Fife, Scotland, December 8, 2009– In June, 2005 Wasserman Real Estate Capital, a 44-year-old, family-owned real-estate company with retail, multi-family and mixed-use properties located throughout the United States and Europe, purchased the historic Hamilton Hall. A stately 45,000-square-foot, four-story hotel that overlooks the 18th hole and first green of The Old Course, Hamilton Hall sits adjacent to the 255-year-old Royal and Ancient Golf Club and is one of the most widely recognized and photographed buildings in the golf world. It was Wasserman’s intent to completely restore the old building inside and out and reopen it as the St. Andrews Grand, a world-class residential golf and sporting club. In other words, the building was to become an upscale timeshare resort.
Wasserman entered into an agreement with Bank of Scotland Corporate totaling 84.3 million pounds to finance the project.
Wasserman’s plans are now kaput, as the Bank of Scotland repossessed the property in June, 2009 and has now sold it to Kohler, Co. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the Times of London reported that Kohler was set to pay an estimated 14 to 15 million pounds — between about $23 million and about $25 million at the current exchange rate.
Purchased through its subsidiary, The Old Course Limited, Kohler Co. also owns and operates the 5 AA Red Star Old Course Hotel, the Kohler Waters Spa and The Duke’s golf course, all of which will play a role in the future of Hamilton Hall. Whether or not Kohler’s plans will include some type of timeshare/residence club scheme has not been determined yet.
Hamilton Hall was originally opened as the Grand Hotel in 1895 to capitalize on the rapid expansion of St Andrews as a popular tourist destination for golf and sea bathing. Founder Thomas Hamilton is said to have commissioned the construction immediately after his application for membership had been rejected by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. In an attempt to draw attention away from the Royal & Ancient, Hamilton constructed the much larger and more extravagant building adjacent to it.
During World War II, the hotel was requisitioned by the armed forces and never reopened as a hotel. Shortly after the end of the War, the hotel was acquired by the University of St Andrews and was opened as a hall of residence in 1949 under the name Hamilton Hall. In 2005, the University announced that it had sold the Hall as the result of an unsolicited bid and consequently the university session 2005-06 would be the last year Hamilton Hall would be open as a hall of residence. The building is one of the most famous in St Andrews as it was featured in the film Chariots of Fire and in global television coverage of the many golf tournaments played on the Old Course.
“We are excited about the development opportunities for Hamilton Hall, and appreciate both the support and enthusiasm the local community has for the property,” said CEO Herb Kohler. “We look forward to gathering input from the townspeople and the Fife Council as to what the name of the building should be along with its future use.
Kohler Co. intends to conduct a “public consultation process” over the next few months toward creating a unique and economically viable product that will enhance St Andrews offering as the world’s premier golf destination. Herb Kohler suggested that “individuals who may one day occupy Hamilton Hall would be afforded a number of hospitality amenities including public and private dining at the Old Course Hotel, concierge and valet service, Kohler Waters Spa membership and Duke’s Golf Club membership, as well as a week at our very special private club called Riverbend in Kohler, Wisconsin U.S.A.”
“Our priority is to complete the preservation of Hamilton Hall and return it to a viable and prominent position in St Andrews for generations to come,” Kohler continued. “Our company has long demonstrated the passion and ability it takes to restore historic buildings back to great distinction.”
Among Kohler’s high-profile renovations include The American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, which opened in 1918 as a dormitory for immigrant factory workers. The property was restored and reopened as a resort hotel in 1981, and today stands as the Midwest’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel, a recognition it has earned for 25 consecutive years. The American Club is included on a list of Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
More recently, the company restored Riverbend, an estate home constructed in 1923 by Walter J. Kohler, then Governor of Wisconsin and President of Kohler Co. It was considered one of the 40 great mansions of North America. In 2001, Kohler Co. refurbished the estate and re-opened it with 31 rooms and its own spa as an exclusive private membership club.