Although in this day and age, multi millionaires look to the sky for their thrills, there was a time when they looked to the sea. One such example was an American millionaire named Howard Gould, who dropped anchor aboard his magnificent yacht Niagra at Passage East in Waterford Harbour on Sunday July 21st 1901. Here for a tour of Ireland, he was also on the hunt for a castle to create his new home. Cian Manning has the story for us.
The eccentric American millionaire Howard Gould was described by the Evening Herald (Dublin) as ‘…not born famous. [But] He has [had] fame thrust upon him…’ Howard was the son of American railroad magnate Jay Gould who was described as a ‘Robber baron’, amassing his fortune through unprincipled business practices making him one of the wealthiest individuals in the late-19th century. The controversial New Yorker was unpopular for his unscrupulous ways which led to a famous cartoon depicting Wall Street as his ‘Private Bowling Alley’. Howard (born 8th June 1871) was the fourth child of 6 born to Jay Gould and his wife Helen Day Miller. He attended Columbia College and matriculated with the class of 1894 but records of the undergraduate college of Columbia University show that he did not graduate. Four years later, Howard Gould purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange with his offices located at 195 Broadway. It was a seat he maintained till his death in 1959.
TWO YACHTS NAMED NIAGARA
The younger Gould’s real passion however (aside from money) was competitive yachting. A year after entering the New York Stock Exchange, Howard Gould acquired the 65-foot (20m) sloop yacht named Niagara built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island in 1895. It was in this vessel that Gould won Lord Dunraven’s Castle Yacht Club Challenge Cup. Skippered by John Barr, in her first racing season she won 29 first prizes, nine second prizes and one third prize. In the twenty-rating class, Niagara sailed at the Thames Yacht Club Regatta and at the end of the ’95 season was left at Fay’s yards in Southampton for the winter.
In addition to his sloop, Gould owned a large (282 ft) steam yacht also known as the Niagara, which was built in 1898 by Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington, Delaware. Coincidentally the acquiring of both vessels coincided with romantic entanglements. Prior to buying the sloop yacht, Gould was engaged to actress Odette Tyler who performed a number of Shakespearian roles such as Desdemona, Juliet and Portia. However, both families objected to the engagement which was subsequently broken off. One wonders was the purchase of the sloop a way to cheer-up a broken heart and to get away from the United States by competing at regattas in the United Kingdom.
The same year that the steam yacht was built, Gould married the actress (he certainly had a type) Katherine Clemmons on the 12th October 1898. One review described Clemmons as having ‘a beautiful profile and a lissom figure but was devoid of any acting ability.’ While married to Gould it is believed that Clemmons was having an affair with ‘Buffalo Bill’ aka William F. Cody who subsidized a huge portion of her acting career.
GOULD & NIAGARA AT WATERFORD HARBOUR
On Sunday 21st July 1901, Gould put into Waterford Harbour aboard his magnificent yacht for the purpose of visiting various castles and country residences to form an understanding of ‘what a nobleman’s house is like’. As the Nationalist (Tipperary) put it ‘His ostensible object is to see some of our [Ireland’s] famous castles to find a model for the grand new mansion he is about to build in New York suburbs.’ The plan was for Gould to sail from Waterford to Queenstown (Cobh) with a coaching tour through Kerry in mind. Though like all things in Ireland this was subject to change and, with the riches Gould could spend to cover such excursions, why wouldn’t it?
The Evening Herald surmised:
As Howard Gould’s magnificently appointed yacht, bought out of the millions that he never earned, lay anchored between the Waterford and Wexford shores, he might have visited many a place whose memories would broaden his mind, and give him knowledge which, in the long run, might be of no more use to him than suggestions for building a palatial residence of marble, stucco, and gliding that is to lick creation.
Anchored at Passage East, the Waterford News noted that the Niagara was ‘much admired by those who had the opportunity of seeing the graceful outlines of this splendid vessel even at a distance, for no visitors were allowed aboard.’ Tuesday 23rd July saw Gould and his party travel to Waterford in one of the steam launches and lunched at the Imperial Hotel on the Mall. The local paper described it as follows:
The luncheon was served in the splendid drawing-room of the Imperial Hotel, the spacious proportions of which were much admired by the visitors, and the beautiful ceiling of the apartment which is an exquisite work of art attracted very special and most appreciative attention
After lunch the party made up of Mr and Mrs Gould, Mr. W.A. Perry, Mrs. Perry and Mr H. Perry Jr of New York and A.H. Lery (London) took the 1.30 train from Waterford to Kilkenny. Before leaving the Imperial Hotel, Gould was presented by William Murray (proprietor of the hotel) with a copy of the Waterford News’ publication Beauty Spots.
