Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle, located on Heart Island (New York) in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River, along the northern border of New York State, is a major landmark and tourist attraction in its region.

George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and owner of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, and his family for several summers enjoyed an earlier frame cottage on Hart Island (the original name) which they greatly expanded. In 1900 the Boldts launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a huge masonry structure, one of the largest private homes in America. They engaged the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and hundreds of workers for a six-story "castle", a major international landmark. In addition four other masonry structures on the island are architecturally notable. Equally distinctive is a huge yacht house on a neighboring island where the Boldts had another summer home and a vast estate, incorporating farms, canals, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a polo field. The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired Heart Island and the nearby yacht house in 1977, for one dollar, under the agreement that all revenues obtained from the castle operation would be applied towards restoration, so that the island would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. In the two decades after acquiring the property, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority spent some fifteen million dollars for restoration and improvements here, and work continues annually. The initial goal of the restoration of Heart Island was not to finish what had not been completed, but to restore the island to the state it was in when construction was halted. Improvements have gone beyond that stage, however; a stained glass dome, marble floor, and grand staircase woodwork, for instance, now seen in the main hall, were not original but are modern innovations.

The current estate
Today, Boldt Castle is accessible by ferry from Alexandria Bay; Gananoque, Ontario; Rockport, Ontario; and Ivy Lea, Ontario; and most of the grounds and buildings can be explored by the public for a fee. The boat-owning public may also dock on Heart Island for free and there is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office on Heart Island. All the visitors coming from Canada should have appropriate identification. Most of the rooms on the first floor of Boldt Castle are furnished as of 2006 , but mostly with modern pieces. The basement is mostly unfinished, with a pool, bowling lanes, many compartments, and a long passage to the Power House. Most of the rooms from the second floor to the top floor have been left unfurnished, but there are exhibits in some of these rooms and hallways showing pictures and artifacts of the Thousand Islands region during the era in which the Boldts lived. These rooms are also left unfurnished to give the visitor an opportunity to imagine what the castle looked like before modern improvement. At the edge of the island, a monument stone triumphal arch, originally intended by George Boldt to be the entrance way for boats, has been fully restored. The bridge connecting the two sides would have been raised and lowered as required. Two other buildings on the island are the Power House and the Alster Tower; both are open to the public. The Power House was built to hold a generator to supply the island with power, and now is more of a museum of how electric power was obtained in the early 1900s, as well as a few stories of getting tools and equipment to Heart Island during the castle's construction. The Alster Tower was purposely constructed with slanting and uneven walls, ceilings, and roofs. The huge George C. Boldt Yacht House on nearby Wellsley Island is unique, warranting a visit by means of another small fee and a shuttle boat connecting it to Heart Island. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The 1969 children's novel Secret Castle by Anne Colver (AEP/Knopf Press) is about the castle and Alexandria Bay.

Aerial view of Boldt Castle and some of the Thousand Islands


16 photos

Building Activity

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