Friday, October 3, 2008

Boldt Castle: 1000 Islands Cruise Day 7

At the turn of the 20th 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, Boldt's family shared four glorious summers on the island while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six-storey, 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, and a dove cote. Not a single detail or expense was spared.

In 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, millions of dollars have been spent rehabilitating, restoring and improving the Heart Island structures. As a result, Bold Castle is a must-stop on any visit to the 1000 Islands. It's located on the the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence River opposite Alexandia Bay, New York.

The best view of amazing Boldt Castle is from the air.

No, that's not the castle, but merely the powerhouse where electricity originally was generated for the castle.

No, that's not the castle either, but the boathouse. Yes, boathouse.

A small cottage on a tiny adjacent island contrasts sharply with the grand 120-room castle on Heart Island.

The heart theme is repeated over and over again in the decor of the castle. In fact, Boldt had the island shoreline altered so the land form was heart-shaped.

To illustrate the grand scheme of the place, here's the entrance area at the foot of the staircase that ascends six floors.

And if hearts were not enough, Boldt also added harts in prominent design touches.

Even after all these years, it isn't certain whether the castle ceiling was fashioned by Tiffany's or not.

Tom and Mindy travelled from Pennsylvannia to Boldt Castle to be married--last July--but their photographer failed to show up. So they returned to the castle at the time our visit more than two months later to get their wedding photos, using another, more punctual phtographer.

We enjoyed our visit to Alex Bay but, quite honestly, cannot see any reason to recommend the place to anyone else unless they love pubs, bars and tacky souvenir shops. As Boldt Castle has a visitor dock, it is possible to visit the castle without staying in Alex Bay.

That's At Last!, the only visiting yacht at the marina operated by the Riveredge Hotel. Not the best choice for a yacht arriving from Canada, it turns out, as the videophone check-in with U.S. Immigration is a 15-minute hike across town at Lower James Dock, and not at the hotel as we had been told when we telephoned U.S border officialdom. Then, we almost miss the videophone as the sign is posted only facing the water.

But the outing does give us a chance to stroll through the small village. We pick up the local River Rat cheddar cheese, Adrirondack sausage and Croghan bologna, which we devour as appetizers. We are so full after the apps that for dinner we just have a bowl of cream of scallop soup with warm pita dipped in baba ganoush.

But it was nice to have Boldt Castle just across the river from At Last!

En route to Alex Bay, we ran under the 1000 Islands International Bridge in foggy, rainy conditions.

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