It has been known for visitors to Leipzig to stand in front of the concert hall on Augustusplatz in some confusion, asking themselves: "That's meant to be the centuries old Leipzig Gewandhaus?" How can Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Arthur Nikisch and Wilhelm Furtwängler have conducted in this "house with a hat", as the formerGewandhauskapellmeister, Václav Neumann, scoffed?
They did not, of course. Two other Gewandhäuser in Leipzig bore witness to the concerts directed by this illustrious trio: Mendelssohn in the Gewandhaus in Universitätsstraße, Nikisch and Furtwängler in the "New Gewandhaus" in Beethovenstraße. The hall on Augustusplatz is, therefore, the third Leipzig Gewandhaus and the second not to have anything to do with the original purpose from which the halls took their name - Gewand being the somewhat antiquated word for garment; a Gewandhaus was the building catering for a city's textile trade.
The first Gewandhaus - a three-winged building located between Gewandgäßchen and Kupfergasse - was both the trading hall and the guildhall of Leipzig's cloth merchants. The name does, however, tell only half the story. The ground floor of the wing bordered by the Universitätsstraße was the civic arsenal (Zeughaus)until 1828, containing the city's armaments and ammunition.