Plumbing tycoon to sink £30m into golf icon
5th December 2009
Hamilton Hall has overlooked the hallowed surface of the 18th green at the Old Course at St Andrews since 1895 and has now been bought by the owner of the Old Course Hotel.
Yesterday it was revealed that the imposing four-storey building is finally to be restored to its former glory by Herb Kohler, a plumbing magnate who is one of the United States' richest tycoons and owner of the nearby Old Course Hotel.
Hamilton Hall, a former halls of residence originally opened as the Grand Hotel 104 years ago, has been slowly deteriorating since 2004 when St Andrews University sold the building to a US real estate company.
But Mr Kohler, who has bought Hamilton Hall for £11 million, said yesterday he was ready to spend up to £30m restoring and refurbishing the famous red sandstone building.
He said: "We are honoured to own such an iconic building in the home of golf. It is a very big responsibility that has been put on our shoulders but we are going to enjoy the task.
"We have paid £11m for the property, plus a little tax. But we expect that the cost of renovation will be at least two, possibly three times, the purchase price."
Mr Kohler said his initial proposals were to turn Hamilton Hall into a series of one-bedroom luxury timeshare flats, or two to four-bedroom apartments, linked to services provided at the Old Course Hotel, flanking the 17th fairway. He said he was anxious that the people of St Andrews and Fife Council should be involved in the decision-making process.
His company, Kohler Co, would be conducting a public consultation process until the end of January with a view to creating a "a unique and economically viable" facility which would enhance St Andrews' reputation as the world's premier golf destination.
"We expect a strong input," he continued. "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. Our company has long demonstrated the passion and ability it takes to restore historic buildings back to great distinction."
But he warned: "We are going to have our work cut out restoring and maintaining the integrity of that structure. We will essentially be starting from scratch."
Mr Kohler, 69, owns the Duke's Course at St Andrews and two leading courses in the US – Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run. Ted Brocklebank, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: "I have no doubt that the Kohler Company will now restore Hamilton Hall to its former glory."
HAMILTON Hall opened in St Andrews as the Grand Hotel in 1895. It was built by businessman Thomas Hamilton after he was reputedly rejected for membership of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
During the Second World War, the hall was requisitioned by the armed forces and never reopened as a hotel. And, shortly after the end of hostilities, the hotel was bought by St Andrews University.
The building opened as a student hall of residence in 1949 under the name Hamilton Hall. In 2004, the landmark building was bought by American developer David Wasserman, of Wasserman Real Estate Capital, for a reported £20million to create a "fractional ownership" scheme. But Mr Wasserman's plans to turn the building into luxury timeshare apartments failed to materialise and the empty building was left to deteriorate.
In June, Hamilton Hall was put up for sale under the instructions of creditors HBOS. It is understood that ten bids were made.