Memories of Ralston Hall Mansion
The following are memories of Ralston Hall Mansion that have been shared with us. If you would like to include your memory on this site, please fill out our memories form.
Katherine Barbieri Williamson
My father Augostino Barbieri and mother Ruth Barbieri met while working for the nuns in the mid 1930's. As children my brothers and myself played at the property, and had the privilege of knowing many of the sisters first hand. I attended Notre Dame grammar school from 1948 through 1958. My brothers Richard and James attended St Joseph's Military Academy in Belmont until its closure. My father, "Gus," worked for the nuns until his death in 1956. The entire grammar school, high school and college attended his funeral.
The home we lived in was originally part of the Ralston Property. It was purchased from the Sisters of Notre Dame by my father Gus Barbieri. It was moved from amongst the olive trees where the grammar school is presently located to its present location on Francis Avenue in 1944. We still maintain a relationship with Notre Dame, both my granddaughters were baptized in the college chapel. We have many fond memories of the Sisters of Notre Dame and Ralston Hall.
Dini Browne Widmann
I attended Norte Dame grammar school 1953 to 1960. My mother, Mrs. Browne, taught third and forth grade combination class. Ralston hall was our chapel, I made my first Holy Communion in what was once the ballroom, all the beautiful mirrors had been papered over to prevent distractions. We felt very privileged on first Fridays to attend mass at our chapel. At one time I returned to see Ralston hall and was given a private tour; to see those beautiful mirrors freed of their paper brown wrappings was a wish come true.
I am writing this, concerning the beautiful venue. I was yet another guest at Zara's wedding, and am now hoping to marry my fiance. Many who attended were amazed at the experience provide., The day as a whole was first class, thank you.
All I can say is that thanks to you I have been happily married to my beautiful Tom for two years, your location was the cherry on top of the cake, thanks.
I was a guest at a Mrs. Best's wedding recently and was delighted with the service and the way the enchanting locaction left me feeling; the combination of the staff and location left me feeling treated like a celebrity and was a once in a life time experience. It left me with a very nice special feeling overall. Me and my spouse Rose Meigh are now enagaged and looking to be wed and thinking of enquiring within this beautiful peice of history, all I say is thankyou!
I got married here last autum and I was ecstatic to see the delightful venue. It was very impressive and I had such a wonderful wedding. My good friend Rose attended my wedding and she absolutely loved it, so now she is actually looking to get a place here for herself and her fiance Mark; they should hopefully be getting married here next winter. Thank you so much for such a great wedding. I will definately pass the message on to all of my friends.
I have previously visited the mansion for a friend's wedding after I was unable to attend hers in the country I am currently living in and due to me being away on holiday anyway. I had the honour of being a bridesmaid alongside my friend Zara. I can remember perfectly the fairytale-like venue and it was such a magical experience; it was probably the best wedding I have been to. As well as the beautiful venue the staff were a credit to the place and provided an amazing service. I am now engaged and hoping to be wed in two years and looking at the venue so thank you very much.
Donna Thompson, Notre Dame de Namur University (then CND) '45
When I first viewed the Mansion, I was awestruck, never seeing a place of such grandeur before. Huge rooms, etched glass doors, antiques, tall ceilings and the staircase! It was my mother’s decision that I attend CND, a small two-year women’s college.
A priest said Mass every morning, early. Betty and I often attended, in what is now the ballroom. All mirrors were covered, with no decorations on the walls. A silent retreat. We were required to be fully dressed (no coat over PJ’s) and wore a chapel veil—available in a chest of drawers near the dining room entrance. Only sisters made the responses at Mass.
Meals were elegantly served in the beautiful, spacious, crystal-chandeliered dining room. The sisters cleaned the crystals, one by one, on ladders. The antique clock over the mirrored buffet reminded us of class times. Each had an appointed chair and a silver napkin ring.
A tiny kitchen, off the dining room, now a restroom, was available to residents. Some evenings the aroma of butter and refried beans wafted up to open rooms. The South American students, remembering home, refried cans of beans with spices. If lucky, one could beg a portion and savor it, while viewing well-worn photos of these classmates’ betrothed husbands whom they had never met.
One evening a young, newly-ordained, handsome priest was invited to dinner. After the meal, some of us assembled in the inner living room, adjacent to the dining room. Student entertainment ensued. A very lovely, quite exotic South American classmate, coming quite close to him, vocalized “Bésame Mucho,” with all the moves. The young priest turned vermillion with embarrassment. We stifled giggles. The sisters, horrified, escorted the performer from the room with verbal apologies (after the song ended).
The huge curved banister from the elaborate entry to the second floor balcony enticed me. Raising all of my courage, one very quiet afternoon, I decided to chance sliding down from the balcony floor. I saw no one about. I swiftly descended around the curve, down to the sudden stop – a rather soft one. Sister Barbara, arms outspread, held me – pressed against her chest. I was stunned. “My dear, Miss Weiler, ladies do not do such things. You shall not do this ever again!” Giving me her Cheshire cat smile, she turned on her heel and walked away, leaving me to assemble my dignity and stop trembling.
My days at the college, knowing Sisters Barbara, Marie of St. Joseph, Ernestine, Eloise Marie and several others, the great lifetime friends I made, the superior education, living in the elegant Ralston Mansion, a historic treasure, calling it “home,” these are the memories of one of the most happy years of my life. I am forever grateful.
Our good family friend and his then-fiance were married here in 2001. I actually caught the bridal bouquet and had my picture taken with my flowers, bride and groom. Never thought about it again until 2010 and decided to use Ralston as my reception hall for my own wedding. Everyone still talks about it today and says it was a beautiful wedding and hall. I absolutely loved using Ralston and enjoy looking back at all my beautiful pictures. Thanks Ralston!
Denise Winkelstein, Notre Dame de Namur University (then CND) '74
In 1972, my roommate, Lisa Lee Chung, and I went to the ballroom for the first time for registration for classes. We were both amazed at the beautiful room, having never seen anything quite like it before. After registration, we snuck upstairs to the second floor to look around and were astonished with the beautiful Antique Gallery, skylight and elegantly carved staircase. As we walked down the stairs, I thought out load how wonderful it would be to walk down this stair case in my wedding gown! Fast forward 20 years. In 1992, my husband and I were married in the gardens with Lisa as a bridesmaid and her lovely daughter, Ashlee, as our flower girl. At the reception, I made sure I got to walk down that beautiful staircase in my gown as many times as possible.
In 2003, I returned to the mansion as one of the wedding and event coordinators. What a joy to work in that wonderful building that holds so many memories for so many people. I had the pleasure of seeing many brides walk down that elegant staircase, just as I did. I can’t wait until I can do that again….