Boldt Castle is a major landmark and tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands region of the U.S. state of New York. Open to guests seasonally between mid May and mid October, it is located on Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River. Heart Island is part of the Town of Alexandria, in Jefferson County. Originally a private mansion built by American millionaire George Boldt, it is today maintained by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority as a tourist attraction. Photos via Boldt Castle Facebook, Instagram, website, and Wikipedia.
History of the Castle From Boldt Castle Website
At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.
Beginning in 1900, the Boldt family spent summers in the 1000 Islands at the Boldt Families Wellesley House near Mr. Boldt’s Wellesley Island Farms while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120 room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, alster tower (children’s playhouse) and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared.
In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.
For 73 years, the castle and various stone structures 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 1977, several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures.
Today, Boldt Castle is accessible by ferry, private boat, or by tour boat from Alexandria Bay, New York, Clayton, New York, Gananoque, Ontario, Rockport, Ontario, and Ivy Lea, Ontario. Most of the grounds and buildings can be explored by the public for a fee. The boat-owning public may also dock at Heart Island for free. There is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office (wood structure manned by single customs officer on Heart Island, and visitors coming from Canada require appropriate identification, as visiting the island is considered entering the United States.
The Castle Today
As of 2011, most of the rooms on the first floor, and many of the rooms on the second floor of Boldt Castle are furnished, 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 corridors, 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.
Before/After Grand Hall
Stained Glass Dome
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 George C. Boldt Yacht House on nearby Wellesley Island is unique, warranting a visit by means of a shuttle boat connecting it to Heart Island. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
More Interior Rooms
Gardens & Exterior
The 1969 children's novel Secret Castle by Anne Colver is about the castle and Alexandria Bay.
Nimbus Pulications also has a book, Boldt Castle, that tells more about the history of the estate as well.