The 1000 Islands recently made it onto my bucket list when my cousin in love, T, called me and said “Gotta place for you to go.” Now she knows me well. Indeed it’s not uncommon for her to recommend books, recipes or even real estate ads with a “I think you will like this” attached. More often than not, she’s right.
The collection of small islands are nestled in the St. Lawrence river between the U.S.~Canadian border. Their actual number is 1,793. The islands vary in size from just a small outcropping of rocks to islands that measure over 40 square miles (100 km2).
The criteria for determining island status is that the island must be above water level all year round, have an area greater than 1 square foot (0.093 m2), and support at least one living tree.
I like that. One tree and you’re IN!
Fun fact: one of my favorite ways to top a salad, thousand island dressing, is credited for being invented in the islands. Around the turn of the 20th century Sophie LaLonde served the dressing at dinner for guests of her husband, and then gave the recipe to Clayton hotel owner Ella Bertrand and New York City stage actress May Irwin. Irwin shared it with hotel magnate George C. Boldt. (More on Mr. Boldt later.) Yum!
In the late 19th century several notables began using the islands as a summer resort. Steamboats offered extensive tours, several grand hotels provided luxurious accommodations and many wealthy people built summer homes. One of the most famous examples is "The Towers" on Dark Island which is now called Singer Castle as it was built for Frederick Gilbert Bourne, president of the Singer Manufacturing Company (sewing machine fame).
In 1900 millionaire proprietor, George C. Boldt, owner of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City wanted to build a German inspired Rhineland castle on Hart Island which he rechristened Heart Island. It was to be a testament to his love for his wife, Louise. Over 300 stonemasons, carpenters, and artists created the six story, 120 room castle, which features tunnels, a powerhouse, lovely Italian gardens, a drawbridge, and a dove cote. No expense was spared in creating beauty in even the most minute details.
In 1904, tragedy struck the family. Louise, passed away suddenly. Boldt telegraphed the island and instructed the workers to “stop all construction.” A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without the love of his life. He never returned to the island.
For over 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left to the mercy of the elements, vandals and looters. Then in 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property. It was determined tours would begin and all net revenue would be used for the preservation of Boldt Castle.
Boldt had originally intended to present his Heart Island castle to Louise on her birthday, which coincidently fell on Valentine’s Day. During the original construction and landscaping Boldt included hearts into the overall designs wherever and whenever he could.
As the island was accessible only by water the Entry Gate was modeled after a Roman water gate monument. It was to have drawbridge within the opening to provide a promenade on the embankment of Swan Pond and be the formal entry for launches, delivering guests from larger yachts anchored in the deep water, friends from other islands, and visitors from the mainland. It has now been beautifully restored.
All the stones for all the outbuildings and the castle itself were cut and delivered to the island during the original build and redesign.
Slowly but surely the interiors are either restored or being completed to their intended grandeur. This is the grand hallway and staircase.
I can’t wait to see where you’ve been,