Guest house days 1900 – 1922


In 1888 Plans for the Mornington side of Mount Martha Estate were released which eventually failed, however in the decade after 1890, under the ownership of the Mount Martha Syndicate saw various managers come and go. In 1900 Mount Martha House was owned by Mrs Clara Parker, who came by the property on the death of Robert Watson. It was purchased by Madame Elise Etzensberger a 47 year old Swiss born hotelier of impeccable credentials. She had previously been manageress of Gracedale Hotel at Healesville, one of the premier guest houses in Victoria, coming from London. She left her husband Robert behind and came alone to Australia. A new era of Mount Martha Hotel was beginning. A standard of refinement, usually only found in the best London Hotels, where she had come from, was introduced to the Coffee Palace.
Portrait of Elise Etzensberger
Mm ETZENSBERGER, “Welcome , I hope you have had a good trip?”

GUEST: “Thank you madame, we are parched and travel weary after the long and arduous journey, a train from Melbourne to Mornington and then by Rourke’s Wagonette ride, round the roads and over Balcombe’s bridge. We came along the Dromana Road, turning down, Streatheran Terrace into Bay Road, and the Esplanade. The journey of 4 miles to Mount Martha House is very muddy with big pot holes -the ruts were particularly bad, and are a disgrace. I swear I am black and blue all over”.

Mme Etzensberger: I will organise refreshments for you to partake in your room, while the maid draws you a hot sea water bath. The dinner bell will ring at exactly 6 pm in the front hall.

This weekend Major Henty from Grey Gables opposite is hosting his house party here of young social people from Melbourne, as well as James Hearn from the top of the mount and Mr Byron Moore from The Chalet. There will also be an impromptu tableaux presentation in the drawing room, prepared and presented by the children. Miss Latham, a regular visitor, has borrowed the lace curtains and window chains for a costume, so we hope you came prepared.”

Mm ETZENSBERGER: “Mary here will escort you to your room. Water has to be drawn from the well, and she will hang your wet clothes near the boiler in the kitchen.”

MAID MUTTERING about work load: “A full house makes such a lot of work, drawing water from one of the 6 wells, and heating it for baths, fill the copper to prepare for tomorrows wash, polish the silver and scrub floors, chamber pots to empty, turn down the beds, take care of the guests and their servants who come with them, light the gas lamps, trim the wicks, air the mattresses, polish the mirrors – only me and four maids for 100 guests”.

Narrator: Things in the Kitchen were also tough. Poor Tommy the kitchen boy has to prepare and chop the wood, keep kitchen stoves alight, prepare and chop the vegetables, cleaning the hoi poloy’s boots, looking after the horses and he has a wretched cough.
Things were also difficult for the chef.

CHEF: “Madame for dinner tonight a selection of the finest local produce has been prepared: Beef broth vermicelli, with an entrée of crumbed brains or casseroled pork fillets. The main course choice is roast beef and horseradish or roast lamb and mint sauce or steamed lamb and caper sauce. Mashed swede, cabbage with roast potatoes, followed by a choice of steamed Mildura pudding or perhaps the peach pie.”

NARRATOR: In 1915 as a result of anti-German and Austrian feeling in Australia, Mme Etzensberger was forced to sell the establishment and retire aged 62. She moved 50 metres across the road to Granite Cottage on the corner of Bay Road and the now open Esplanade Road to Mornington. She lived here until she moved to the Beiris of Parkdale House in Mornington, who were her cousins and owners of the first delicatessen where the police station now stands. She died in the Mornington Bush Hospital in 1942 aged 89, and her family brought the ashes to Mount Martha where they were scattered to the four winds.

During this time Mount Martha House was considered the height of fashion. The gentlemen retired to the smoking rooms, which have comfortable leather lounges. The front drawing room (which we call room 64) is decorated in dainty linen muslin and features Moorish arches, white cane furniture, oriental rugs and lace window dressings.

The cost for the family board and lodging is six shillings a day for each person, which includes all meals. Your canine companion was charged at 1 shilling a day.
There were lovely walks over the 1000 acre estate, up to the top of Mount Martha hill. Guests would have a walked to the beach below and seen the fine new windmill, which pumped sea water as well as fresh water from the spring there to one of our 5 wells, these are an unusual construction of a honey comb formation of sleepers.

There was a walking track round to a secluded rocky beach called The Pillars. Just past it, the Esplanade Marine Drive ended at Park Road (now Hearn Road). The track crossed several creeks by fine new wooden trestle bridges. A fine walk indeed.

All the staff live in the white house behind up the steps at the back.

Currently for the season they employed a Chef and Assistant chef, a vegetable preparation boy, who is also the house boy, and 5 young girls who act as house and chamber maids.

Please move to station No 4.for the semi-private country club of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

GORDON. M. Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula pages year
ANDREWS. C. Mount Martha House pages year
Trove newspapers
State Library of Victoria
Map of Mount Martha Estate: Mornington & District Historical Society Inc
FLOOD. R. relative of Mme Etzenberger.
Mornington & District Historical Society Inc
Mount Martha House Historical Collection