Harry Seresin's coffee gallery

Harry Seresin's coffee gallery

Harry Seresin's Coffee Gallery at Parsons Bookshop, Massey House, Lambton Quay, c. 1957.

Harry Seresin

Born in Hamburg in 1919, Harry Seresin was the son of Russian Jewish parents. He was 19 when he arrived in New Zealand just before the outbreak of the Second World War, a refugee from Nazism. Seresin was struck by the arid nature of cultural life and the lack of social amenities such as cafés. He was the first person to introduce a really stylish coffee shop to Wellington.

Seresin's coffee shop was situated on the balcony above Parsons Bookshop, on the ground floor of Massey House at 158 Lambton Quay. The bookshop and café quickly became a cultural and intellectual haven in the city. Later Seresin was responsible for setting up the restaurant associated with Downstage theatre, and in the early 1970s he established the Settlement, which combined a café/restaurant and art gallery.

Seresin was a man of imagination, good taste, strong opinion and vision, who catered to the fledgling art and literary community in Wellington. His influence on the city and café culture in Wellington was summed up in an obituary: 'if there is one person Wellingtonians can thank for the professional theatres and countless cafés that enliven the city then that person is Harry Seresin.'

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