THE STORY OF THE ALZBURG RESORT
The community requests an Order.
In the late 1880’s Mansfield’s clusters of Irish settlers purchased a 2-acre block near the church, with the idea of attracting an order of religious Sisters.
In July 1891 Mesdames Hearn, Begley, Gardiner and Kennedy (widow of Sergeant Kennedy, shot by Ned Kelly at Stringybark Creek in 1878) met with Archbishop Carr to request a community of nuns to provide a Catholic education to the children of the district.
The founding sisters
The four nuns who came were Irish women, but they did not come to Mansfield direct from Ireland. Annie and Ellie Ryan were both in their teens, when the sisters decided to join their local convent in Ireland in 1876 and 1879 respectively. They were known as Srs Margaret Mary Alacoque and Agnes.
In 1889 when the sisters were in their twenties, they were chosen to travel to New Zealand as part of a group to set up a school in a small community near Dunedin.
The school was set up but unfortunately their superior sister Gore had some “mental issues” and she made intolerable demands on the sisters. Sr Agnes Ryan’s health declined and she and her sister decided to return to Ireland. On their way to Ireland the Ryan sisters stopped over in Melbourne to visit a family friend at the Good Shepherd convent in Abbotsford.
While they were there Archbishop Carr called on the Good Shepherd and was introduced to the Sisters, he had just returned from Mansfield where the Irish Catholics had beseeched him for nuns. Archbishop Carr suggested the Ryan sisters would be good candidates for the Mansfield position.
The sisters said they would go to Mansfield, but neither would accept sole responsibility as superior. They suggested a compromise that M. Ignatius Walsh came with them to lend her experience. She was the founder of the convent in Ireland where the girls had originated.
Her term as superior at the convent in Ireland had come to an end and she was in Yarrawonga as she had volunteered to set up a foundation there. As M. Ignatius Walsh was a veteran at foundations and an experienced superior, obviously the sisters trusted and admired her.
M. Ignatius Walsh took up the request and with lay sister, Sr Martha Redmoira, arrived in Melbourne after a train journey from Yarrawonga.
On the 11th of July 1891, a pioneer party consisting of five; parish priest Fr O’Hanlon, Mother Alacoque Ryan, Mother Agnes Ryan, Mother Ignatius Walsh and Sister Martha Redmoira arrived in Mansfield on a dreary evening in the depths of winter.
Their train had left Spencer Street at 8am, arriving in Maindample at the end of the line 8 miles (approximately 10km) outside of Mansfield at 5pm.
The priest who had accompanied them from Melbourne was disconcerted to find no-one to welcome them at Maindample Station. They waited for some time and regained their composure when at last curate, Fr Cusack arrived with a wagonette.
At last they would be whisked off to the warm comfort of the presbytery, but Fr Cusack had not made allowances for the horse’s capacity. The combined six adults together with their luggage proved too taxing; the horse stumbled and the vehicle became bogged on the muddy road.
There are two stories telling of how the group finally made their way to the presbytery in Mansfield…
The first story tells that after some time a bullock-wagon came into view (bullock-wagons were very common at this time, as Mansfield was a large saw milling area). The nuns and their luggage were loaded onto it, logs and all were unceremoniously transported into Mansfield.
The other story basically says that Fr O’Hanlon lightened the load and took two of the party into Mansfield before returning for the other three. Whatever the truth, it seems that neither the priests nor the nuns wished to disclose their involvement with a bullock-wagon, least of all not on this the foundation trip.
The long day was forgotten when they reached the presbytery and were greeted by bright faces, warm expressions and hospitality. The two priests decided to stay at the hotel, leaving the presbytery to the nuns until their convent was ready for habitation.
The doors are opened
At 10am on Monday the 20th of July 1891, parents, children and interested adults gathered in their numbers, beaming with joy, ready to take part in a coordinated initiation ceremony.
All were assembled; the children were placed in order, two deep, and lead by one of the nuns around the school grounds singing traditional Irish hymns. When the procession entered the church, both Priests gave an address of welcome, speaking to the children, the Sisters and adults present. In its report, the Courier reiterated its invitation to the respective pupils to join the many others who had made application to the Sisters for lessons in music.
Mother Ignatius Walsh, who stayed until the end of the first year, called for tenders in September. The new building was to be made of brick and contain twelve commodious rooms, it would be single storey running east and west facing Malcolm St.
(This picture shows the front section of the convent on Malcolm St, this was the original convent completed in 1891. The two story section wasn’t built until 1897).
Atkinson & Brown were paid the sum of 609 pounds to carry out construction and within a month of its commencement, Archbishop Carr was back in Mansfield to lay the foundation stone on the 6th of October 1891 and the building was completed by the end of the year.
A new era begins for the convent and the Alzburg Resort is born
After the closure of the college, many of the rooms remained unused and the cost of maintaining the convent became very costly.
Members of the German Catholic community, based in Melbourne, were seeking a home for their aged. The subject of the convent was brought to their notice, and, after having visited Mansfield and inspected the convent, they finally decided to purchase the building as it stood.
In 1973, after having lived in the convent for eighty-two years, the nuns moved to number 10 Malcolm St.
The block of land in Highett St was bought by the Hospital Board, but was later offered for sale and purchased by the German Catholic community who had named the convent “Pax Montis”- Peace of the Mountain.
Australia’s largest ski tour operator at the time, Pasquale Bono, the owner of “Allaround Travel” in Melbourne, was running coach tours to all Victorian ski resorts. They specialised in day tours as well as accommodated coach weekends for social clubs and required more accommodation.
The German Catholic community invited Pat to run his coach tours to “Pax Montis”, and the property was subleased to “Allaround Travel”.
In 1979, the German Catholic community decided to put the property on the market. Pasquale made an offer and the old convent was accepted and purchased.
On the 1st of July 1980, Pasquale Bono officially took over as owner and the property was renamed the “Alzburg Inn”.
Pat faced a convent in a run down state, old classrooms and unpainted, he went a long to some government auctions in Tottenham and purchased old army bunks.
Another enterprising local was also at the auctions, Jack Lovick, and some friendly rivalry took place, as Jack also wanted the bunks for his trail riding business.
New mattresses were purchased and Pat was now able to accommodate up to two hundred people (4-5 coach loads), in dorm style accommodation, at the resort.
In that first year, coaches ran on weekends only over the popular winter season and remained closed for almost the rest of the year. During the summer months Pat spent his days during the week renovating and painting then returning to Melbourne on weekends to over see his busy travel agency.
While in Mansfield over the warmer months Pat realised the potential of year round travel, so in 1981 he began running group car rally packages. In those days a weekend package started at around $20 per person and included dinner, bed and breakfast.
In late 1982 Pat decided to add to the resort facilities, and in 1983 twenty four, 3 star motel units were constructed, Tennis courts, spa, sauna and swimming pool were also built.
Year round activities at the resort were increasing, and in 1985 another thirty motel units were added, these units included kitchens.
In 1989, the old upstairs classrooms were renovated into luxury style penthouses, and the old stain glass windows that were part of the original chapel were carefully removed and relocated to reception; copies were made for the doors.
In 1990, Allaround Travel was sold and Pasquale relocated to Mansfield.
In 2001, the original twenty-four motel units built in 1983 were transformed into sixteen apartments, and in 2006, a further twelve motel units were renovated in six luxury two bedroom apartments.
In October 2010 the Alzburg joined the Choice Group of Hotels as a franchisee and was branded a Comfort Resort.
The Comfort Resort Alzburg continues to offer varied accommodation options in a relaxed, family friendly environment.