This story is part of the Bendigo Advertiser's special feature to mark this weekend's 150th anniversary of Bendigo being declared a city and discover more about the people who called it home in 1871.
ONE of Bendigo's most important homes is celebrating 150 years since a dramatic transformation that mirrored that of the city it sits in.
"Quartz King" George Lansell bought the modest two story Fortuna Villa in 1871 and began rebuilding with the zeal he had used to make himself Australia's richest man.
Lansell had taken a huge gamble years earlier to mine deeper into Bendigo's goldfields than anyone had dared go before.
The amount of gold he found there triggered a new mining boom in 1871 and radically changed the course of Bendigo's history.
Lansell was determined to leave a similar mark on Fortuna Villa, current owner Paul Banks said.
"It was a modest two story, eight bedroom house when he bought it," he said.
"But as his net worth grew he basically turned it into a 70-room monster."
It was a beautiful monster full of Bendigo and Australia's history.
Below: gallery of photos inside Fortuna Villa
Lansell channeled some of his immense wealth back into Bendigo and at one time owned 24 mines in the city, making him one of the most important employers in the region.
He was so powerful that his death in 1906 threatened the city's future and there was deep consternation until his son vowed to keep the family business in Bendigo.
It can be difficult today to picture how significant Lansell was to Bendigo in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but perhaps the funeral procession to mark his death in 1906 gives some indication.
"On every point of vantage around the mansion house of deceased crowds of people stood awaiting the starting of the cortege, which was to follow the late 'Quartz King' to his grave in the Back Creek Cemetery," an Advertiser report stated at the time.
There were so many mourners that police had to manage crowds and traffic along the entire route.
More than 300 of his workers led the coffin out of Fortuna Villa and a long line of friends and family followed it.
Just three years earlier, dignitaries including the city's mayor had arrived at the mansion to celebrate Lansell's birthday. St Paul's bells were rung for an hour and every public building in Bendigo and Eaglehawk hoisted flags to mark the occasion.
The mansion itself has been at the centre of Bendigo's history for many other reasons over the years.
It has seen everything from an earthquake large enough to knock one of Lansell's children off his bike in 1903 to military personnel who took over the building in World War Two.
Mr Banks felt his role was to carry on Lansell's vision for the building.
"It is such a special piece of architecture," he said.
This story is part of a special feature coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Bendigo being declared a city, which takes place on Sunday. As a subscriber you are getting access to this story first. The feature appears in print on Saturday.
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