A Trip to Boldt Castle

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The Powerhouse with it’s flying stone arched bridge.

Moving from the prairies to central Canada on my annual visit with kids, I had the opportunity – with my son, Doug – to cruise the St. Lawrence and visit Heart Island. The boat part of our journey left from Rockport, Ontario. With blue skies and a pleasant river breeze, we made our way straight to Heart Island and Boldt Castle.

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Quoting from the Boldt Castle brochure: a visit to castle offers a glimpse into one of the most compelling love stories in history. 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-sized Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a testament to his love for his wife, Louise.


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Beginning in 1900, the family spent four summers on nearby Wellesley Island while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters and artists fashioned the six story, 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge and a dovecote. Not a single expense or detail was spared.

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In 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately stop all construction. Louise had died suddenly. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument to his love.

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For 73 years the castle remained eerily vacant, left to the mercy of the elements and the vandals. The Thousand Island Bridge Authority assumed ownership in 1977, determined to preserve Boldt Caste. From what I could see, they have been wildly successful!

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After two enchanting hours on Heart Island, we boarded our boat for a 40-minute cruise through some of the Thousand Islands. Stunning. Named millionaire row back in the day, some of the houses attest to the legacy of an era when the rich spent lavishly on their summer retreats.

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An island just big enough for a house!

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The Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley island.

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The shortest international bridge in the world. Halfway across this foot bridge, one crosses from Canada to the US.

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There you have it! A wonderful adventure on the St. Lawrence. If you visit Boldt Castle from Canada, remember to pack your passport. Heart Island is over the border into the US. And do go in September. The weather was great and the crowds were reasonable.

8 comments on “A Trip to Boldt Castle

  1. This was such a delight to read and see! The story of the castle, the photos you took, and the idea of roaming about and being on the ferry–I was right there with you! I hope to one day take that route and see the beauty, too. Thanks, Francis.

    • Many thanks for such a generous comment, Cynthia. It was a great day and my tardiness in getting to answering comments on this post attests to the good times I was having near the end of my travels. I hope you do get a chance to tour the Thousand Islands. Such a beautiful area spanning the Canadian and US border.

  2. Gallivanta says:

    What a fabulous tour.

    • It sure was. Though we went well after Labour Day, we were greeted by about 20 huge buses in the parking lot and thought that perhaps we would miss out for not making a reservation. But it turned out most bus tours don’t go to the castle, so we were in luck. A great day all the way around. What I love about the city of Ottawa is that you can be out in the country in the space of a 15 minute drive and greeted with rolling, pastoral farmland and great river views.

  3. Erin says:

    What a wonderful adventure–thanks for sharing your travels and photos (I recently had a discussion with someone about cruising the St. Lawrence Seaway!)!

    • Hi Erin – I do hope you get the chance to cruise the St. Lawrence. I’ve seen the river from a few vantage points but this was my first time to see the Thousand Islands. A real treat.

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    Wow what a great story. The world is still full of wonders to discover despite the easy access to information we enjoy these days. Two hundred years ago the wider world was mostly a mystery, revealed to us piecemeal by daring, old-time explorers. Quite often most of the world’s people never ventured much further than their own town and village. Even though it’s not ‘new’, Boldt Castle and the like can still inspire wonder.

    • So true, Roy. I love the opportunity to step back in time and wander an area or a building with such a rich history. Let me tell you, Gothic mysteries were on my mind as I peeked into those rooms and thought about what the whole place would look like when the winter winds whipped up the lake.

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