Boldt Castle (Heart Island, New York)

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle quietly sits on Heart Island in New York.  What should have been a grand family home, Boldt Castle is an unfinished tourist attraction and landmark with a sad but beautiful story.  Hotelier and millionaire George Boldt started building his castle in 1900 as a tribute to the love of his life, his wife Louise.  Like so many tragic tales of romance and love lost, Mrs. Boldt passed away just months before their summer dream home on the St Lawrence River was completed.  After the sudden death of his wife, Boldt was so distraught that he immediately halted construction and the property, leaving it unfinished like the life of the woman he loved so dearly.  Vacant for 73 years, Boldt Castle was abused by the elements and uncared for.  It was left to crumble, and was overtaken by nature and destroyed the elements as the strong, sturdy stone slowly deteriorated.

Hundreds of craftsmen were hired for the six-story castle. In addition to the castle an equally distinctive building is the huge yacht house on nearby Wellesley Island, where the Boldts had another home.  Their other home was a grand estate with sweeping estates including farms, canals, tennis courts, stables, a golf course, and of course a polo field.  No home is really complete without a polo field.

Heart Island and the yacht house were purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority in 1977 for one dollar.  This extraordinary deal came with a few strings attached and it was agreed that all revenue from the operation of the site would be applied to its restoration and preservation.  With millions of dollars spent on restoring Heart Island the work is still far from finished.

The goal of the restoration project of Heart Island was never to finish what Boldt had started, but to get the project back to where it was when he stopped building.  There have been a few additions that may have never been in the original plan but they are all in line with his vision.  One of these projects was a stained glass dome made of thousands of hand set pieces of glass.

Visiting Boldt Castle

  • Though Boldt Castle is located on the U.S. side of the Saint Lawrence River, it is possible to take boat tours from either Canada or the United States.
  • Visitors may explore most of the grounds and buildings for a small fee, but boat owners may dock at Heart Island for free.
  • There is a very small U.S. Customs and Border Protection office on the island for visitors coming from Canada.
  • The George C. Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island, is also a popular tourist destination accessible by shuttle boat from Heart Island.  The Yacht House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978

Boldt Castle Facts

  • Boldt was the general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.
  • Originally built as a private residence it is now operated by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority.
  • At the time of construction in 1900, Boldt castle would have been one of the largest private homes in the United States.
  • The construction of Boldt Castle was stopped in 1904.
  • There is a pool and bowling lanes in the unfinished basement.
  • The Power House and The Alster Tower are open to the public as well.