Boldt Castle, the story of an American dream
Hello from North America this time!
I would like to invite you to visit a very unusual castle. It is located on Heart Island (on the St Lawrence River), between Canada and USA, on the American side of the river. Boldt Castle was built as the testimony of the unsurpassed love of a man for his wife.
In this section of the St. Lawrence River, there are nearly two thousand islands dotted with summer homes. This remarkable region is known as the Thousand Islands.
On one very prominent island, Heart Island, there is a castle that was never finished. In his book Boldt Castle. The Story of an Unfinished Dream, Anthony Mollica Jr. presents the real story of the castle, and the couple who began to build it.
George Boldt came to America in 1864 from Prussia. He hoped to fulfill his dreams in the new country. As a young man, he took on a variety of entry-level jobs in restaurants and hotels in Manhattan. His strong work ethics and pleasant manners were soon recognized and he was promoted to more responsible positions including managing the Cornwall Mountain House, one of the larger hotels on the Hudson River. At the peak of his career, he became one of the most successful hotel magnates in America, managing and profit sharing the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, as well as the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Boldt met and soon fell in love with his manager’s daughter, Louise Augusta Kehrer. When they married in 1877, Boldt was twenty-six and his bride was eighteen years old. Louise became both a loving wife and a dedicated partner in her husband’s journey to unparalleled success in hotel operations. The extraordinary wealth enabled George to build a great island chateau for his wife.
The story also reveals the passion that the Boldts developed for the Thousand Islands. It was a passion so great that they wanted to build a castle that would rival the great European Rhine River castles on one of the islands.
Together they dreamed, developed elaborate plans, and undertook a construction project of their own.
When the completion of the castle was close at hand, Louise suddenly died. George responded by immediately terminating the project. Many believed that his decision was simply a temporary reaction to his wife’s untimely death; however, work of the castle was never resumed.
The decades of abandonment that followed increased the curiosity of all who passed by the lonely island. To satisfy passengers’ curiosity, tour boats began making regular stops there. The island’s visitors were astonished by the impressive, superbly constructed stone buildings that were able to withstand decades of neglect.
In 1977, ownership of the Boldt properties was transferred to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. With new tenure, a systematic recovery program was initiated.
As each new section of the castle was restored, the bridge authority received further encouragement to consider work on additional areas. Visitors eagerly looked forward to returning to the castle for a glimpse of the continued rehabilitation work. They were genuinely interested in seeing what the rooms of the castle might have looked like if it had been completed as planned.
Extensive landscaping and new stone walkways made the grounds attractive and inviting. With each new season, Heart Island became increasingly more appealing.
Today, this grand castle is almost finished and alive. Thousands of visitors come here each year to fill its walls with visions created by their imagination. The story of the unfinished dream of the Boldts makes this place even more magical.
Source: Anthony Mollica Jr. Boldt Castle. The Story of an Unfinished Dream, Nimbus Publishing