Ah, Victoria Day! A holiday which is celebrated for – let’s be honest – no good reason but for which I am eternally grateful anyway because it’s a day off work! I don’t know if this will be an annual thing, but my parents, Dangerous Dan, and I went up to Kingston again to visit my sister and her family.
We decided to hop across the border (!) to visit one of the many tourist attractions in the Thousand Islands area, Boldt Castle. I’m always so surprised at how close Kingston is to the land of the free, but I really shouldn’t be because it’s one of the reasons why Kingston was fired from its job as capital city of Canada!
We drove from Kingston, stopped for lunch in Gananoque, and headed to Alexandria Bay, where we would take the ferry shuttle to Heart Island, where Boldt Castle is located.
Here are some photos of Alexandria Bay, which was basically like another version of the Hamptons in the early 1900s. Lots of rich people came here to enjoy the water and stake a claim on their very own island! Nowadays, it is a bit quieter. On a sunnier day, I can imagine this place being cute and quaint!
To get to Heart Island, we went with Uncle Sam Boat Tours. There are lots of other ferry options, and you can even park in Canada and take a full-on cruise to the island, but the extreme flooding limited our choices. It was nice to take the “ferry shuttle” anyway; a quick 10 minutes and we were there! Also, we paid for our boat tickets and the castle tickets in one go, so that made things easier too. (And Canadian currency is accepted!)
Boldt Castle is a huge, hulking mass of a building and it looks like it belongs in a fairytale book. It was commissioned by George Boldt, a self-made immigrant millionaire!
Some fun facts about George Boldt (taken equally from Wikipedia and a video my sister watched in the mansion):
- He was general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City (that hotel know-how is what got him the big bucks!)
- He’s the guy who came up with the phrase, “The customer is always right.” (I don’t think this is true, actually.)
- He’s the guy who invented room service (This one’s true!)
A not so fun fact is what happened to the castle, even before construction was complete! Boldt had the castle built for his wife, Louise, as a grand, symbolic gesture of his love. Unfortunately, just before the castle was complete, Louise died suddenly and Boldt abandoned the project entirely. For years and years, the castle lay empty, vulnerable to nature’s forces, and also to young graffiti artists who trespassed onto the grounds. Some of the graffiti is real, and some is not. (There’s no way a message from 1995 can look so dark and fresh!) The coolest one we saw was from the 70s (just before the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over) – the names of two friends/lovers were literally carved into the wall!
Okay, enough history – let’s see the actual building!
A yacht house can also be visited (entrance is an extra fee) and you can even see Boldt’s old boats! It’s bigger than my house.
The exterior grounds are very nice and well-maintained, and there are a couple of other buildings in addition to the actual mansion. A “Parisian-style” arch helps to prepare visitors for the opulence off the house! The Power House holds all the generator electricity things and is basically a house on its own (the castle engineers actually lived here during construction of the main house!). Alster Tower is what I imagined Rapunzel’s tower to look like before Tangled came out!
Alster Tower was originally envisioned as the play room for the Boldt children! It was going to have a bowling alley. It’s currently being restored.
The main house is quite large and grand as well!
Upstairs, we snuck a peek at the sleeping area. There are four floors and Dangerous Dan and I went all the way up to the top, where there is a pretty cool observatory! The view is spectacular!
There is also a cool tunnel system which leads to a nasty-looking pool but I’m sure with some treatment it would be a nice place to hang out! There is also a fake frog floating atop the water.
Boldt Castle is a really interesting place to visit. Great for a one-day trip if you live in the Kingston area!
Boldt Castle / 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, NY / website