Reading Girl

Written by  2017.03.29.

The statue of Reading Girl got a place in the park of the Lakatos housing estate in Pestszentlőrinc. The limestone statue the size of life represents a female figure sitting on a pedestal made from the same rock.


The contemplating lady was given a proper and worthy place surrounded by trees. It is the artwork of Lajos Ungváry, a Kossuth Prize winner sculptor.

A hundred years ago many famous people like Péter Széchenyi, Pál Szapáry, Mihály Eszterházy, György Festetics, baron Csekovits, Géza Andrássy, Elemér Batthyány and many others visited this place. It functioned as a shooting gallery then later became 1. May swimming-bath dressing cubicle. For a long time it was in a ruinous state until László Zila, pastry chef finally bought it with the intention of giving back its bourgeois coffee house glamour invoking the last century.

In the autumn of 1902 Miklós Szemere, a politician and diplomat, arrived home from Vienna with a fortune gained at a cardplay. His attention was brought to the Cséry property in Puszta Szent Lőrinc that was on sale. Szemere drove there to look around and fell in love with the countryside so much that he purchased it right away. Within a short time he had an elegant and charming shooting gallery built on Swiss design. One of the ornaments in the shooting gallery was a „székely-gate” which was being carved for three years by Albert Szombatfalvy, the cousin of Miklós Szemere. It was on a 1 meter high pedestal facing the street. The terrace, full with tropic plants could be reached on stairs and several hundred people could gather there. Besides running fire it was loud from the boisterous people having fun as well. As Gyula Krúdy writes in his essay of Miklós Szemere’s household: „One thing is sure; he knew cake and ale. Perhaps he was hosting a thousand guests in Szentlőrinc when the first shooting competition for male university students took place.”

The workdays of the timbered building with brick-vault were hectic too. Sándor Prokopp, who won the gold medal in the 300 meter military rifle, was preparing here for the Olympic Games of Stockholm. The establisment was already a „military shooting gallery” where the yearly military shooting competitions took place.

After the death of Miklós Szemere on 19 August 1919 these baronial hosting events ceased to exist for a while. The property was inherited by István Szemere, his nephew. The competitions became scarce but shooting generations kept being raised in its territory.

With the surrounding area getting more and more populated, the operation of the shooting gallery became disturbing for the locals, the never-ending running fire was bothering the inhabitants’ living nearby. The use of the shooting range was considered dangerous and it was banned. Shooting practices were put to an end and the race track was closed down. The community initiated the reconstruction of the shooting gallery into a plage. The idea couldn’t come true until the end of the second world war. The plans for the plage were made by Aladár Mattyák in 1948” in consideration of using the shooting gallery”. By 1949 the project reached completion. The swimming tool built on its place and the changing room in the main building were in operation for almost 50 years.

Sources: Péter Búza: Stories of Pest-Buda

László Zila: Zila Coffee House – Krisztina Pastry Shop – 1984