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Reese Recreation Center

 

Designed by the Heeresbauamt Augsburg, an officers casino for the common use by the three adjoining German Army Kasernes - Arras, Panzerjäger and Somme - was constructed between Somme- and Langemarckstraße from 1935/36 until the end of 1937. This Wehrmachts-Offiziersheim at the Sommestraße was built at the perimeter of the Kaserne area according to Germany’s military culture of the time. Material accents were similar to those of other German officers casinos, i.e. splendid interior, solid construction elements and impressive materials: red marble stairs, heavy oak panel doors, chiseled concrete surfaces, swinging doors with wrought iron hardware and so on. Here as well as in the casino of the Luftnachrichtenkaserne – later part of U.S. Sheridan Kaserne – the proper representation of the German military and officers’ elite mattered. The steep roofs psychologically transmitted greatness, power and severity. Even houses can display pride… 

It is absolutely sure that the builders would not have imagined that only a decade later a foreign military power would utilize this building for its own representation and leisure, especially as the building was not harmed by the self inflicted war. The building was immediately taken over by the U.S. Army in Augsburg as an officers club and guesthouse, to be altered later into the Recreation Center of the three former German Kasernes that had become Reese Barracks.

Building 33 was Augsburg’s U.S. Recreation Centers’ admin headquarters with the Community Library in the north wing, later to be relocated to Bldg 116, Sheridan Kaserne. The theater annex was the home of the ACT-Community Theater and that of jazz and rock music. In 1982, the theater in its present form was realized. The Recreation Center had a dining area, a cafeteria, reading corners, a chimney room, a billiards room and workshop rooms a well as a photo lab that was relocated to Bldg 112, Sheridan Kaserne. In the area of today’s restaurant kitchen was, approximately installed in 1978, a kitchen for cooking courses that later served as kitchen of the small “Patio Café”. In the center was a large room for ballet, gymnastics and even belly dancing - nowadays still called Ballettsaal. In the north wing, among other institutions, was the Ski & Caravan Rental Service, whose vehicles were parked in two wooden carports on the parking lot in front of the building. In the basement was the theater’s wardrobe as well as soundproof music rooms for amateur bands. 

As early as In 1953, a southern annex with a flat roof that did not really match with the existing building, was added to the Recreation Center. At first used as mess and snack bar, it became a pool hall in 1970 and a Fitness Center in 1980. There was also a Ceramic Center with kilns that was replaced by a sauna area.

In 1985, together with about 100 other repair, maintenance and modernization projects designed by the Engineering Services Br, EP&S Div, DEH, USMCA Augsburg for the local U.S. facilities, a $ 1.3 million project (title: Repair Roof, Repair Utilities, Repair / Maintain / Alter Bldg 33, Reese Barracks) was funded to repair the exterior as well as the interior of the building while providing modern energy saving windows and utilities – light fixtures, radiators and sanitary installations – as well as to meet the OSHA safety requirements. At the same time, the project preserved the building’s original look IAW Historical Preservation regulations.

Although the building is now under protection of the German Denkmalschutzgesetz (Historical Preservation Law), the interior of the restaurant area suffered by recently installed inadequate “efficient” equipment, furniture and painting so that the original U.S. atmosphere is lost.

The two level patio/garden on the west side of the building still has a special quality. Especially at sundown, protected by the wings of the building, but with a free view of the well-known transmitting tower (demolished in 2008), an absolutely American end of the day feeling on Augsburg ground was guaranteed. Otherwise the flair is still there and maybe even improved by up to date gastronomical features.

 

                                 From Offiziersheim via Recreation Center to Kulturhaus “abraxas

 

                                  Left: main entrance from interior. Right: Stairwell in north wing.

                                   

                                    Left: Former ballet hall. Right: Main entrance with stairs.

                                      

                                            Restaurant kitchen and ballet hall, middle wing

 

                                                   Restaurant area with American furniture

 

                                                            Patio with lawn, west side

 

                                                       Left: Billiards room. Right: Theater.

                                    

                    The Recreation Center in the Fifties, also known as Bavarian Cross Road Club

 

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