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Kohler Acquires Historic Hotel near Old Course


Hamilton Hall overlooks the 18th hole at the Old Course.

Herb Kohler, Chairman and CEO of Kohler Co., has announced that its subsidiary, The Old Course Limited, has purchased Hamilton Hall in St. Andrews, Scotland, one of the most photographed buildings in the world of golf. Kohler Co. emerged as the winning party after a competitive bid process for the property conducted by Jones Lang La Salle and the Bank of Scotland. The Old Course Limited now owns and operates the Old Course Hotel, Kohler Waters Spa and the Duke's golf course, all of which will play a role in the future of Hamilton Hall.

Hamilton Hall, which opened as a hotel in 1895, is a four-story, 45,000-square-foot building that overlooks the 18th green and fairway on the Old Course. It looks down West Sands beach and out to the North Sea and sits adjacent to the 255-year-old Royal & Ancient Golf Club. Unfortunately, its interior is little more than rubble. Nevertheless, when Hamilton Hall became available for purchase, Kohler felt it was restorable and a good fit with the company's resort properties. "We are honored to own such an iconic building in the home of golf," he said.

Hamilton Hall opened as the Grand Hotel in 1895 to capitalize on St. Andrews becoming 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 opened as a place of residence in 1949 under the name Hamilton Hall. In 2005, the university announced it had sold the hall as the result of an unsolicited bid; the 2005-06 university session would be the last year Hamilton Hall was in use. The building is one of the most famous in St. Andrews. It was featured in the film "Chariots of Fire" and in 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," added 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, with an eye toward creating a place that will enhance St. Andrews as the world's premier golf destination. Kohler said 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," he continued. "Our company has long demonstrated the passion and ability it takes to restore historic buildings back to great distinction."

Among Kohler's higher-profile renovations are the American Club in Kohler, Wis., 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's considered one of the 40 great mansions in North America. In 2001, Kohler Co. refurbished the estate and reopened it with 31 rooms and a spa as a private club.