Letter from Bauhaus Director Hannes Meyer to Mayor Fritz Hesse concerning the redesign of the Municipal Reading Hall, 7 June 1928.
On 2 October 1897, Dessau’s municipal council decided to purchase a collection of books that the archdeacon Ernst Hesse (1832-1900) had kept as the Christian People’s Library in Zerbster Straße 39 since 1871. With this collection of books as a foundation, the municipal public library opened its doors on 1 May 1898 in the building at Zerbster Straße 66. By the end of its first year of existence, 958 readers had already used the library and borrowed a total of 23,892 books. In the Municipal People’s Library, readers found “works by the most widely read authors, for the most part good and solid works of literature from Germany and abroad”. Only a few years later, the capacity of the building at Zerbster Straße 66 was no longer sufficient. The magistrate acquired the house at Zerbster Strasse 33, which was opposite the town hall, and opened the “Municipal Public Library and Reading Hall” here on 5 January 1905. The reading hall was located on the first floor and had room for 100 readers. At that time, the municipal library had 2,871 permanent readers who could access a media stock of 11,902 volumes. From 1 July 1916, the Municipal Library was closed because its premises were needed for war purposes. It was reopened on 15 September 1919.
In 1928, a comprehensive remodelling of the reading hall, the vestibule and some other rooms of the library was undertaken. The conversion project as well as the implementation of the construction work, including the furnishing with furniture and lamps, was undertaken by the construction department of the Dessau Bauhaus. A corresponding offer for the remodelling of the reading hall, signed by the then director of the Bauhaus Dessau Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) and dated 7 June 1928, is presented by the Dessau-Roßlau Municipal Archives as Archive of the Month for May 2023. The document is part of a magistrate’s file containing further documents on this building project. In the course of the reconstruction of the reading hall, the vestibules and the staircase were also redesigned. The conversion work in the municipal library was completed in October 1928 and cost around 9,000 marks, including the architect’s fee.
The archives of the month of May 2023 as well as other documents can be viewed during the opening hours of the Dessau Archive Association (Mon-Thu 9am-5pm).