Foot Prints

In the Name of Love

Between the borders of Ontario, Canada and New York State in the U.S., is a wide and long river known as the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  Flowing north from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Lawrence Seaway is 2342 miles long and held a vital role in the war of 1812.

But just above Lake Ontario is an enclave of small islands known as the Thousand Islands. In a short stretch of the St. Lawrence River are literally over a thousand islands varying in size and types of homes built on them.

In 1822, a boundary line that snakes in between islands was set to divide Canada from the United States. In 1823, Elisha Camp purchased all the islands on the American side and began to sell them. Little known, the islands became the hot-spot of the well heeled when in 1872 George M. Pullman brought President Grant and General Sherman as guests to the area.

In the early 1890’s, owner and manager of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, George Boldt was so impressed with the islands that he decided to build his own castle for the love of his life, Louise. Designing a full-size Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay, the expansive property was a true testament of his love for Louise.

Purchasing the five-acre Hart Island, he began construction of a massive castle and complete complex on Hart Island. Redesigning the foot print of the island in the shape of a heart, Boldt added a boat lagoon and swan pond.

Adjacent to the Swan Pond, Boldt built a sand castle “Alster Tower” to be the play house for the family. Including a bowling alley, billiard room, library, bedrooms, and a kitchen, this was the first  building completed on the island.

As the islands were quite rustic, power needed to be made on-site. The power house held a steam-powered generator, which had to be completely rebuilt after a large fire.

Wellesley Island is adjacent to Heart Island, where George Boldt had a large farm that provided the Waldorf-Astoria with produce and meats for their use. On Wellesley Island, facing Boldt Castle is an immense boat house, designed to accommodate both sail and steam boats up to 128 feet.

Needless to say, the crowning jewel of the island was Boldt Castle. Considered the most magnificent home in the Thousand Island area, Boldt recruited the assistance of over 300 artisans, masons, stonecutters, landscapers, and other craftsmen and the six-story, 120 room castle was well on its way to completion.

But then tragedy struck. In 1904, just four years into construction, George Boldt’s love of his life, Louise died suddenly. Boldt telegraphed the island instructing them to “Stop construction immediately!”

His broken heart couldn’t bear to continue to build his dream castle without Louise. He never returned to Heart Island, leaving a shell of a castle, mimicking the emptiness of his own heart.

Heart Island remained untouched until Boldt passed away in 1916, when Edward John Noble of the Beechnut Fruit Company purchased the property. However, the island continued to suffer from neglect, being left open to visitors for nearly 73 years that were free to wander the island. Vagrants and vandals rummaged through the island, leaving graffiti memories high on the walls within the castle.

In 1977, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority purchased the island and have begun the painstaking and costly love of restoration. After pouring millions of dollars into restoration, the first two floors have been restored. However, it is said that the castle will never be completed, just as Boldt had intended.

Mother-in-Law’s Island

For visiting information, please visit the Official Boldt Castle Website here.

24 replies »

  1. great article, and it brought back memories too. I was born a stones throw from the Seaway in Cornwall and emigrated to the UK when I was 12…many happy memories of this area…thanks for bringing it back to me…

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