What better way to enjoy a warm September day on the St. Lawrence River than a scenic cruise through the Thousand Islands. Although our 2 1/2 hour trip on Uncle Sam’s paddleboat didn’t include all of the 1864 islands, Reilly, our young tour guide, gave us an enthusiastic glimpse into the lives of many of the wealthy who summer here in their million dollar homes.
Most intriguing was the last stop at Heart Island, where we heard the sad story of the magnificent Boldt Castle. It seemed that George Boldt, a poor Prussian immigrant, who came to our shores in the 1860’s, was to finally realize his American dream. After years of working hard and making important contacts in the growing hotel industry, George Boldt became the proud proprietor of the sumptuous Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia and the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
After meeting Louise, the love of his life, George thought he had it all. To honor her, George decided to build a full sized Rhineland Castle.
For four glorious years, while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters and artists constructed the six-storey, 120-room castle, George, Louise and their two children vacationed on nearby Wellesley Island, where the Yacht House still stands, anticipating completion of their island treasure.
Then in 1904, tragedy struck: Louise died suddenly.
Heartbroken, George sent a telegram to stop all construction immediately. He couldn’t imagine living in his Rhineland Castle without his beloved queen.
For 73 years, until 1977, when the Thousand Island Bridge Authority assumed ownership, the castle lay empty, forlorn and vulnerable, at the mercy of the elements.
Hearts were everywhere: inlaid in marble mantels, wood floors and in the lovely Italian garden and fountains.
As Manny and I walked the maze of silent underground tunnels, visited the ornate stone gazebo and power house, and peeked into the lavishly appointed rooms that have never been inhabited, the melancholy was almost palpable.
Boldt Castle, like the Taj Mahal, was a testament to a love that knows no bounds.
As Emperor Jahan said of the mausoleum he built to honor his his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631, so could it be said of Boldt Castle today:
“The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.”