Sunday, July 31, 2022

Anton Seuffert's first Wellesley Street workshop

 4-86, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections [detail]

The highlighted building in this c.1866 image of Wellesley Street West was Samuel Henry Webb's "Royal Harmonium and Pianoforte Saloon", with the United Service Hotel (the original wooden version, to the right, at the Queen Street corner.) But from 1860 to 1864, this was the site of the first workshop run by Bohemian craftsman Anton Seuffert, master furniture-maker.

By September 1864, despite his fame as the designer of a secretaire desk that had made it all the way to Queen Victoria, Seuffert still needed other income streams to keep his head above water. His wife ran her own fancy goods store, and his three-storey workshop became a dancing studio in the middle floor, while he retained workshops in the basement and second storey. It was when the dance studio became a warehouse for flour, let out to CA Stone & Son to store flour, that calamity struck. Too much flour was apparently loaded onto the floor -- the rear of the building gave way one day and collapsed, tumbling into the Wai Horotiu gully behind. Fortunately, there was only one injury, a Mr White who was struck by some of the timber as it came down.

Seuffert couldn't rebuild, so shifted his business across the road to around where the Bledisloe Building is today, and his lease was taken up by Webb. Webb, in turn, set up his harmonium shop, which evolved into a dance hall and exhibitions building, up until the 1873 fire which destroyed it, along with the rest of the block.

In 1879 the publican at the rebuilt United Service Hotel, Henry Nathaniel Abbott, bought the Seuffert-Webb site from Thomas Russell, along with the other two sites leading up to Elliot Street, and in 1881 built his "Wellesley Opera House", soon to be renamed "Abbot's Opera House", and known as such through to his death in 1899.

In 1909 his widow sold the opera house to the Fuller family. Fuller's Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1926, and the site was subsequently purchased by Smith & Caughey.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful to have some new Timespanner posts - as ever half of the fun for an Auckland ex-pat is following up the side references (the 1873 fire? led to the paper cuttings of the National Library. Official Bay? led to the brochure for Auckland's Original Shoreline walk and the renovated Parnell Baths. I raise a valedictory glass to the sad news that the London Bar is no more)

    Please do keep it up!