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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wayfaring Wednesday ~ 1000 Islands

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!

File:Rivertree 1 md.jpg
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).

File:Singer Castle.JPG

But the island and house that really captured my attention was Boldt Castle.

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.

There are also several other outbuildings on the island such as the Dove Cote, the Alter Tower, the Yacht House, and the Powerhouse.

Ah, the castle itself. Rehabilitation projects in the interior continue to this day.  

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.

The staircase is indeed a true work of art.

It is topped by a dazzling dome. Do you see the heart’s within the stained glass?
Here is a close up of the gorgeous plasterwork.

I’d love to take a musical turn in the glorious ballroom.

Just look at the ceiling in the reception room!!!

Happily, love has returned to the island. It is now the setting for many romantic weddings.

Let’s enjoy some more images taken by my cousin, E.
Mrs. Boldt’s newly refinished bedroom.
Hey look! It’s my dear cousin in love T and my sweet girl Miss M. Wave back everyone.
Boldt Castle I heart you.
I can’t wait to see where you’ve been,


jeanette from everton terrace said...

Oh my gosh how I have never heard of such a remarkable place - both the islands and the castle. Seriously, I hear about these things and wonder where I have been and what the heck else I don't know. It's true, the older and wiser I get, the more I realize how much I just don't know.
Fabulous tour!


Fabulous place, I love it that the castle is on an island! It is absolutely stunning, I'm so glad someone fixed it and remodle it to it's grandeur. Never heard of it and thank you for the love story you told us, wow! Have a nice Wafing Wednesday. FABBY

The Boston Lady said...

Laura, I drove amongst The Thousand Islands many times as a young girl traveling with my parents from Toronto to the states. We never stopped and I had no idea such grand castles existed there. I always thought it was cottage country. How beautiful and now I will add this one to MY bucket list! Ann

French said...

What a fascinating story! And I learned something new today, where 1,000 island dressing came from!

Kit said...

Oh what a great place! I am so glad they finished it and so fitting that weddings take place there. If I ever make it back to the East Coast I will have to visit it. Kit

Lee said...

Now I have something new on my bucket list!
Thanks so mcu for sharing!

Deanna said...

Magical post!!!
Laura, you sure do a super job on your post.

Lovely to see.

the cape on the corner said...

oh my gosh, i just told the boyfriend about this place! it's on my list. soo glad to see more info about it!

i linked up our recent trip to spain. thanks for hosting this! love to travel!

Liz said...

What a magical place. Your travel experiences blow me away! My little road trip is slightly less impressive. LOL! :)


Bonnie said...

I was fortunate enough to travel there when I was a kid. My father always came up with the most incredible, historical places to take us during the summer. I can remember, even as a child of 11, being totally enthralled by the castle & everything that made up the 1000 Islands. I wanted to move there & live forever. I hope you get to go! Perhaps I should go back...

Sarah said...

Laura, this is the most interesting post! I've never heard of the 1000 islands, so am happy to learn about this. 1000 island dressing is a favorite too!
Thanks for taking us along with these terrific photos and for all the informative facts. Fantastic!
Thanks for hosting. ~ Sarah

Terri said...

I didn't have a link to share this week but I have to say, I loved yours! I didn't know where 1000 Island dressing came from. Good to know!

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

This is being added to the bucket list!! Loveeeeeeee the story of the castle and the dressing too! :):):):):):):):):):):):):)

Mom in High Heels said...

Wow, wow, WOW! That place is stunning. And what a beautiful,but sad story behind it. Must add it to my list of places to go.

JudyBug said...

I watched the program about Boldt castle and just loved it! I would dearly love to tour this...gorgeous pics! said...


Thank you for sharing all of this information on Boldt's Castle. I remember going to the 1000 islands as a child. It always astounds me how grand everything was in the late 1800 - early 1900s. There are many islands off of NY with such structures that have been totally abandoned. So sad.

Your Friend,

Life in the Big Grey Victorian On The Corner said...

We visited Boldt castle before they began renovations and again a few years ago. Sounds like we need to go back again!

Did you know, that you can, evidently, rent the castle overnight?? HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE????

You really gotta see it for yourself!

Kathy said...

Wow that was some tour, I feel like I've been there..great post and I think I might join your WWed this week, I love that idea!

Hollace said...

You never cease to WOW me!