The Watkins Glen Connection To The Titanic

The Watkins Glen Connection To The Titanic

Did you know that there’s a link between Watkins Glen, NY, and the Titanic? In this episode of The History and Mysteries of Seneca Lake, let’s take a trip to the Rothschild mausoleum to learn about Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. We’ll learn about her early life, what led her to a fateful voyage, and how her legacy lives on in Watkins Glen.

The Rothschild’s Mausoleum

The Rothschilds mausoleum is located in Watkins Glen, New York. If you’ve ever hiked up the Watkins Glen Gorge, enjoy this nice hike and take a rest at the very top. On the way back, come down Indian Trail to find the Watkins Glen Cemetery on your left. There, you’ll find one mausoleum built to commemorate Martin Rothschild.

On April 10, 1912, Martin Rothschild, his wife Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, and their little Pomeranian boarded the Titanic in France. At the time, they had been married for 17 years. They were wealthy and childless, as both had married late in life. At that time, she was 54 and he was 48 — an 8-year difference, with Elizabeth being older.

History and Early Life

This pair with first-class tickets to the Titanic were an unlikely couple. While we don’t have a physical description of her, she was eight years his senior with an Irish Catholic background. Mr. Rothschild was Jewish, and his 1900s passport describes him as five foot eight inches tall, bald with brown eyes, a high forehead, a round face, a small mouth, an average nose, and a fair complexion.

There’s only one photo of Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild. She had humble beginnings in life, the fifth daughter of an English-born innkeeper and an Irish-born second wife named Mary. Elizabeth was born in 1858 and lived most of her early life in Watkins Glen, New York on the shores of Seneca Lake.

On June 2, 1905, at the age of 37, Elizabeth married New York clothing manufacturer and millionaire Martin Rothschild. She had been working as his bookkeeper. So, in other words, she married her boss. He was younger, only 29 at the time.

First-Class Passengers

The couple lived at 753 West End Avenue in New York City. However, they spent most of their time traveling throughout the world, usually away for up to six months at a time. Back then, the rich were considered filthy rich, and there was a real class system. The movie Titanic does depict this somewhat accurately.

Among the other millionaires on board were Benjamin Guggenheim (who made his money in mining), Isador Strauss (who opened up Macy’s department store in New York City), and John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest man not only on board the Titanic but possibly in the world at that time. He was the builder of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

All three of these wealthy men, Martin Rothschild, and 1,500 other passengers and crew sank in the Titanic when it went down that fateful night. That means that Mr. And Mrs. Rothschild were rubbing elbows with all the other first-class passengers on board. There’s quite a famous list of people, including The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

An Unlikely Survivor

Touched upon in the movie, many first-class passengers on the Titanic did bring their dogs on board. Only three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic—and one of them was Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild’s Pomeranian. Apparently, she hid the dog when she was getting on lifeboat number six.

The following morning when they were rescued, the Carpathia ship initially refused to take the dog on board. However, Mrs. Rothschild insisted and protested that she would not leave the lifeboat until her dog was placed safely in her lap. She held the dog and was hoisted onto the ship.

It was not highly publicized, understandably. You can imagine the survivor’s guilt Elizabeth must have had that she and her dog survived, but her husband and about 1,500 other people did not.

A Watkins Glen Native

Elizabeth settled back into her New York City home. Every summer, though, she returned to Watkins Glen to stay in a house that she kept there. This home was located at the northeast corner of Porter and Eighth Streets, and she considered Watkins Glen her hometown.

She was always driven around town in a large, black Packard by a chauffeur. Residents of Watkins Glen remember that she almost always wore black. While Mrs. Rothschild lived comfortably, she never forgot about those who were less fortunate. She was extremely generous with money and especially fond of children. Known as Aunt Lizzie, she was a good aunt and very generous with nieces, nephews, and godchildren.

Additionally, Elizabeth held summer socials for local altar boys at Watkins Glen Saint Mary’s of the Lake Roman Catholic Church. She also contributed to having the local cemetery’s roads paved. In general, she refused to talk about her experiences aboard the Titanic. She also never attended any reunions for survivors, which just made everybody all the more curious. Apparently, she was a very private person.

Remembering Elizabeth

Later in life, Elizabeth paid $1,000 for an acre of land to expand the Watkins Glen Cemetery on the hill called Greenwood. It was a Catholic section that she called St. Mary’s at a very prominent spot. She had an elaborate granite mausoleum built as a memorial to her husband. This was her final resting place as well.

Another Titanic connection to Watkins Glen is that in April 2012, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel held a Titanic festival in the Grand Ballroom. It took locals two years to put this event together—and I was there! I wore this awesome period black sequin gown, and they had music that was probably played on the Titanic. Guests included descendants of those who survived the Titanic, and Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild was mentioned during the program.

All the guests were served a first-class meal with multiple courses, a recreation of the actual last meal that was served to first-class passengers.

On a sad note, Elizabeth died a widow alone in 1943. Her body was placed in the mausoleum which she had built for her husband’s memorial. It was said that she could never sleep without a light on after that tragic night.

So if you ever have a chance to visit Watkins Glen, make sure to visit the mausoleum and take a look inside. Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you never miss an episode of my show, and stay tuned to see what I feature next!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *