Many luxury homes dot the 1000 Islands Region of New York and Canada. Including castles: Singer Castle and Boldt Castle.
Both of these castles are on islands with no bridge access to the mainland so a boat is required for a visit. Both castles have dock space for private boats and are serviced by local tour boat companies. I took the “Singer Castle Tour” from Uncle Sam Boat Tours in Alexandria Bay, NY. The 3+ hour tour includes transportation to Singer Castle with a guided tour on the way there and a guided tour of the castle. On the way back to Alex Bay the boat stops at Boldt Castle where guests have the option of disembarking and purchasing a ticket to the castle for a self-guided tour.
The sightseeing along the way is nearly as good as the castle tours. The guide on the boat will tell you the name of nearly every island you pass along with stories about what happened on several islands. The tour boat looks small compared to the other boats on the St. Lawrence!
Singer Castle, on eerily named Dark Island, was commissioned in the early 1900s by Frederick Bourne. At the time Bourne was the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and built the castle as a hunting retreat for his family.
The 28 room castle and 7 acre island is in the United States, but sits very close to the Canadian border. From Dark Island, the sun rises in America and sets in Canada.
After Bourne’s death, the castle was owned by his daughter Marjorie Bourne Thayer. Mrs. Thayer made additions to the castle and much of it remains today as it was under her ownership – including some original furnishings.
The castle features several hidden passageways and staircases to allow the servants to move unobtrusively through the property. The servants lived in the top floor of the castle since the lower your rank, the higher you slept was the rule at the time. The washroom in the female servants’ quarters is in one of the castle’s turrets.
Like many in the region, her father included, Marjorie had a love of boat racing. When she was 20 years old she drove her boat to the title of “fastest motor boat in the Thousand Islands.” Learn more about boat racing on the St. Lawrence at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY.
And you too can live like the Bournes by booking a private stay in The Royal Suite. Your stay will include a catered dinner, a continental breakfast, and wi-fi. All for $700 per night. Transportation to and from the castle is extra. My birthday is in March.
Boldt Castle on Heart Island is only a 10 minute boat ride from Alexandria Bay, NY.
Commissioned in 1900 by hotel magnate George Boldt, the 120 room castle was a symbol of love for his wife Louise. Once a poor immigrant child, George Boldt went on to run both the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia. Touches that he and Louise incorporated for their guests revolutionized the hotel industry – like providing sheets! Can you imagine bringing your own sheets to the Holiday Inn on your next trip? Prior to the Boldts, you had to.
In 1904 tragedy struck and Louise suddenly died. George couldn’t imagine this castle, his gift to her, without his wife so he ordered that all construction stop immediately. Neither he nor his children ever returned to Heart Island. For 73 years the castle sat empty and was at the mercy of weather and vandals. In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over and work began to preserve Boldt’s legacy. However they must abide by two rules: 1. The castle may never be completed and 2. No one can ever spend the night there.
While much of the ground floor and second floor are completed, construction continues to this day on the third and fourth floors. Signs of vandalism are still evident.
Admission to Boldt Castle includes access to the castle, the Alster Tower (known as the Children’s Playroom), the grounds including the Italian Gardens, and more.
Admission the the Bold Castle Yacht House on Wellesely Island is also included; as is transportation from Heart Island to the Yacht House and back.
Unfortunately, during our visit the water level was so high that the Yacht House was closed. We did however get to tour Boldt’s houseboat, La Duchesse, during our visit to the Antique Boat Museum.
Ready to see these castles for yourself? Plan a trip to the 1000 Islands today! Ask me any questions you have in the comments below.
Tickets for the Singer Castle Tour from Uncle Sam Boat Tours are $37/adult and $18.50/child. The optional Boldt Castle admission is $9.50/adult and $6.50/child
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