Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Beautiful Boldt Castle And Its Sad Love Story

Mugdha Gurram /
The view of the St. Lawrence River from Boldt Castle.

By Mugdha Gurram and Yelena Samofalova
THOUSAND ISLANDS, New York, U.S.A. – On the border between Canada and the United States, the St. Lawrence River is filled with tons of small islands, some with vacation homes on them and others just covered in trees.
One of the biggest attractions in the Thousand Islands area is the vacation home and nearby yacht house of early-1900s millionaire George Boldt.
Boldt’s yacht house is on Wellesley Island and contains a small portion of the estimated 60 boats he owned in his lifetime, including some of his racing boats and others he just rode out on the lake. Nearby on Heart Island, which visitors can get to by ferry, stands the vacation home he had begun to build for himself and his family.
A view of Heart Island and Boldt Castle from the ferry that brings visitors between the castle and the yacht house.
The Boldt Castle consists of four floors of elaborately decorated rooms, small rooms covered in graffiti, and even a secret passage down in the cellar, which – as some of us figured out the hard way – is not for the weak of heart.
Mugdha Gurram /
The billiard room at Boldt Castle.
Mugdha Gurram /

Some of the walls inside
Boldt Castle are defaced.
In many of the rooms, the walls are completely covered with the signatures of guests over the years, despite the warning of criminal prosecution for property defacement. People left dates – some going back to 1970 – along with their names.
Throughout the house, pieces such as plaster, imported marble, and construction tools from the original building are on display.
There’s a stark contrast between the first two floors and the ones above them. When we walked in, we saw a fancy billiard room and reception area, average rooms for a mansion like this.
At the center of the first floor there’s a great staircase leading to the second floor, where a balcony overlooks the marble floors and various gold and white-themed decorations. Looking up, we could see the elaborate, dome-shaped, stained glass ceiling. On the second floor, the circular hallway leads off into the grand rooms where Boldt and his family would have stayed.
Mugdha Gurram /
The oval-shaped, stained glass skylight over the grand staircase at Boldt Castle.
However, on the next few floors, visitors see only deteriorating walls of broken brick, wooden floors and small, vandalized rooms. A saving feature of this part of the house is a stone balcony on the third floor overlooking the water and the rest of the island.
An interesting, yet uncompleted part of the house is the basement. Although it was above ground, with grand windows all around the room, it was cool and somewhat dark.
Mugdha Gurram /
Some places inside Boldt Castle
aren't yet restored.
This floor of the castle is comprised of a large stone room with a small pool in the corner. Leading away from the room is a long winding hallway with a dirt floor, almost like a secret passage. Of course, we followed the path from the creepy cellar back to the beautiful grounds outside.
The castle is an incomplete remnant of the summer home that Boldt, a wealthy hotel proprietor, had hoped to give to his wife on Valentine’s Day in 1904. There are hearts built into the architecture all over the house.
But Louise Boldt died mysteriously that January – just a month before she would have received her Valentine’s Day gift.
George Boldt ordered all halted. He never went back to the island.
The house was left to deteriorate for more than 70 years.
In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority began restoring the castle. So far, $35 million has been spent. The work began as an effort to bring the castle back to the condition it was in when Louise Boldt died, but the restoration process has far surpassed that and is moving toward finishing many of the original grand plans.
Today, tourists enjoy what the Boldt family, despite its vast wealth, never could.
Mugdha Gurram /
George Boldt's yacht house on Wellesley Island, a short boat ride from Heart Island, where Boldt Castle is located.

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