Rose Seidler, a wonderful hostess

Rose Seidler and Bea Evans in the living room, c1965, Photograph © John Evans, Sydney Living Museums

My parents both lived here very happily for 25 years I think.’ Harry Seidler, 2003 [1]

In the next few months we will be spending time at Rose Seidler House and working with curator Joanna Nicholas to get a glimpse of European émigré tastes and lifestyle in the 1950s and 60s.

Rosa or Rose Seidler (nee Schwarz) married Max Seidler in Vienna in 1918 and came to Australia via London after World War II – their son, architect Harry Seidler finally joining them in 1948. Rose was a generous hostess, welcoming and entertaining countless streams of visitors to the house, many of them friends and associates of Harry’s  – Walter Gropius visited in 1954 and Eero Saarinen in 1956.

Dining room, Rose Seidler House, 1950 Photograph Marcell Seidler © Sydney Living Museums.

Home grown

Rose loved her garden and was a wonderful cook. With the assistance of a local gardener, she planted a large vegetable garden, an informal orchard of citrus trees and beds of flowers for picking and arranging – dahlias (as seen on the image above), belladonna lilies, sweet peas, roses and gladioli.

One can imagine the delicacies cooked by Rose using her vegetables – tomatoes, parsley, radishes, kohlrabi and corn. Harry later recalled it as ‘a real mini market garden’ and photographer Max Dupain ‘going home with great boxes full of cabbages and whatever…’ [2]

Rose Seidler and Bea Evans standing by a frangipani Rose’s garden, c1965. Photograph © John Evans, Sydney Living Museums

Austrian favourites

Rose and Harry were devoted to each other and he visited her at home every weekend. Up until his marriage to his wife Penelope in 1958, Harry was sent home with packages of food for the week ahead, Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel being particular favourites. [3]

An exciting new addition to the Rose Seidler House collection this year has been the donation by Penelope Seidler AM of two of Rose’s cookbooks which contain compilations of precious family recipes and personal inscriptions – many of them in German. Watch for new posts by ‘the Cook’ Jacqui Newling in coming months as we reveal more about Rose’s recipes!

Reference sources

[1] Siobhan McHugh, Oral History transcript with Harry Seidler, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, 11 October, 2003 p. 32

[2] Colleen Morris and Geoffrey Britton, Rose Seidler House Garden Conservation Plan, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Sydney, 2001,  p. 19

[3] Penelope Seidler, interview with Joanna Nicholas, Killara, July 2014