Our tale of tragic love begins in the year 1900, when George Boldt, owner of New York City's elegant Waldorf Astoria Hotel, decided to have constructed for his wife, a castle, as a symbol of his devotion to his young bride, Louise. He selected a jewel of an island in the Thousand Islands Region of the St. Lawrence River and had it reshaped as a heart (if only all men were so romantic).
George spared no expense or detail. His family passed the summers there, as hundreds of builders worked tirelessly on the giant stone castle, which was six stories high and featured 120 rooms; it was shaping up to be something out of a fairytale with a drawbridge, elaborate gardens, and even a housing structure for doves.
But four years later, tragedy struck. Just as construction of the castle neared completion, the young Mrs. Boldt died suddenly. Devastated, the millionaire ordered all work to halt on January 12, 1904. Not another tapestry was hung nor another nail hammered and the heartbroken Boldt left the castle and island altogether, never returning there. His romantic castle built for love and the surrounding structures were abandoned and subsequently vandalized.
For over 70 years, the castle remained empty, the building and its surrounding structures weathered natures elements and man's vandalism. Until in 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took on the care of it, with the goal of restoring and preserving the castle as a public attraction.
Since that time millions of dollars have been devoted to the castle and island's rehabilitation.
Today Heart Island, near Alexandria Bay, is accessible by private craft and tour boats. Visitors can walk the island, examine the carved stone cherubs, stroll down marble walkways, study hand-crafted tile work and pause for a moment to cherish the architecture of a structure built on love.
Boldt Castle is just the beginning of a Thousand Islands romantic getaway. The islands are breathtaking -- some so tiny they can hardly contain a tent, others so lush that millionaires claimed them for their castles.
Although Boldt Castle never achieved its intended glory, the shell and grounds are open to day visitors and available for outdoor wedding ceremonies. Island visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours of the castle and other structures including the Power House and Clock Tower, Alster Tower, Hennery, The Arch and Stone Gazebo. Exhibits are showcased inside the buildings and a 15-minute video illuminates the lives of George and Louise Boldt.
Ameneties available on Heart Island include docks for boaters use, a souvenginer shop, places for picnicking and purchasing snacks and drinks and public restrooms. The island is accessible to the handicapped.
With scenic vistas galore, romantics will surely find love in the air on Heart Island.
For more information on Boldt Castle, visit www.boldtcastle.com.