In the late 1880’s Mansfield’s clusters of Irish settlers purchased a two-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.
Local legend and owner of the Alzburg Resort, Pasquale (Pat) Bono came from a humble immigrant background - Calabria, Italy as a 3 yr old toddler and moved with his mamma and pappa to Deer Park.
He learned quickly how to protect himself in school, in many a fist-a-cuff gangland fights between the Europeans and the Aussies.
Pat's first job was in the abattoirs in West Footscray and Myers (in the store room) and a tv/radio repairs apprenticeship that lasted one week. Pat was somewhat put off by the pay rate of $15 per WEEK
Pat was 20 years old when he started his first bus company with two of his older brothers in Hampton - this ran for three years. He then started his own travel company, Allaround Travel Agency out of Bourke St Melbourne for 15 years (from 1975 until 1990).
In this time Pat decided to buy an old run down convent in Mansfield - realising the profitable potential of snow season bus tours. He bought the old catholic convent in 1980 and in 3 years he developed many motel units and has continued to enhance it and run it as a 4 star resort.
Pasquale also fell in love with the local community and made many friends that he decided to call the High Country his home and often refers to it as “Gods Country”.
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’s telling of how the group finally made their way to the presbytery in Mansfield, so I will tell them both as I’m not sure which one is the truth.
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.
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 co-ordinated 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 Street.
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 Sisters 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 Abbortsford.
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 come with them to lend her experience. She was the foundress 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.
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 Street.
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. “Allaround Travel” 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 purchased for $120,000.
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 along 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, returning to Melbourne on weekends to oversee his busy travel agency.
The most recent renovation has included the large undertaking of remodeling our motel units and modernizing the layout, turning these rooms into a larger Studio style apartment. This refurbishment was completed in May 2018.
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 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 made up 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, moving into the “Timbertop” penthouse where he lived until 1995.
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.
The Alzburg Resort continues to offer varied accommodation options in a relaxed, family friendly environment.
What was that noise? Did somebody hear a door slam? Over the years many people have reported various stories of ghost sightings at the Alzburg Resort. Whether you’re a believer or not, I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t like a good ghost story. You be the judge.
A housekeeper entered a vacant room to check that it was clean, only to find a lady sitting at the desk. The housekeeper apologised to the lady and left the room, she advised her supervisor the room was occupied and the supervisor returned to the same room. When the supervisor opened the door she found no one in the room but the chair in front of the desk was pulled out, so she pushed it back in and left the room. Returning to the room a second time, the supervisor found the chair had been pulled out once again.
The night manager was asleep in bed one night, when she was woken by a young boy with a broken glass. The boy was upset, explaining that the people that were staying in his room had broken the glass on the table. He said that they had also broken the table and hidden the glass under the bed, so as not to be caught and he wanted to know what the night manager was going to do about it. The night manager, who was sure she was dreaming, told the boy to go back to bed and promised to charge the guest’s credit card for any damage caused. The boy looked puzzled and disappeared. The next morning the night manager was sitting in reception when the housekeeping supervisor came in with a broken glass, she explained the table was also damaged. The housekeeping supervisor said she found the glass under the bed.
Often our housekeepers will complain that after having just made a bed they will turn around, only to find a bum print or a body mark as if someone has just had a lie down or a sit down on the bed. Once a group of frustrated housekeepers smoothed out a bed and then watched as the bed crumpled before their eyes. Suffice to say all involved were a little freaked out after witnessing the event.
A staff member was repairing the air hocky table in the games room with 2 children looking on, when she heard a child say; “when did you get the music machine?” (The jukebox was a recent addition to the games room at the time). She popped her head up and asked the children who had asked the question, both children looked puzzled. She returned to fixing the air hocky table and again heard a child’s voice say “ the music machine? When did you get it? Isn’t it great!” Both children swore they had said nothing and no one else was around to have asked the question. To this day the jukebox has a mind of its own.
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