Berghofers Store, 82 Great Western Highway
The Story of Berghofers Store, 82 Great Western Highway
The house is a significant representative example of an early village store in the Mountains, built for leasing to a storekeeper who could live on the premises. Strategically placed near the top of Victoria Pass (and later Berghofer’s Pass), the store was a significant necessity in early Mount Victoria, both to locals and to travellers. The significance of the owner is high. Berghofer was a prominent entrepreneur and politician, well known in Kanimbla, Mount Victoria and Little Hartley, who left his mark through, in particular, the construction of Berghofer’s Pass to allow early cars a better route down the mountains to the west than Victoria Pass then offered.
John William Berghofer (1840 – 1927) was born in the German state of Hesse and came to Australia in 1855 with his mother and younger siblings to join his father in the Sydney area. John William worked as a farm labourer and road overseer around Sydney.
In 1867 he married a young German woman, Katherine Spring (1850 – 1945) and became a dedicated Anglican.
He first encountered the Blue Mountains around 1870 when he left his family in Kogarah and went gold-seeking at Hill End and Gulgong. He returned to Kogarah but in 1875-6 he moved to Kanimbla Valley as manager of the old Norton sheep station recently acquired by Ebenezer Vickery, the industrialist and grazier.
The Berghofer family lived there in the new homestead built by Berghofer himself in 1876. After thirteen years in Kanimbla, the Berghofers moved back to Kogarah in 1889, when Vickery leased the sheep-station, but in 1892 they returned to the Blue Mountains, buying the old Victoria Inn at the foot of Mitchell’s Pass , renaming it Rosenthal, later, because of anti-German sentiment, Rosedal.
Berghofer and his friend H.G. Rienitz, a school-teacher, shared an enthusiasm for education and for the mountain climate. They both bought investment property in Mount Victoria around the same time in the 1880s and wished to capitalise on the growing tourist trade and its attendant services. Berghofer, like Rienets, built cottages for leasing in Montgomery Street: the semi-detached cottages, known as Larsen’s Cottages, were Berghofer’s and built by Neils (Peter) Larsen, father of poet Henry Lawson and ex husband of feminist Louisa Lawson.
At the same time Berghofer built a characteristic general store with living accommodation on the corner of Selsdon Street and the highway and this facility was leased to store-keepers, most notably John Wilson from at least 1912 to 1923.
The house known as Berghofer’s House is likely to have been leased to tenants for much of the sixty years that Berghofer and later his widow owned it.
Berghofer’s primary residence after 1892 was Rosedale, except for the period 1898 to 1903 when he returned to Kanimbla homestead as Vickery’s manager.
When Blaxland Shire (which included Rosedale but not Mount Victoria) was formed in 1906, Berghofer bacame its first President and became famous because of the building of Berghofer’s Pass in 1907-12. For the next two decades Berghofer’s Pass superseded Victoria Pass, until Victoria Pass was improved for motor transport in 1934.
Although Berghofer was a naturalised Australian citizen, he was obliged by war-time legislation to resign from his public office in Blaxland Shire Council in 1916 because he had been born in Germany, just as Rienitz was obliged to close his Mount Victoria school at the same time. Berghofer continued to live at Rosedale but retained close links with Mount Victoria. When he was presented to the future George VI and the present Queen Mother at Mount York in 1927, a journalist described him as ‘Father of Mount Victoria’ : this is excessive, but it is a useful reminder that the complex of store and three houses which Berghofer built there were a significant stage in the village’s development.
Berghofer was buried in Mount Victoria cemetery in 1927. In the 1930s and up to 1941 Miss Hood and then Miss Pratley ran Rosedale as a boarding-house, so it is likely that the widowed Katherine Berghofer came to live in the Mount Victoria house until her death in 1945.
Information found in the Land Titles Office establishes the following chain of ownership: In September 1884 the site of the as yet unbuilt “Selsdon” was owned by James Holmes, described as a gentleman of Mt Victoria. It remained in his possession after he had sold off other land in the area. On 26 January 1887 Holmes transferred the title to the land to John William Berghofer, described as a grazier of Mt Victoria.
Berghofer mortgaged the land to Holmes, and the building that stands on the site was probably built around this period of time.
After he died the property was inherited by John Charles Berghofer, farmer of Castle Hill and Joseph Edward Berghofer, labourer of Portland.
In July or August 1947 it was sold to Ruby Peterson of Katoomba, who sold off part of the land to Miriam Bentley in October 1948 and “Selsdon” to James Reginald Bede Callaghan the following month.
“Selsdon” passed to James Callaghan’s widow Eunice in 1962 after he had died.
She kept the property for several years, then sold it to Gregory Dowler, a toolmaker of Mt Victoria, in 1977.
In 1988 he sold it to Michael and Jennifer Salon.
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