From the Marble County, the American’s party travelled to Limerick and took a coach from the Treaty County to Listowel en-route to Killarney. While travelling Munster, the Niagara was making it’s way for Bantry Bay. Stops in Kerry included Tralee, Dingle, Valentia to visit the Knight of Kerry, Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Waterville, Parknasilla, Kenmare, Glengariff, Bantry and Cork before departing aboard their yacht for Le Havre.
While at Queenstown, Gould’s yacht was not the only American millionaire’s vessel to arrive that week. The morning after docking there, those aboard the Niagara would have witnessed the White Star steamer Majestic (1899) arrive from New York. Aboard was W.A. Vanderbilt whose fortune was made through steamboats and railroads. A few years previously, Vanderbilt had built the largest privately owned home in the United States in the form of the 250-room mansion named Biltmore Estate. The Staten Island native, with his party, boarded his yacht Valiant and made their way for Southampton.
Six months after Gould’s visit to the south of Ireland, it was reported by Mr. J.J. Comerford in the Royal Magazine that Gould planned to build a replica of Kilkenny Castle in Long Island. He was able to obtain photographs of the castle while engineers and architects planned to build a larger version of Kilkenny Castle with modern comforts and improvements across the Atlantic. This was known as Castle Gould though it was not to the couples liking, they decided to build another larger house in a Tudor style and called it Hempstead House. After the completion of the estate in 1912, Gould sold it to Daniel Guggenheim.
DEBTS, DIVORCE & THE DEISE
Although everything seems to have been cordial between the Goulds and their connections with Ireland it would not always be the case. In 1906, the Cork painter Henry Jones (Thaddeus Walsh) brought an action against Mrs. Gould who would not pay the contracted price on a portrait she was dissatisfied with. The court found in favour of Jones with Katherine Gould having to pay $5,675. A year later saw the beginning of the process of judicial separation between the couple as Katherine accused her husband of bribing detectives in the public service to shadow her movements and gather evidence against her for court proceedings. The matter was finally settled two years later when the Court granted the separation exonerating Clemmons of Howard’s charges of impropriety and habitual intoxication. She was granted an allowance of £7,200 a year.
Gould married one final time in 1937 to German actress Grete Mosheim (whose most notable credit was her role in the 1930 film Dreyfus based on the events of the Dreyfus affair). However, the couple divorced ten years later. Howard was the last surviving son of Jay Gould and Helen Day Miller , he died in 1959 aged 88 at Doctors Hospital in Manhattan. Of the two vessels named Niagara that he was most associated with, the sloop was broken up in England in 1960 while the steamer was bought by the US Navy on 10th August 1917. She was converted into an armed patrol yacht and commissioned in Tebo’s Yacht Basin, Brooklyn under the command of Commander E.B. Larimer. After the First World War she cruised off the coast of Mexico and on 17th July 1920 Niagara was reclassified as PY-9 patrolling the Caribbean. Finally the steam yacht was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 21st April 1922. Recommissioned as Niagara, the vessel was used to survey in the Caribbean and from 1924 charted the Gulf of Venezuela and the coast of Central America. She was decommissioned a second time in 1931 and sold for scrapping two years later.
Howard’s visit to the south-east was not the last connection between the Gould family and Waterford. In 1911, nearly ten years after Howard’s tour of the castles in the south of Ireland, his niece Helen Vivien Gould married John Beresford, 5th Baron Decies. Sadly Helen died tragically of jaundice and a heart attack in London in February 1931.
One would imagine today that if an American millionaire docked in Passage East there would be a frenzy on Twitter and Instagram as a wealthy celebrity party toured Ireland, a grand tour in search of grand designs. You could say it was by Hook or by Crooke that Gould ended up building Kilkenny Castle on Long Island, New York. An unusual story concerning the auld sod and the New World. Though the tale has largely been forgotten you could say silence was Gould’s end.
Many thanks to Cian for this fascinating account. Cian is the author of Waterford City A History which is available through all good bookshops or online here. Cian also has a passion for sport, check out some of his blog stories at Póg Mo Goal