Located at the heart of the Thousand Island Region, Boldt Castle is the grandest of all Gilded Age mansions, and the setting of a tragic love story.
Castle was built at the turn of the century by multi-millionaire George
C. Boldt for his wife, Louise, as a testimony of the unsurpassed love of
a man for his wife.
Mr. Boldt came to
America in the 1860's from Prussia, the son of poor parents. A man of
tremendous industry and organizational skill, with daring and
imagination, he became the most successful hotel magnate in America. He
owned the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in
New York City, and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, Pennsysvania.
He was the president of several other companies, a trustee of Cornell
University, and the director of the Hotel Association of New York. For
Boldt, to "dream" and to "do" were synonymous. And
Boldt Castle stands as an eternal monument not only of a man's love for
his wife, but also as a reminder that what a man's mind can conceive,
his heart can accomplish. George Boldt was one man
whose dreams, however fantastic, proved to be within his capacity to
Like an ancient landmark of northern Europe, the castle is modeled
after buildings of the 16th century, when newly revived classical
details were applied to the towered, medieval forms, combining
traditional elements with modern features, such as large, plate glass
windows and extensive verandas. Rising six stores from the foundation
level of the indoor swimming pool to the highest tower room, an
elevator served the 120 room mansion. Steel and concrete roofs and
floors provided fireproof construction. Massive granite walls were
richly ornamented with decorative details of cast terr cotta, and
roofs were tiled with the same material.
An underground passage led from the servants' dock on the water's
edge. Goods transported from barges at the dock through this tunnel to
storage rooms within the Castle's foundation. The tunnel also housed
water pipes and electrical wiring from the Power House.
A rocky crest of the island was extended into a level plateau by
making a promenade terrace on top of the stone-walled service tunnel.
In contrast to the more natural landscape elsewhere on the island,
this Italian Garden was to be geometrically formal, so high retaining
walls were raised on the opposite side as well, making the plan
symmetrical. At the opposite extremity of the garden from the Castle's
Ball Room, a fountained pool was surrounded by a curved, lower
terrace, overlooking the picturesque roofscape of the Power House.
Marble statuary intended for the Italian Garden, was delivered from
Italy. Some of these statues were found half a century later still in
crates, sunk within an old boathouse.
|Boldt invested over $2.5 million to build this replica of a
Rhineland castle, bringing in the finest of artists and the most
skilled craftsmen for this project. He planned on presenting it to his
wife on Valentine's Day as a monument of his love for her. Work was
underway on the eleven buildings that would comprise the castle
complex when tragedy struck. In January of 1904 Louise Boldt died,
ending the dreams of a lifetime. Heartbroken, Boldt telegrammed his
construction crews ordering that all work be stopped. Three hundred
workmen dropped their tools and left the island. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving it instead
as an unfinished monument of a love story cut short.For 73 years the
Castle and the other structures on the island were left to the mercy of
the wind, rain, ice, snow, and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge
Authority acquired the property in 1977 it was decided that through the
use of all net revenues from the Castle operation, it would be preserved
for the enjoyment of future generations. Since then several million
dollars have been applied to rehabilitating and restoring the Heart
Island structures. The island is now fully accessible to the
handicapped, has complete restroom facilities, picnic areas, as well as
a food and beverage concession to make your visit more comfortable.
Wander in awe as you explore the Castle's 120 rooms, and try to
imagine how they might have been luxuriously furnished and used in all
their splendor, if Louise Boldt had not died so early. Gaze out the
Castle's 365 windows that overlook the magnificent beauty of the
Thousand Islands. And imagine the gaiety and parties that might have
been held in the castle and the surrounding gardens.
The first level of the Castle has been turned into a museum, filled
with exhibits dedicated to the lives of George and Louise Boldt and
the development of the Thousand Island region.
Stroll the paved walkways that traverse the island leading to the
Castle, the Power House, Alster Tower, the Hennery, and the Gazebo.
|Examine the Power House and Clock Tower, designed after the fashion
of a Medieval Tower, and located on the eastern end of Heart Island.
This facility was intended to house coal fired steam generators to
provide electricity to the island. An arched, stone bridge connects
the Power House to the island, and the highest tower provided river
traffic with illuminated clock faces and the music of chimes. Inside
you'll find displays and photographs depicting the lifestyle of a
by-gone era in the Thousand Islands at the turn of the century. You'll
also find its steam engine generator, typical of the type that would
have been used to provide power and illumination for the island
|Alster Tower, the Boldt's playhouse, was the first structure Boldt
erected on Heart Island. Its design suggests a defense tower similar
to those on the Alster River in Germany. But this curious mini-castle
probably was not pre-designed, since it would have been nearly
impossible to describe its eccentric and irregular forms on paper. It
was likely improvised by Boldt himself in a highly personal manner,
and evolving as it rose. This building was intended for the
entertainment of guests and the Boldt children. The ornate "Shell
Room" was to be used for dancing, and was so named because of the
shape of the roof. The basement housed a bowling alley, and the upper
floors were to include a billiard room, library, bedrooms, cafe, grill
and kitchen. Unlike the main residence, which was never completed,
this whimsical "play house" was completed and occupied by
the Boldt family during the four years when the Castle was being
erected. After extensive renovations to repair the deterioration of
the edifice, Alster Tower is now open to visitors.
|The Arch, patterned after the Arch d'Triumph, was
intended to provide a formal grand entry for launches that would
deliver guests from large yachts anchored in deep water, or from other
islands and the mainland. The arch was to be a welcoming point for
guests, and symbolized Boldt's triumph over poverty. Stones were cut
and delivered for double rows of columns which would enclose a covered
walkway, extending from each side of the arch. A drawbridge within the
opening was to provide a promenade on the embankment of the Swan Pond.
Unfortunately, this ambitious project was far from complete when work
was ceased at the death of Louise Boldt.
|The Boldt Yacht House, located on nearby Wellesley Island can be seen
from Heart Island's north side, was built to house the family's three
yachts and houseboat. The main space rises 64 feet to accomodate tall
masts and rigging of their yacht in slips 128 feet long, with doors so
huge and heavy that an engine was required to open and close them. The
yacht house included a shop to build racing launches as well as living
quarters for the crew and maintenance staff. The Yacht House was opened to
the public for the first time in the summer of 1996, after undergoing
extensive repairs. It now serves as a museum where you can see some of the
boats actually used by the Boldt family.
Plan to spend your next vacation in the Thousand
Islands Region and tour Boldt Castle in person. You will want to
return again and again to witness the improvements as the repairs and
The island where Boldt Castle stands was named Heart Island by Mr.
Boldt, perhaps because of the romantic significance of the name, and in
recognition of the physical shape of the island after his modifications.
Before then, however, the island was named Hart Island, after the previous
owners. The original home which stood on the castle site when George Boldt
purchased the island was slid across the ice to Wellesley Island during
the winter of 1899, being made a part of the exclusive Thousand Island
Club frequented by the very wealthy of the period. That home is now being
renovated as a Bed & Breakfast, and has been renamed Hart House in honor of the
|~The Boldt Castle logo, the names Boldt Castle, Boldt Yacht House and Thousand Islands Bridge Authority are reistered trademarks in both the US and Canada.
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