Fortuna to be sold in Army surplus sale
Bendigo’s and even Victoria’s most extravagant historic home is on sale for the first time in 70 years as the Defence Department find it surplus to their needs.
‘Fortuna’ has a history dating back to the 1850s when it was built by miner Theodore Ballerstedt. It began as a modest single-storey home, but over the years Ballerstedt made many additions including adding extra floors, stables, a billiard room, lookout tower and Roman baths. He sold the mine and property to mining entrepreneur and ‘Quartz King’ George Lansell in 1871 for £60,000, and Mr. Lansell then continued to add to the home over the years.
This was not just a home, but a place of business as the property was directly adjacent to one of Lansell’s mines. The ‘180 Mine’ was one of the richest mines in Bendigo, and at one stage considered the deepest gold mine in the world at 3176 feet. Lansell had amassed extraordinary wealth during the gold rush and owned a total of 13 mines, while directing another 73.
His son, Leonard Vere Lansell, lived in Lansellstowe which is also currently on the market.
George Lansell died in 1906 and his wife, Edith, lived at Fortuna until her death in 1934. After her death the house was purchased by Bendigo Mines, who later sold it to Charles Stuart Nott and Maud Matilda Nott in 1938. The Nott’s lived in the house until 1942, when it was acquired by the government as a safe home for a military map making facility during WWII. It was a perfect spot because the large site allowed for the construction of extra accommodation, and it was away from the coast and capital cities.
The house remains largely intact and Defence appears to have kept it in fairly good condition. Defence commissioned Godden Mackay Logan to conduct an archaeological assessment of the site in March 2008 and the highly detailed report can be read here (PDF).
Fortuna would be described as Victorian Italianate and Victorian Free Classical, with Federation influences. It originally had up to seven ornamental lakes, including one large lake which remains today. The six others were filled in when the army occupied the site. The Pompeii fountain dating from 1879 is a scale replica of the Great Fountain in Pompeii and thought to be unique in Australia. The glass conservatory depicting various artistic designs is regarded as one of the most important examples of its type in the country.
According to local rumors, George Lansell’s ghost is said to have haunted the villa since his death, with his figure sighted on the lookout tower overlooking the gold fields he once owned.
The property is listed under the Commonwealth Heritage List, Register of the National Estate, Department of Defence Heritage Register, and falls within the Greater Bendigo City Council Heritage Overlay.
Fortuna was first listed for sale by tender with offers due by December 7. A total of six offers were made but none were considered satisfactory. The villa was reported to have sold at auction on April 12 for $3,000,000, but the sale fell through and it later sold to a private individual for $2.21 million.
It had been suggested earlier that the property was worth somewhere between $2~$4 million.
The land is 7.3 hectares and the house has a total floor area of 1,730 sqm (18,615 sqft).
Local community groups are concerned about the property becoming privately owned as it could be at risk of subdivision. However, the new owner has plans to open it up for public use.
Listing information and images from Realestate.com.au