Wednesday, 12 October 2016




While here in Toronto we have the beautiful Niagara Peninsula close by to admire and tour throughout the colourful fall, out beyond Kingston at the other end of Lake Ontario there are the Thousand Islands. It is wonderful to take a cruise among these in the autumn, especially on the way to Heart Island and Boldt Castle.

 View of the Boldt Castle from the water. Heart Island, NY. Photo: Connor Kurtz,2015

Last year I went on a sailing tour of the Thousand Islands, with a special stop at Heart Island. While there are many such grand houses among the Islands, there is special quality to the Boldt estate and the family that build it which makes it one of the iconic landmarks of the islands.

Boldt Castle was constructed by George Boldt during the early 20th century who, as it is stated, built the castle for his wife as a gesture of love. However, when she died, he abruptly ended the construction of the mansion and grounds and it was abandoned for decades. In 1977 the estate was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and its restoration began. 

While I toured around all of the estate grounds and the Castle, the best view I had of the estate was on our vessel’s approach and departure. One of the iconic pieces of the estate grounds which may be best seen from the water is the castle’s Entry Arch. The Harts on top of the miniature triumphal arch are reminiscent of Heart Island’s original name as Hart Island.

The Entry Arch of Boldt Castle. Heart island, NY. Photo: Connor Kurtz, 2015

After disembarking, I began my exploration of the estate’s grounds and outbuildings. One of the most fascinating aspects of Boldt Castle is that, since it was never constructed and inhabited, the Castle and estate existed in a half-life until its restoration began. Even then, much of the estate’s restoration may be seen as the resumption of the Castles construction that was abandoned so long ago.

In my opinion, this leaves the estate grounds as one of the most interesting interpretative spaces on the island as it was one of the first spaces on the Island to be affected by Boldt when he refashioned the island’s shoreline to make it resemble a heart.

Through the interaction between island’s landscape and its buildings it is possible to see Boldt’s onetime plan for the island the most clearly. They are all connected by long rambling paths that encircle and enfold the island allowing a visitor to the estate to have free range over much of the grounds and receive an immersive experience in the islands heritage.

The interplay between the landscapes and buildings of heritage spaces is quite interesting and, when considering this, two outbuildings on Heart Island stand out in particular. One is the Castle’s Power House. While it no longer provides power to the estate, the power house stands at one end of the island as a miniature counterpart to the main castle.

The Boldt Castle Powerhouse. Heart Island, NY. Photo: Connor Kurtz, 2015
Across the island near the Entry Arch is another fascinating building, the Alster Tower. It was constructed by Boldt to be a place of entertainment for his family and guests. Standing at the other end of the island from the Powerhouse, it presents an interesting contrast to the Power House as each, in a sense, guarding the heart that Boldt was constructing.
The Alster Tower, Heart Island, NY. Photo: Connor Kurtz, 2015

While the interior of Boldt Castle is quite spectacular, the grounds and outbuildings present one of the most interesting features of the entire estate. Boldt Castle represents the vision of a person that was never completed, a home that was never lived in. In many ways, its landscape was the most complete part of that vision realized. The outbuildings especially show the depth of the vision Boldt put into it. Although its restoration is ongoing, Boldt Castle demonstrates how past unrealized dreams may be rebuilt and restored.

1 comment:

  1. Boldt Castle and Heart Island rule! I remember going as a kid, to the strange sandcastle playground and seeing the grottoes and pools, the graffiti covered tower interior... It has been a long time but I remember it clear as day. Thanks for this lovely piece and for the nostalgia!