June 9, 2017, Henderson Bay and Alexandria Bay, NY
The week we spent in the Byron, Ny area was so packed with things to do and see, we really weren’t ready to move on, there was so much more to check out. Since Carolyn and Gary had already headed to Henderson Bay, NY, in the 1000 Island region and were waiting for us, off we went. Little did we know what an awesome area we would be visiting.
We actually were a little worried that our gps had taken us a wrong way again as we were making out way to 1000 Island Association KOA in Henderson Bay, NY. Heading down a very narrow and twisty neighborhood road with trucks and cars lining the street, there was no way a car coming the other way could fit beside us. The view between the homes was awesome, we were on a hill looking down at Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes. Once we got down to the level of the lake, we could see that the road across the water to an island was man made.
It took us out to the campground that takes up the whole island, after going over a very narrow bridge, it sure made us nervous, as we wondered, would it hold us at 51,000 lbs and our truck or would something land in the lake?
This campground is huge, with over 200 rv sites, cabins, and tent sites. They have a community center, two pools, kids play area and boat marina. Before we arrived we had checked out the website and learned that because of all the rain the area had there was flooding at the campground and some sites could be underwater…luckily most of the flooding had receded before we arrived, there was still some of the island that was flooded.
There had been rain while we were in Byron, Carolyn and Gary found that they had a leak in one of the slides…yikes…so the guys spent sometime on the roof removing the slide topper and finding the leak…luckily Gary had the proper caulking and tape to fix it. We have had rain since then and glad to report…no leak… the guys did a great job fixing.
A visit to the magnificent Boldt Castle on Heart Island in Alexandria was something that Caroline told us was a must…so off we went.
Guy and I had no idea what to expect and decided not to look up any information on it as we wanted to be surprised….and WOW were we ever! If you are ever in this area it is a must see!
You must take a ferry for a 5 min ride out to the castle, ( The cost of the ferry to the island was $9 each and the self guided tour was $9.50 each), We could see the castle from the mainland but the closer we got to the island the more beautiful it looked. The story of Heart island and Boldt castle starts out as a beautiful love story but has a truly tragic ending.
George C. Boldt came to America in 1864 from Prussia, the son of poor parents. He became the most successful hotel magnate in America. George C. Boldt was the millionaire proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NY City as well as the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, PA. George decided to build a full-sized Castle in Alexandria Bay, NY on his own island. This castle was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.
Beginning in 1900, Boldt’s family, his wife and 2 children, shared four glorious summers on Wellesley Island, (another of his islands) while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters and artists built the six story, 120 room castle on Heart Island. There are tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge and dovecote.
In 1904, tragedy struck, Boldt telegrammed the island and had the 300 workers “stop all construction”. His beloved, Louise, had mysteriously died. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved Louise. Three hundred workers laid down their tools, and the castle was never finished. Boldt never again returned to the island, leaving the structure as a monument of his love.
For 73 years, the castle remained vacant, left to the wind, rain, ice, snow and vandals. In 1977, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took ownership by paying $1.00, under the agreement that all proceeds from tourists would be applied towards restoration of the castle and grounds.
Since then, $15 million has been invested into the rehabilitation of the Heart Island Castle. The initial goal of the restoration of Heart Island was not to finish what had not been completed, but to restore the island to the state it was in when construction was halted. But it improvements have gone beyond that, with the marble floors, grand staircase with woodwork, stained glass dome, finished kitchen and bedrooms. Restoration continues today.
There are six structures on Heart Island: Boldt Castle, the Power house, the Alster Tower, the Hennry, the Arch and a stone gazebo. There are many walkways that surround the property and castle leading to gardens and lake.
The Powerhouse and clock tower, which are on the eastern end of the island was fashioned after a medieval tower with a stone arch bridge which provided access to the powerhouse. The powerhouse was built to hold a generator which supplied the island with power and now is a museum to show how power was obtained in the early 1900’s. Due to the high water there was some flooding on the island, which was the case with the power house so we did not get to tour inside.
Most of the rooms on the first floor and many of the rooms on the second floor are finished and furnished as of 2013. The basement has been left unfinished with just the brick and mortar walls. The pool has been painted and does have water, it is being used as a wishing pool as visitors have been throwing money into it.
The Alster Tower was purposely constructed with slanting and uneven walls, ceilings, and roof. The towers construction began in 1897 and was completed 2 yrs later in 1899. The tower reaches 90′ into the air and has 2 bowling alleys, library, kitchen, billiard room and stage for Children’s plays. The upper portion of the tower was divided into bedrooms, studies and bathrooms. The tower is being refurbished with the first room being the billiard room.
Dovecot Tower was the first structure built on the island. It is located on the east end, it housed the water tank and was capped with the dovecot. If you look closely you can see the actual perches and pigeon holes that were constructed for the fancy fowl the Boldt’s kept on the island. The Dovecoat had deteriorated so badly that it was unsure if it could be restored, but by 1992 it had been completely restored.
The Boldt Yacht House is located on Wellesley Island (another ferry ride across the lake), has antique wooden boats, some from the Boldt fleet. The families 3 yachts and houseboat were in slips, 128’ long. The building rises 64’ and housed a shop that built racing boats and were quarters for the crew and staff. The bay doors, roof and windows are now being restored.
On the second floor there is a documentary film about the life of the Boldt family and the castle, it was very informative and interesting, it takes approximately 10-15 mins.
Once arriving back in Alexandria Bay, we all voted on an early dinner, Riley’s was right on the water where we could watch the boats come in. After dinner a walk thru the town looking in store windows and checking out the art gallery was perfect before heading back to camp.
The next day was going to be a long drive for us as our next stop was Burlington, Vermont, making it an early night for us all.
Thank you all for following on “OurRovinJourney”, come and follow us as we spend time in Vermont. Have a Blessed Day and see ya soon!