Boldt Castle, located in Alexandria Bay in scenic 1000 Islands Region of New York State, is known not only for its stunning architecture but also as a gift of love. It was supposed to be presented to Louise Boldt on Valentine’s Day of 1905 by her millionaire husband but ended up abandoned for over seventy years. Learn about this tragic story and how the castle was brought back to life to become a main tourist attraction. Today as a popular site for wedding ceremonies, it continues to be a symbol of love.
The 1000 Islands Region of New York is one of my favorite destinations in the Northeast. It is a recreational paradise with fantastic camping, boating and fishing. In the last 25 years I visited the area numerous times. I witnessed Boldt Castle rising from a devastation to its intended glory.
George and Louise Boldt – the Love Story
George Boldt was born in Prussia in 1851. He left his country in search of opportunities in America when he was 13. He started with small jobs in hotel industry and slowly climbed his way up. At 26 he met Louise Kehrer while working with her father. Gorge fell deeply in love and soon married Louise, who was only 15 years old.
The couple had two children, Charles and Louise Clover. Apart from being a mother Louise, with her own experience in hotel business, played an important role in creating family’s financial success. In 1893, when William Waldorf Astor built his Waldorf Hotel in New York City, he appointed George Boldt as a manager.
In 1893 the Boldt family visited Alexandria Bay in 1000 Islands Region and Louise fell in love with the area. That triggered George’s decision to build a dream castle as a tribute of admiration to her. The gift was scheduled to be delivered on February 14,1905 – also Louise’s birthday.
George purchased Hart Island, named after its previous owner. To follow with a love theme, he not only renamed the island Heart Island but he also ordered to change its shores to shape it like a heart.
As the project continued, Louise’s health deteriorated. In January 1904 she died of a heart failure at age of 42. George was devastated. His beloved wife of 26 years was gone and his dream project was gone with her. He ordered the construction to stop and never came back to finish it.
Castle – the Construction
The castle was designed by the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and it was modeled after a Rhineland castle. The plan included the grand six-story castle and 11 other structures on the island.
After Louise’s death, the project was abandoned for over seventy years. During all that time it was exposed to devastation. In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought the island for a nominal price of $1. Since then all funds received from tourist visiting the castle went into its restoration.
The original plan was only to repair damage from the years of neglect and restore the castle to its state from 1904 but eventually tens of millions of dollars were spent rehabilitating Boldt Castle and Yacht House using the original plans.
During my early visits to Heart Island, I could not see significant changes. The project seemed like a struggle until my last camping trip to the area. This time I was impressed with the progress.
I loved the grounds manicured to perfection to reflect on George and Louise Boldt’s love story. The landscaping’s main motif is a heart. There are gorgeous flowers everywhere. Even tree stumps are decorated.
The heart theme continues inside the castle. A museum dedicated to the lives of George and Louise Boldt has been created on the first level. The interior decoration is not finished yet but what I saw was beautiful.
After this visit, I am sure that George would be proud of his project and Louise would love it.
Boldt Castle is only accessible by private or tour boats.
Tour Boat Operators from the U.S.:
Uncle Sam Boat Tours, Alexandria Bay, New York
Clayton Island Tours, Clayton, New York,
Visit the Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, New York
Tour Boat Operators from Canada:
Gananoque Boat Lines, Gananoque, Ontario
1000 Islands Cruises, Rockport, Ontario
1000 Islands & Seaway Cruises Caiger’s Resort, Mallorytown, Ontario
Passengers arriving from Canada must provide proper identification.
See another great of attraction of New York State, Letchworth State Park.