Hopewell Hall On Wellesley Island, Completed In 1891
William C. Browning’s Hopewell Hall would begin construction on what was then known as Wells Island in 1890. Browning was one of the founders of Browning, King & Co. based in New York City, at one point the largest clothing manufacturer in the world.
Built on “West Point” of Wellesley Island in the St. Lawrence River, Hopewell Hall would be near George Pullman’s Castle Rest on Pullman Island, one of the first castles to be completed in the 1000 Islands during the Gilded Age that saw the likes of Boldt and Emery Castles constructed. George Boldt halted work on his in 1904 after the death of his wife but eventually purchased Hopewell Hall in 1912.
On December 17, 1890, the Watertown Daily Times would remark on the progress of Hopewell Hall–
The most picturesque cottage on the river is now nearing completion by Contractor S. G. Pope, for W. C. Browning, of New York, at West Point, near Castle Rest. But being on a higher elevation, it commands a much more fine view of the river, and will attract and hold the eye of the tourist. It consists of a boathouse, large enough to accommodate his two-sparred steam yacht, a massive cottage of stone and wood, with a dome-shaped tower facing the river and a very pretty dock and observatory or dockhouse on the channel front.
W. C. Browning passed away in 1904 from apoplexy, more commonly referred to today as a stroke, while at Hopewell Hall in early August of 1904. The news would draw the following comments in the Daily Times–
Mr. Browning took an active interest in everything of benefit to this region, and by his kindly, genial manner won friends among all classes. Flags on the river steamboats and nearly all the private homes and hotels are at half mast in his memory.
Hopewell Hall would not be occupied again until 1909, when the estate rented it out to Herbert Cappell of New York City on August 19. There is some confusion regarding what happened next, but the Watertown Daily Times reported that, a week later, Herbert Cappell purchased Hopewell Hall and would soon renovate it. This appears to be the case as it was mentioned shortly thereafter that new shingles were being placed on the mansion – but it would conflict with the next bit of news nearly three years later.
On March 28, 1912, the Daily Times would report–
George C. Boldt of the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, has purchased “Hopwell Hall,” just above here, from William C. Browning estate. The property is said to be valued at $500,000. “Hopewell Hall” contains 225 acres and is one of the prettiest places on the St. Lawrence River. The property will become a part of the Boldt Farm. Mr. Boldt will fix the residence property up and rent it. He now owns nine places in one section.
During the construction of Boldt Castle, George purchased property on Wellesley Island and constructed a farm which he continued to occupy after ceasing work on the Castle in 1904. This information contradicts with whom the purchase was made, so there’s uncertainty, at least within archived newspapers, as to whether Herbert Cappell owned the property or not.
Also, some confusion exists about Boldt’s intent with purchasing Hopewell Hall. Some articles suggest it was purchased as a wedding gift to his only daughter, while the Daily Times noted the property, like some others that Boldt had acquired, would be rented out to close friends.
Nevertheless, the property would ultimately pass to his daughter, Mrs. Niles R. (Clover) Johaneson, after George Boltd’s death on December 4, 1916, when Boldt suddenly died at his Waldorf-Astoria apartment. At the time, George Boldt had amassed approximately 3,000 acres total of property on the St. Lawrence River alone, with an estimated worth of $5,000,000. In 2021 dollars, that would equate to nearly $127,500,000.
As a result, Hopewell Hall would stay within the Boldt Family for generations, from Clover Louis Boldt, as she was divorced by 1910, to her daughter, Clover Wotherspoon Boldt (soon to be Boldt Baird), upon her death in 1963. Three years after Clover Wotherspoon Boldt Baird passed away in 1993, her descendants would sell it to Marguerite Sanzone.
Hopewell Hall had been on the market for several years but sold earlier in 2021 for the sum of $3.6 million. Interestingly enough, the buyer was Jeremy T. Smith, grandson of Edward John Noble, who, along with George Boldt’s son-in-law A. Graham Miles, would purchase all of Boldt’s St. Lawrence River properties with the exception of Hopewell Hall back in 1922.
Per the Watertown Daily Times, Hopewell Hall “includes 85 acres with a 5-acre peninsula and two private docks. The building is comprised of 9,444 square feet with 11 bedrooms and 9.5 baths. There are also two guest cottages.”
Below is a video produced by Horizon Aerial Media when Hopewell Hall was for sale. You may want to view it on YouTube as they provide additional information in the description to accompany the amazing footage.
Edward John Noble, born in Gouverneur, would pass away in 1958. During his career, he was the head of several corporations, including having founded the Candy Life Savers Corporation in 1913 and the American Broadcasting Corporation, better known as ABC, in 1943.
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