How do we mend a broken heart? George Boldt was twenty-six when he married fifteen year old Louise Augusta Keher in 1877. There were married just over twenty-six years before Louise died in 1904 but during this time they lived a wonderful story.
George was the founder and owner of the Bellevue Hotel and Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, U.S.A. He also managed the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, which later became the world famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Colonel John Jacob Astor, the world's richest man at the time, built the Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1897. It later merged with the Waldorf Hotel and the two became known the Waldorf-Astoria. John Jacob Astor and his second wife Madeline, who was pregnant at the time, were returning on the Titanic from Europe to North America when it struck a massive iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. Although his wife survived on a life boat, John, together with 1502 other passengers and crew, died at 2.10 a.m. the following morning when the ship sank 4 kilometers to the North Atlantic Ocean floor.
George and Louise Boldt visited Heart Island for the first time in the summer of 1893. Heart Island is in Alexandria Bay on the Saint Lawrence River and is located slightly on the American side of the international border between Canada and the United States. It is one of the thousand islands dotting Lake Ontario where it flows into the St. Lawrence River. John Jacob Astor also had a summer home on an island in Alexandria Bay.
George and Louise became enraptured with Alexandria Bay and returned whenever opportunity permitted. It is noteworthy that Oscar Tschirky, an employee and confidant of George Boldt, created the world famous Thousand Island Dressing while on the yacht Louise, named after George Boldt's wife.
In late 1899, George Boldt commissioned the construction of a castle on Heart Island, planning to dedicate it to his wife five years later on her birthday, Valentine's Day, 1904, when it was scheduled to be completed. Alas, January 1904, Louise's life ended suddenly when she succumbed to heart failure. She had known just forty-one years in this world.
George was devastated by Louise's death. Even though the construction of the castle, costing 2.5 million dollars, was nearly completed, George telegraphed the work site directing that all construction cease immediately. Three hundred workers halted work, leaving the castle unfinished and unprotected from vandals and the elements.
The dream was over.
George Boldt never returned to Heart Island. He died broken-hearted on December 5, 1916, in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City twelve years after the loss of his Louise.
Boldt Castle was abandoned for seventy-three years until the year 1977 when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took possession of the island and completed construction of the castle.
The restoration cost of the castle exceeded 14 million dollars. Today, it is recognized as one of the architectural wonders of North America.
The entire structure defies description. Every year, hundreds of couples go to the castle to be joined in marriage. It is believed that those who marry on Heart Island will know the love and devotion that the Boldts experienced.
Towering six stories above ground level, the castle has 120 rooms.
Boldt Castle is modeled after sixteenth century European architecture in form and detail. Towering six stories above ground level, it has 120 rooms. A museum dedicated to the lives of George and Louise Boldt has been created on the first level.
The Power House with its Clock Tower was the first structure erected for entertainment of guests. The Alster Tower above the castle is modeled after the defense towers on the Alster River in Germany. Both towers are unrivaled in North America for their creativity and design.
The powerhouse with a clock tower.
Boldt Castle can be reached from Ontario by numerous boat tours from various towns located along the Saint Lawrence River. These include Kingston, Gananoque, Brockville and Rockport. Just follow any of the signs posted on the eastern section of Highway 401 near the Thousand Islands. A suggestion; take an extended tour rather than an abbreviated one as the beauty of the thousand islands dotting Lake Ontario will remain in your memory always.
As you tour to the castle by boat from Ontario you will travel by the summer homes of such famous celebrities as Irving Berlin and Kate Smith. Oh yes, before you commit to the tour, inquire if it includes Boldt Castle. Not all tour boats stop there.
Every year hundreds of couples seek out Heart Island to
be joined in marriage in Boldt Castle.
To visit the castle, American and Canadian citizens must have two or more of the following forms of identification: passport, citizenship card, birth certificate, government issued photo ID, (driver's license, etc.), a permanent resident card.
Landed Immigrants in Canada and citizens of countries other than Canada or the U.S.A. must have a valid passport and a valid U.S. visitor visa unless they are from a Visa Waiver country and then a valid passport is necessary. To re-enter Canada, you will need a foreign passport with Canadian Landed Immigrant authorization (NM 1000) or a Canadian Permanent resident card, (Maple Leaf Card).
The formal entry is a copy of L'Arc De Triomphe in Paris, France.