Monroe County Library System,  Monroe, MI 48162

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Dundee Branch Library
18 East First Street
Monroe, MI 48161-2227
Phone: (734) 241-7878  
Fax: (734) 241-7879
Cindy Green, Community Librarian

R-Comm.
March 2, 1916

Old Home of Pioneer Physician and Poet Opened as New Library Next Week

The Dorsch Memorial Library bequeathed to the city by the will of the late Mrs. Edward Dorsch, an early German settler, will be formally opened to the public some evening next week. The members of the Board of Education and their wives, in company with Mrs. Jennie T. Wallace, librarian, will receive visitors and a brief program is being prepared for the occasion.

The moving of the old library, consisting of more than 8,700 volumes, began about a fortnight ago and for the past ten days Mrs. Wallace, with four or five assistants, has been at work arranging the books in the new quarters. The use of book stacks will render the capacity of the new library far in excess of the old.

Extensive remodeling under way since last October, costing about $4,000 has transformed the building into a magnificent one for its peculiar use and Monroe now has a library of which every citizen may well be proud. It was done under the management of the School Board.

The sum expended includes the cost of new furniture, mahogany desks, filing bureaus, tables, chairs, and book shelves, all especially designed for library work, also the installation of a steam heating plant; electric lights throughout with the inverted domes from the ceilings in all the main rooms and other modern conveniences. Partitions removed leave on the lower floor, a spacious room to the left of the entrance, with fireplace and large baywindow. Here is stationed the librarian's desk. A special place for children to read is at the front windows and the baywindow is reserved for magazines, that is the recent periodicals. On the right of the entrance is a comfortable rest room with lavatory opening off, and back of this the reference room, which like the others is fitted with the latest mahogany. A peculiar little enclosure, octagonal in shape, still farther to the rear, will serve as the librarian's work-room. Decorations are in excellent taste, the wood-working being in glistening white enamel with mahogany doors. The walls are tinted in a tan shade with contrasting stencil border.

On the second floor the main room is for government documents and volumes on that order. The Friends in Council, the oldest literary society in the city, has been invited to hold their weekly meetings here. Just off of this room is a finely fitted office for the Board of Education, with a desk for the Visiting Nurse, who will have certain hours every day there in order to be easily reached by patients. Living rooms for the janitor are on each floor at the rear of the building.

The entrance to the library is in handsome glass work, with "Dorsch Memorial Library" in guilt letters.

The property as it was left to the city without these renovations last April, was estimated at between six and seven thousand and is the largest windfall of the kind ever alighting here.

This old home from which the new library is evolved, has always been occupied by the family who built it; occupants who have left a distinct memory here for they belonged to the period before individualism in the little town had been swallowed up or rather leveled by the growing city.

The eight room, two story brick house located on First Street between Washington and Monroe, was built in 1850 by Dr. Edward Dorsch. The doctor, a stalwart, German figure with long flaxen locks and beard, was a graduate of the University of Vienna and stood out in fine relief for many a year as the scholar of this quaint village "Under the Elms." A native of the city of Munich, he was a member of a small circle of highly educated Germans who for political reasons were exiles from home and had made a new abiding place for themselves a this end of Lake Erie, which was then a popular terminus of immigration. And not only a successful general practitioner, the Doctor was a man of letters, a naturalist, and a verse writer of such ability as to go down as one of the greatest German-American poets.

Mrs. Dorsch, the donor of this gift to the city, was Miss August Uhl from the village of Volmarstein in the Provinz of Westphalia, Germany. Her father was a man of affluence and wealth, but lost a considerable portion of his fortune upon coming to America, and the daughter settling in Monroe, opened a little shop in one of the primitive wooden buildings which then formed the main business section of Monroe. Here were exhibited imported novelties, real laces and embroideries such as had never before been purchasable in the locality. The shop thus became a rendezvous for a lucrative class of shoppers, while the little saleswoman, soon recognized as a person of superior taste, was admitted into the fellowship of her countrymen whose society was of the most desirable order and eagerly sought by all those qualified to take part in it. She possessed unusual business sagacity and soon moved into finer quarters and laid up quite a fortune for herself.

Later she was married to Dr. Dorsch, the pair passing the remainder of their days in the home which is now converted into the new library. The couple were united by exceptional bonds of affection, their story being perhaps seldom paralleled outside of the extraordinary writings of such authors as Goethe and Schiller. As a proof of the above the two lie buried in the same grave at Woodlawn according to a request made in the Doctor's will.

Dr. and Mrs. Dorsch filled their home with valuable books, with specimens dear to the heart of the naturalist, with curios from abroad and kept a number of gorgeous birds from tropical countries in their conservatory which lent an interesting foreign air to the place.

The couple were patriotic to a great degree, preserving German ways and German thought as much as was possible in a strange land, often charming visitors with vivid descriptions of the Fatherland. Mrs. Dorsch had made several trips to Germany since coming to America. They were also planning to tour Europe and visit Egypt when his death cut short the arrangements. She occupied the house for many years after his death, her sole companions often being the coo-coo clock and "Polly," the South American parrot who lived to be nearly sixty years old and whose hoarse croak was a familiar sound about the central part of the city long before the town was known to the present inhabitants. The will which bestowed the house to the city gave the bird to the zoological gardens at Toledo, where he still lives among feathered folk of his own kind.

During her latter occupancy of the new library, Mrs. Dorsch still remained the exemplary German housekeeper, guarding her possessions with careful eye. Her chief solace lay in her books, her flower garden, her religion and her youthful memories and under these refreshing influences she maintained a heart like one in its prime even up to her last, which was her 78 th year. The will states that the old portraits of the Doctor and herself are to remain on the wall of the living room, where they were hung long ago.
K.N.N.

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