Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands

A Gilded Age Castle Built for a Tragic Love

Boldt Castle and buildings on Hart Island, Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence Seaway, New York State
Boldt Castle on Hart Island, Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence Seaway, New York State. Photo by Danita Delimont/Gallo Images Collection/Getty Images

An aura of romance surrounds the five-acre Boldt Castle estate in the Thousand Islands, just offshore from Alexandria Bay, New York. Stone by stone, Boldt Castle was built for love, but it was a love that ended tragically.

About Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle is the American fairy tale version of a traditional fortress castle. It's a jigsaw puzzle of medieval and Victorian styles pieced together by the firm of W.D. Hewitt and G.W. Hewitt - the same architects who designed the fanciful Druim Moir castle in Philadelphia.

Like many homes from America's Gilded Age, the eleven-building complex is exuberant and outrageous, as though its creators had taken five hundred years of architectural history and spilled it across the craggy island.

Legend has it that multi-millionaire George Boldt began the castle in 1900 as a testimonial of his love for his wife, Louise. She was only fifteen when they married, and she had worked at his side during his climb to wealth and prominence. Boldt planned to present the castle to Louise on Valentine's Day, 1905.

A Castle Built For Love

Of all the grand summer homes in the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castle was to be the most magnificent. More than 300 artisans, masons, stonecutters, landscapers, and other craftsmen were hired. The Alster Tower would be a gigantic playhouse with a bolling alley, a billiard room, a library, bedrooms, and kitchen areas.

The Power House would hold a steam-powered generator for power and lights. The Yacht House would shelter the family houseboat and boats from visitors. But the crowning jewel would be a 120-room home modeled after a Rhineland castle and furnished with paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and tapestries from around the world.

This grand design was never completed, however. Construction halted when a sudden tragedy struck the young family.

Tragedy at Boldt Castle

One year before Boldt Castle was to be completed, Louise, aged 41, died. Brokenhearted, George Boldt stopped the construction and never returned to the island. Boldt died in 1916 and the castle was purchased by Edward John Noble, who owned the Beechnut Fruit Company. Noble invested in the area and built the Thousand Island Club. Over the next 50 years, the E.J. Noble Foundation ran Boldt Castle as a tourist attraction.

Visitors were allowed to roam the island freely, and the castle became a victim of vandals who broke windows, covered walls with graffiti, and stripped buildings of ornamental details. Roofs leaked, timbers deteriorated, plaster peeled from walls. A fire destroyed all but the stone shell of the Powerhouse.

Boldt Castle Today

There is, however, a happy ending. In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the estate and began restorations. Windows and roofs were repaired. The Power House was rebuilt and the ballroom was converted into a museum. Couples came to be wed.

Every summer you will see the wedding couples sail down the Saint Lawrence River, glide beneath an arched water gate modeled after Roman monuments, and say their vows on a stone bridge leading to a fanciful assembly of peaked turrets.

Perhaps the couples are drawn by the romantic story surrounding the castle. Or, perhaps, they sense that the mismatched towers and quirky ornaments say something important about love.

Do bricks and mortar make your heart skip a beat? Ever fall in love atop a tower... or inside a special room? Which buildings are the most romantic? Without a doubt, Boldt Castle is one of America's Top 10 Romantic Castles.