Most people are preparing for Christmas while I’m here thinking about Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands because of a vintage postcard. What a sad, beautiful place it is.
I found this image of Boldt Castle some time ago, in excellent shape and with a story to tell. It’s a tale of love, devotion, heartbreak, and over 70 years of neglect… with a happy ending for the landmark itself.
Back in 1900, old George Boldt—the guy that owned the Waldorf-Astoria in New York—held several parcels of land in the Thousand Islands, including Heart Island. He and his family spent many summers there near their farm on Wellesley Island, which itself was a massive operation. The old farm produced ridiculous amounts of food for Boldt’s hotels!
In all, the family held over 3,000 acres of land in the Thousand Islands region.
Love and Loss on Heart Island
Heart Island became the site of a monument of Boldt’s devotion to his wife Louise, the love of his life and mother to his children. Over 300 workers toiled for four years to build the beautiful, 6-storey, 120-room rhineland castle and crafted its exquisite gardens. George spared no expense. The castle had ample room for the entire family, state-of-the-art (for the time) amenities, breathtaking views… it would be a fitting gift to his beloved wife.
If only she would live to see it.
In January of 1904, Louise passed away very suddenly, leaving Boldt heartbroken. Construction stopped. George Boldt never set foot on Heart Island again.
Boldt Castle owes its current condition to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. They obtained the property in 1977 and set to work almost immediately, consequently saving the remaining buildings from over 70 years of neglect. Their work continues to this day.
I bought this vintage postcard at an auction between 2020 and 2022. It was with a bunch of other postcards of American locales, most of which I didn’t recognize. Finding this one was exciting! I visited Boldt Castle once as a child, on a family trip to the Thousand Islands. My memories of it are fuzzy, but what I do recall is that it is hauntingly beautiful.
I spent my childhood summers going on little trips around Ontario: Ottawa, Gananoque, Niagara Falls, Sault Ste. Marie, Midland, Sudbury, St. Jacobs, and other interesting tourist spots. Mom and I went to Gananoque with my great uncle, but I don’t recall why.
The back of the postcard credits the photograph to Harold F. Keeler in Alexandria Bay, New York.