Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Boldt Castle

What a fascinating place! I’ve been wanting to visit since I first heard about Boldt Castle several years ago. If you’re interested in learning more, follow the link to the excellent web site.

The story behind the castle is a sad love story, but it has turned out to be wonderful for those of us who are now able to tour this unique island and buildings.

George C. Boldt was a poor emigrant from Prussia when he arrived as a young teenager in the U.S. in 1864. He worked menial jobs and proved he was reliable. When he was 25, he was hired to manage the dining room of the Philadelphia Club. He did well serving the super-rich in the post-Civil War era, and in the process of doing a good job he became super-rich himself.

He fell in love with Louise Augusta Kehrer, whose father had given him his first manager’s job. They were married and together prospered in hotel management of the Waldorf-Astoria in NY City and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia. They had two children, George C. Boldt, Jr. and Clover Louise Boldt.

George Boldt bought Hart Island from E.K. Hart in 1895 for $20,000. He renamed it Heart Island and began to build a dream castle, modeled after buildings of the 16th century, as a summer home for his beloved wife Louise, using the heart theme throughout the island’s gardens and buildings. He planned to give it to her on Valentine’s Day in 1904. However, in January of that year, tragedy struck and Louise died. George ordered all work on the buildings to stop, and asked his children never to go to the island again, and he never returned to it himself.

The almost-finished castle and other buildings sat empty for 73 years, deteriorating to a state of disrepair. The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority became the owner in 1977 and began a restoration project that continues today. Here’s some of what we saw on our self-guided tour.

Hearts appear several places on the grounds.



We entered the castle on the side (note the scaffolding for ongoing restoration) and walked through one of the many broad covered porches to the front entrance.


The grand staircase has been fully restored and is quite beautiful.


A reception room is off to the left.


The billiard room is quite large, with space for observers on a platform on the right.


This large porch area could have been a wonderful place for parties.


The dining table can seat 18.


The hall is quite large, with the ballroom beyond only slightly larger.


The library looked comfortable.


The ballroom is accessible from both the hall and the library.


This porch outside the ballroom has a nice view of the St. Lawrence River.


Mr. Boldt’s office was never used and is yet to be restored.


Rooms undergoing restoration are roped off from visitors.


A modern elevator was installed where one had been planned in the early 1900’s. We appreciated being able to use it to get to 127 rooms on 4 floors, plus the foundation (basement) level and attic.


The second floor is partially restored. The family bedrooms (chambers), guest rooms, and gallery (loggia) are on this level.


Mr. Boldt’s chamber was the smallest, indicating to me that he was a humble and generous person.


Mrs. Boldt’s chamber…


…and bath.


Miss Clover Boldt’s chamber…


…before restoration…


..and reception room (she would have been 21 in 1904)…


…before restoration.


The beautiful skylight dome above the grand staircase has been totally restored. This view is looking up from the third floor.


And the view looking down to the second and first floors.


Very little restoration work has been done on the 3rd and 4th floors. They would have housed servants and guests, plus a reading room.


Evidence of vandalism is everywhere.


Great views from the observation deck.


See the tree growing out of the chimney on the right?




This would have been the head butler’s suite on the fourth floor. Don’s looking up at the next room’s ceiling (the outside of it is the turret seen in the pic above) which suffers from a water leak (a bucket sits below to catch the water).



The foundation level is mostly unfinished, but it may have stayed that way because of the nature of its use, mostly for storage, organ mechanics, boiler room, etc.


But it also includes a nice indoor pool (and notice the supply of wood stacked up).


The floating frog attracts donations!


What an impressive place this castle would have been, especially as a summer home! Although the Boldt family never got to enjoy it, the castle will one day be totally restored in the manner planned by Mr. Boldt, and will stand as a monument to his great love for his wife. All admissions and donations to the castle are being used to keep it open for visitors and to fund ongoing restoration work.

As this blog is now extremely long, I’ll save the report of the other buildings, including the Yacht House, for another day.


  1. I visited back in the early 70's and they were just beginning to restore it. No furnishings and graffiti everywhere especially the lower floors. There was no elevator. Bill and I visited it a few years ago and it didn't even look like the same place. I think by your photos, they've done a huge amount of restoration just in that short time. Glad you enjoyed it as much as we did. Now don't forget the winery near by.

  2. Love that castle - it's magnificent. Thanks for the tour and history lesson. I'm always amazed to read stories of poor immigrants who worked hard and then made a fortune. Good for them.

  3. Ok, this post has just forced a change in plans for us. We have to figure out a way to visit this place on our next trip north to the New England States. It's too beautiful and interesting looking to miss!


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