Monday, January 21, 2013

A Visit To Boldt Castle

At the end of September 2012, hubby and I decided to cross the border into New York to finally see what all the hoopla was about in regards to Boldt Castle, a major landmark and tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.


First, let me give you a quick rundown:

The construction of Boldt Castle began in 1900 at the bidding of George Boldt, a self-made millionaire and hotel magnate. This enormous, six-story, 60,000 square foot, 120-room castle was intended as a gift to Boldt’s wife, Louise, but when she died suddenly in 1904, all construction was immediately stopped. The abandoned property was vacant for over seventy years, exposed to the harsh winter weather and to occasional vandalism. The Thousand Island Bridge Authority acquired the island the castles sits on and has been diligently restoring the property ever since. It is now a major summer tourist attraction.

That’s the story in a nutshell. Let’s move on to the images...

Boldt Castle is located on Heart Island, which is situated along the northern border of New York State. It is only accessible by water from both Canada and the U.S, and because it’s only a few minutes ride over from there, no more than ten minutes, we decided to head over to the U.S side and board the shuttle from Alexandria Bay.

I can't wait to start snapping photos!

As soon as the shuttle started to move...well...you know it...I whipped out my handy dandy camera, turned it on and started snapping away joyfully. I have to say that the castle is imposing enough from a distance, but as you get closer, the magnitude of it really hits you.

OHMYGOD...

One of the first things you’ll notice on this property is the superbly-maintained grounds. According to the castle’s website, there are over 10,000 annual flowers planted each year. We visited late in the season, but despite that, the gardening was still breathtaking.




Even the bees think so...



There is a beautiful gazebo located on the grounds, which is a popular wedding site. There was actually a wedding ceremony getting started when we arrived.



Once you’re on the grounds, you can’t quite grasp that there are people that actually live in houses like this. Boldt Castle is so large that my camera couldn’t take in the whole thing in one image no matter how far back I stood.




This is the “Hennery,” or Dove-Cote. It was the first structure built on the island, and the first of many towers that were to rise on this island and others nearby.




You will notice that towers on this magnificent place are a common theme.




Modeled after Roman monuments, the ‘Entry Arch’ was originally intended to be the formal entryway to Heart Island from the St. Lawrence River.


The top is adorned with three large bronze stags.



The Alster Tower, often referred to as the ‘playhouse’, was intended for the entertainment of guests and for the Boldt children. Unlike the main residence, which was never completed, this was completed and occupied by the Boldt family during the four years when the Castle was being erected.




The Powerhouse below was intended to house coal fired steam generators to provide electricity to the island. Inside you'll find displays and photographs, and its steam engine generator, typical of the type that would have been used to provide power and illumination for the island estate. While walking around in there, I said to my husband “People actually live this extravagantly while others die of starvation. The contrast is astonishing.” To which he added jokingly “...and that’s how Marie Antoinette lost her head...” (My husband and his black humour)




There is a basement/cellear in the castle, but because there isn’t much to see, I only photographed the route to it. While we were down there, though, there were two women standing close to us. One said “What do you suppose they kept down here?” and the other answered “Slaves.” [snort]

On our way to the dungeon...

Finally, this is the Boldt Yacht House, located on nearby Wellesley Island. It was built to house the family's three yachts and houseboat. It now serves as a museum, and is open to the public for an additional fee. We didn’t visit it this time, but perhaps we will in the future.



I did take images of the interior of Boldt Castle, but not that many. We’re planning to visit again in the future, and I hope to snap more photographs that I can share with all of you.  The castle is continuously being renovated, so there’s always something new to see.

This was a very interesting trip, and I must say that I have never seen anything quite like this. The question that kept popping inside my head was “Does anyone really need this much?” This type of extravagance is simply mind-blowing. And somewhat disturbing.

30 comments:

  1. You should see some of the stately homes in the UK, Martha! It is amazing what some people have at their disposal. I'd love to visit Boldt though - it looks like there's such a lot to see. That photo of the bee and flower is stunning!

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    1. I can well imagine some of the stately homes in the UK. I'd love to see them to be able to take photographs. There is a lot to see at Boldt Castle and we'd like to return. We didn't finish the whole place during this visit.

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  2. O, how lovely! Gosh, that pathway to the dungeon is amazing.

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    1. I think that pathway may have been my favourite thing!

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  3. It's a monument to excess alright but at least now it's available for public enjoyment. Love the gazebo -- it looks like it should be in The Shire!

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    1. That is a beautiful gazebo. I wanted to explore it more but there was a wedding going on. Hopefully next time I'll be able to get a closer look, and more photos!

