Thursday, August 6, 2009

Boldt Castle

So last weekend I went to Canada, and Saturday's adventure was returning to the U.S. *heh* to see Boldt Castle. (I had to show my passport and explain where I met the foreign national...not sure why in 2009 it's hard to believe an Iowa-based corporation could have a Munich branch office...)

It's marketed as a "love story"--hotel magnate George Boldt started building a replica Rhineland castle for his wife, then abandoned construction when she died--but the more interesting story is that George Boldt(pdf) got to be a multimillionaire in the first place.

He started out as a 13-year-old immigrant dishwasher in New York. He learned English. He saved his wages, bought some land in Texas, failed at chicken farming, and returned to upstate NY to wash more dishes at a small hotel. He worked his way up to steward, met a guy who needed a steward at a businessman's club in Philadelphia, moved to the better job, impressed some patrons who invested in a hotel of his own, made it successful, caught the attention of William Waldolf Astor, became a manager of the Waldorf in NYC, revolutionized the hospitality industry, started investing his compensation in real estate, and took off from there.

Much more interesting than "rich guy loses wife, gives up."

It's a classic American story--hard work, a little luck meeting the right people, the willingness to take risks on better opportunity--and except for "investing in real estate" it seems really anachronistic now. Learning English? Moving to a new city to take advantage of an opportunity? (some degreed professionals still do this, but lesser-skilled workers collect government checks to stay put and unemployed...) Going back to washing dishes instead of expecting the government to bail out your failed venture and support your lifestyle?

Not to mention anyone who does these things in the 21st century is going to get kneecapped right around "became a manager of the Waldorf" as local, state, and federal governments combine to confiscate over half his compensation.

So much for feeling inspired.

I got a kick out of the unrestored rooms as much as anything. I love to see how stuff is put together.

Unrelated, spent the weekend drinking Steamwhistle, which is not available in the U.S. Claiming that their use of hops, malt, and yeast "save(s) the planet" strikes me as a ridiculous marketing conceit, but it was tasty.

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