Boldt Castle is a grand landmark that attests to the power of love. Built by millionaire proprietor George Boldt in the early 1900s, this large mansion was intended to be a birthday gift for his wife, Louise. Sadly, however, Louise passed away a month before her birthday and the heartbroken Boldt decided to abandon the project, even though it was 80 percent complete. The Boldt family never moved into the sprawling castle, and in due time, it fell into a state of disrepair. Renovations have brought it back to glory, however, and more are planned. In order to honor the history of Boldt castle and its builder, however, 20 percent of the structure will always be left unfinished.
George C. Boldt owned both the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. A wealthy man due to these endeavors and others, he had plenty of money for family vacations, and among the favorite places to vacation for the Boldts was the Thousand Islands in northern New York State. These islands are situated in the waters of the St. Lawrence River, and Alexandria Bay in particular, and were very popular among vacationers around the turn of the century.
Heart Island was where the Boldts like to spend time while vacationing in the area, and they originally stayed in a frame cottage. In 1900, work on Boldt Castle began, and Heart Island was the scene. The building process lasted four years, and complementing the castle are four other masonry structures, three of which are also on Heart Island.
Whether you find yourself in lower Ontario, Canada or upstate New York, taking a trip to Heart Island to see Boldt Castle is something that is worth considering. The castle is a true architectural gem and enjoys a position near the water. A series of turrets add to the attractiveness of the majestic mansion, and should you step inside for a look around, you will be greeted by a stunning stained-glass dome, marble floors, and a dazzling billiards room. The areas that have been restored are spectacular, to say the least. On the ground floor, for example, there is an indoor swimming pool.
Other masonry structures found on Heart Island include a Power House that was intended to provide electricity for the island, a fascinating playhouse that is anything but your average playhouse, and a small stone arch that was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Boldt also had a yacht house built on nearby Wellesley Island, and you can take a boat to the site and check out the exhibits. Among the highlights at the yacht house are the antique boats. Nearby Wellesley Island, it should also be noted, is home to an old home that is now a bed and breakfast. This delightful and elegant B&B is known as the Hart House.
Boldt Castle serves as an Official Port of Entry into the US, and boaters who are using it for this reason can expect it to operate daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. As for those who are planning on enjoying a tour of the castle and the other structures of Heart Island, they are open daily from early May to early October. The hours vary depending on the period, so you will want to keep that in mind. As for the yacht house on Wellesley Island, it is open on a daily basis from mid-May to early October between 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Separate admission fees apply for the yacht house and the structures on Heart Island, and they are more than reasonable across the board.
As for getting to Heart Island and the Boldt Castle site, you can take a ferry out. Boldt Castle ferry services are offered by tour companies on both the US and Canada sides. Both Alexandria Bay and Clayton are good places to start when trying to find tour companies on the US side, while Gananoque and Rockport are good places to arrange your Boldt Castle ferry on the Ontario Canada side. It is also possible to take your own personal craft out to the island, though you will want to remember to make arrangements with the US Customs and Border agency ahead of time. Once you get to Heart Island, you can take a free shuttle ferry to the yacht house. This free ferry service is also available for getting from the yacht house to Heart Island.
Top image: Christine Wagner (flickr)