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  4. Fabulous pics Martha, you really captured the grandeur and beauty of this jewel. As you already know, I also visited Boldt Castle in August :) It's incredibly gorgeous - I'd love a return trip as well.

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    1. I know...I remember you telling me you were going! We didn't get there until the end of the next month, and I honestly didn't think we'd make it in time before it shut down for the season. But we did...and it was great! I hope to go back again this year.

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  5. Wow! Never heard of this. Looks to be worth the trip. Great photos.

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    1. It really is worth the trip. It's a very interesting place to visit.

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  6. Your trip brings back memories to me. Fifty years ago we used to vacation in the St. Lawrence River Area and we took our boat around the island where Boldt Castle is. I'm sure it has changed so much since then. I'm glad to hear they are working on it. Thanks for your pictures that show how lovely it looks. Also, if you ever get a chance, you should go to Newport, RI and see all the mansions there that were summer homes (for maybe 6 weeks!) of the rich in the early 1900's.

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    1. I imagine that there have been major changes since then! They are continuing to work on it, and it looks amazing! I have driven through Rhode Island but wasn't able to stop at the time. I hope one day to be able to explore it.

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  7. What a place to visit Martha! I love the towers and cedar shake roofs. Another thing that I noticed was that row of Coleus along the fence...I love this plant when there is a lot of it. Great shots you got too of the enormity of the castle itself.
    Some people feel they do need this much to feel complete I guess.

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    1. Coleus is a favourite! They are beautiful plants, and like you said, it is a lovely look when there are a lot of them together. This place was extraordinary. I've never seen anything quite like it.

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  8. I have never heard of this place. I know it is a bit much, (understatement) but I do like the romatic love story. I wonder what happened to him. Did he just pine away in some shanty someplace in Pennsylvania or Idaho??? Looking forward to the interior shots!

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    1. I don't know all of his story, but he did continue to do business. And he still had his kids, and then a granddaughter. What boggles the mind is that he just abandoned this place. How much money must you have to walk away from something massive as this and not be bothered (financially) by it?

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  9. so much classical architecture. Love it!

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  10. Dear Martha,
    You and I think very much alike! This reminds me very much of The Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. It is very grand but at the same time, I couldn't help but think of the poor struggling working people who lived in the area.
    I very much enjoyed the drive up to the Biltmore House and the gardens. I later found out that the land around the Biltmore was landscaped by the same man who did Central Park in NYC.
    Thanks for this post, your photos are great. By the way, you look like a movie star on that ferry, did anyone ask for your autograph? :-)

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    1. You know, Kay, I'd love to visit some of those huge southern homes and photograph them! That would be something. I see them in movies and I always think of how much I'd like to see one up close.

      No one asked for my autograph ...sigh... But hubby always notices me! LOL...

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  11. There is no dungeon...that is a pathway to the powerhouse end of the island. Mr. Boldt continued to spend time on his river properties on Wellesley Island until his death. It is rumored that he never again set foot on Heart Island after his beloved Louise died.

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    1. Well, I'm only joking about the dungeon. But there was a basement that we walked down to. From what I've been able to gather, there was to be a wine cellar, rooms for supplies, and an assortment of other rooms down there. It was mostly empty when we visited, and obviously incomplete.

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  12. I love looking at castles. Many of the older city homes (maybe country too) in the US (don't know about Canada) have a tower on the corner of the house. I always have liked that look and would like to have one on my own home someday.

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    1. Yes, some homes do have that look here, too. And some newer homes (the large ones) are being built with that type of tower. I really like that, too. I would love to visit real castles around the world and photograph them. That would be a dream photo shoot trip!

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  13. How did you stand the beauty of that place? i think I've keeled over right here from your photos, so amazing!

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    1. It is out of this world! I hope to go back for more photos at some point this year.

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  14. Wow, that is amazing. I would love to visit it. I love the architecture and the gardens. Talk about stark contrast between the affluent and those just scraping by. It's sad that not everyone could share in the beauty. But it is quite beautiful.

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    1. Yes, there is a very stark contrast between the two worlds. But it is a beautiful place to visit, and photograph.

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  15. What a fascinating place. I'm imagining that George Boldt built it for his wife Louise out of love. It does seem excessive - but it is beautiful. Not as beautiful as the Taj Mahal though. I wouldn't want to have to look after all of this. I like my houses small and cozy!

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    1. I would love to see and photograph the Taj Mahal. Now, there is something spectacular.

      You and I also share our size preference for homes. I love mine small and cozy, too. My hubby is the opposite; he likes a lot of space. That is one of the only things we don't have in common!

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