get the county court to donate them to the museum. They were reassembled in the Children's Room to create individual display areas. One area depicts a school classroom as it would have been in the early days of the German School. Another is a kitchen display that includes an antique cabinet that belonged to Mrs. Coe's mother. Many of her childhood toys can be viewed, along with rompers worn by Mr. Coe when he was a child. A handmade, double-decker carousel is of particular interest to many visitors as well as several unique baby buggies.
The Els Room
When the city council chambers were moved from the German School in 1986, Mrs. Gennie Tesson, who was the museum's coordinator at the time, saw an opportunity to expand the museum and create the Els Room. A six-piece bedroom set made in Germany that was donated by the Els family became the focal point of the room.
Also featured is an organ donated by Mr. Bob Miller. This ornate church model pump organ was built in Mendota, IL in 1886 and shipped to New Haven (15 miles east of Hermann) by rail. His great-grandfather hauled it by sled to the Salem German Methodist Church, about 10 miles south of New Haven. Mr. Miller's grandmother was the church's organist for many years. After a complete restoration, Mr. Miller, an accomplished organist, donated the organ to the museum in 1991.
Two areas have recently been added to the Els Room -- the Circuit Judge Brewer area includes this judge's desk with many of his law books and a tool area features a schnitzelbank, flax crusher, and many old tools.
The Art Schweighauser Room
This room is named for one of Hermann's foremost historians. It features a collection of antique furniture, locally made pottery, old musical instruments, including a violin made in 1912 in the Schroeder Music Shop in Hermann, an authentic goose feather Christmas tree, long-stemmed pipes from Bavaria, and a sampling of things that depict life in the early days of Hermann.
Clock Tower Gift Shop
The gift shop opened in the spring of 2006 following many months of restoration. During the process, a drop ceiling was removed, and workers found the school's original light fixtures, which once again illuminate the room. In addition to souvenir items, historical books, postcards, and T-shirts, sweatshirts and tote bags with new logos, artwork made by local artisans is for sale.
Displayed in the shop are collectable toys from the 1960s and 1970s that were made at the Steven Mfg. Co. in Hermann, an impressive textile printing block collection, antique clothing, and handiwork.
Tours of the German School are self-guided, but volunteers are on hand to answer questions. Several who attended the German School enjoy sharing stories about their school days with visitors.
The German School Museum is open from April through October. Hours are 10-4 Thursday through Tuesday and 12-4. The museum is closed on Wednesday. Although the museum is closed from November through March, it opens when festivals are scheduled during those months.
There is a nominal fee charged to tour the museum. Groups are welcome to schedule special tours by calling the museum at 573-486-2017.