Worth to know about the ELTE University Library. About the director-general’s flat

Nowadays, very few people know that this beautiful stove once belonged to a private residence with impressive interiors and a spectacular view of Pest. It is one of the remaining original furnitures.

Of course, today’s visitors, if they succeeded in visiting the second floor, would see very little or nothing of this, because the private flat, the current director’s office, the secretariat in front of it, the meeting room and the exhibition hall are all prohibited to visitors and their function is not the same as it used to be.

The director-general’s flat (designed by Antal Szkalnitzky) served its purpose until 1984. The accommodation was in an unusual block of flats, whose inhabitants shared the space with the ”landlord”, the University Library. The first and second library guard lived in the building at the back of the inner court (in the ground floor and mezzanine apartments), each with four rooms. The porter and his family lived next to the main gate, while two storekeepers and a steward lived in the souterrain (basement). The flats in the souterrain were very uncomfortable when it came to dryness, lighting and ventilation, thus they didn’t serve for long as accommodations. The staff, who had nowhere to live, could rent accommodation for 20% of the salary, if they found any for this amount.

But let us return to the subject of the director-general’s flat. The first library director was Árpád Horvát, followed by Sándor Szilágyi, Zoltán Ferenczi, Iván Pasteiner and finally László Mátrai. The director's apartment was designed with the unspoken aim of enhancing the prestige of the building through the personal presence of the director, guaranteeing the smooth functioning of the best library in the country and intervening quickly in case of emergency. In March 1978, the current director wrote a letter to József Szinnyei, the university’s rector. He voiced his concern regarding to the possibility of another fire (one happened in February). Furthermore, he pointed out that the building is not well-protected against burglars or pyromaniacs and has many hidden places where anyone could hide. He blamed the fire on his steward, Huder, who frightened the other tenants with his drunken antics.

The first director to move in the newly built flat was Árpát Horvát in May 1875, and he stayed there until the end of 1876. However, the building was still not completely finished, and therefore not very comfortable. We know this from Horvát’s personal letters, who was an old, tired man with increasing personal and work problems. He asked for time off work and alluded to his deteriorating eyesight. In his letter, he wrote that the summer sun constantly heated the office to 31 degrees Celsius (the windows had no shutters), which caused him insomnia and made him unable to work.

No wonder that one of the first actions of the next interim director was asking for curtains etc. In 1877, it was Szinnyei's idea to convert the unused rooms in the library flat into part of the library. He proposed that one of the rooms be used for the Corvinas and the tower room for an atlas and picture exhibition.

However, this proposal was not approved. Instead, a secondary school was established, and later some rooms of the quarter were converted into a library (the Pesti Hírlap reported about the conversion on 22.01.1899). This was finally achieved in 1984.

Based on Edit Kazimír's article


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