Are you familiar with Boldt Castle? It lives amongst the 1000 islands running along and on top of the US/Canadian border in the east of Ontario, within the St. Lawrence River.
This castle has everything any castle-enthusiast could hope to explore. Massive structures, underground tunnels, its own island, a tragic love story, and likely a couple of ghosts.
The Making of Boldt Castle
You’ve fallen in love with the most awesome, fabulous, intriguing, beautiful person in the world.
You happen to have banked a boatload of cash and want to use it for that grand gesture. The one that will show the whole world exactly how much you love your one, and how happy the two of you will be growing old together.
You buy an island! Go you.
Now, all you need is a castle borne from your loved-ones dreams, and perhaps even a miniature castle for any kiddies the two of you might have.
That happened. Probably more than once, but here is the romance behind Boldt Castle that lies on Heart Island.
George C. Boldt absolutely loved his wife Louise.
A hard-working, charming individual, Boldt rose to the top in a number of ways. More notably, becoming the owner/proprietor of various upper-class hotels, including the original Waldorf Astoria in New York, and the elite boutique Bellevue-Stratford Hotel.
This man is my hero for many reasons. Top of the list is that he is considered to be the person to have popularized Thousand Islands salad dressing. I grew up on that stuff, YUM. If it doesn’t sound familiar, you might recognize it more as McDonald’s Big Mac “secret” sauce though.
Boldt’s motto was, “the guest is always right.”
And, he was a big supporter of farm to table meals – he supplied fresh foods to his hotels through Wellesley Farms, that he just so happened to own too.
With his self-made fortunes, Boldt decided to build his wife Louise a rhineland-styled castle, on an island that would be soon known as “Heart Island”. This was where he, the love of his life, and their children were going to live.
It was going to be magical.
Boldt employed 300 workers to build the home of his dreams. A six-story, 120 room castle, a power-house, a literal playhouse for their children, underground tunnels to move about any time of the year, and even a dovecote.
Sadly, four years after the start of construction, in 1904, everything ceased.
Louise had died.
And George had no intention of living in their dream home without her. Its suggested that Boldt had not once stepped foot on Heart Island after Louise’s death.
Visiting Boldt Castle Today
For over seventy years, the partially constructed castle was left alone to fend off the rough northern weathers, and vandals, but has since then been undergoing reconstruction.
After acquiring the property, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority has spent millions of dollars since 1977 to restore and even improve the castle and its surroundings on Heart Island.
Construction is still not yet complete, but you can take a cruise from either Canada or the United States to spend a few hours or so to explore what George C. Boldt had envisioned for his love and their lives together.
When Jay and I first stepped onto the island, we looked at each other and mutually agreed that we would have to come back as soon as we could. We had two hours to explore the grounds and knew that it wouldn’t be enough.
One of the first things you’ll see when walking on Heart Island is the hearted flower bed. I don’t know if this was part of the original design for the property, but it is truly pretty.
If you’ve never been to the island before, I would suggest going into the castle first. Especially if you’re on the clock.
The 120-roomed castle is quite big so you’ll have to balance your time to see everything you could hope to see.
41 years since the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property, and the castle isn’t yet entirely renovated. The unfinished areas are still a treat if you’re a big fan of history.
While it’s fascinating to see the house brought to life from Boldt’s original designs, it’s also awe-worthy to see how the original structure has held up for a hundred and eighteen years.
The restored details are gorgeous. Louise and George Boldt would go on buying trips to Europe to furnish the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and I believe they did the same for their dream home as well.
I have to admit, even the vandalism is intriguing. These signatures are dated from 1936 to 1993.
And? They’re on the ceiling. So look up!
I would love to know what compelled these families to sign and date their travels to the castle on the plastered bits of ceiling… how did they even get up there?
I have a hard time signing my name legibly on paper with a table solidly beneath it. And here these vandals have beautifully scribed their names while positioned awkwardly, partially upside down probably. I’m in awe.
One of my favourite designs on the island is the powerhouse (below, left structure). I could have spent hours alone capturing this structure from all angles.
This is the children’s multi-leveled playhouse.
This fun, whimsical structure is an incredible architectural study all on its own. Unfortunately, the upper levels are not accessible, but it’s a treat to visit the main floor anyway.
Can you imagine the sheer fun of playing in a mini-castle? I hope the Boldt children got to play within it at some point. It would be absolutely sad if it was never used.
The basement of this playhouse included a bowling alley. I would never leave.
How to Get to Boldt Castle
No roads lead to Boldt Castle, unfortunately. It’s very much an island, near Alexandria Bay.
There are a number of cruises that will get you to Boldt Castle, from either Canada or the US though, the choice is yours.
Have you ever been to Boldt Castle before? Is this the first time you’ve heard of it?
Boldt Castle is roughly a three hour trip from Toronto, Ontario, but I’m kinda shocked I’ve lived this long without knowing its existence until this past April.
Want to pin this to your travel boards? Here ya go!