After 160 years, Fortuna is finally complete

It’s taken almost 160 years but Bendigo’s historic Fortuna Villa has finally been completed, with workers putting the finishing touches on the building’s third storey balcony this week.

Owner Paul Banks said wealthy prospector George Lansell, who purchased the building in 1871 and began work on its third floor in 1888, never got around to finishing off the balcony’s railings.

“In George's era there was a single rail on the third floor which anyone could have fallen through quite easily, and it’s a long way up so you'd never recover,” he said.

“Then in military days they put sheep mesh up there but it was illegal, the height, I think it was at about 750 [millimetres].”

So Mr Banks enlisted the help of a number of local businesses to replicate the original lacework railing from the second floor and replace the stopgap measure put in place by the government during the mansion’s time as a military facility.

“We decided to copy the lacework from the second level and basically copy it and make it the legal height of over a metre,” he said.

“It’s a complete replica of what was already there, we’ve taken down every piece of lace work and we’ve powder coated and sandblasted it.

“You can’t change anything, all you’ve got to do is just maintain and renovate.”

Mr Banks has been working to restore the historic manor since purchasing it in 2013, and said while more than half of its 70 rooms had now been restored, there was still plenty of work to be done.

“There’s still a lot of rooms to do but we’re well over half way internally – but the thing is, when you finish, guess what, you’ve got to start again,” he said.

“We’re working on the roman baths now, bringing them back to life and that’ll be ready by summer and that’s pretty exciting – it's already got water in it courtesy of the rain from the other day.”

Mr Banks thanked his small team of dedicated staff as well as the local businesses that contributed to the restoration for their hard work.

“It was like one big jigsaw puzzle and credit has to go to Rod Letts, my resident painter, and Ian Reid and Damien Tuohey for the maintenance and passion – they all shared my vision from the start,” he said.

“The team at Golden City Lace, Bendigo Powder Coating and Haymes Paint have been terrific as well. The dedication these companies showed are a credit to them.

“The before and after shots are classic examples of what you can achieve if you have vision and a plan. We had a tight budget and have completed it within our means by doing a lot of the labour ourselves.”

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