George and Louise Boldt–their story is one of a great and deeply felt love. It’s also a tale of tragedy and a future with a broken heart. George was a poor immigrant in the late 1800s who managed to gain employment at the famous Waldorf Astoria, and later would own it and another hotel here in Pennsylvania. It was while he was working at the Waldorf that he met Louise Kehrer and fell madly in love with her. While vacationing in Alexandria Bay, more particularly, the Thousand Islands, he bought Hart Island, which he legally changed to Heart Island. In 1900, he commenced building a castle there for his lovely Louise to live in. In 1904, tragedy struck and Louise Boldt died suddenly at the young age of 41. That same day, George sent a telegram to the island and ordered all construction to cease and all workers to leave the island. The heartbroken George never stepped foot on Heart Island again. He never allowed his children or their families to visit the island either. Boldt Castle was 96% finished the day Louise died, and it would remain unfinished, too. So great was his love for his wife, and just as great was his pain from losing her, that he could not bear to live there without her.
In 1977, the heirs of George Boldt sold the castle and Heart Island to the state of New York for $1.00 with the following conditions: 1) The castle was to be open to the public and every cent from the sale of tickets was to be put into restoring the castle, which had been vandalized over the decades it remained empty; 2) the restoration was never to go beyond 96% completion, which was the last Louise had ever seen; and 3) no one was ever allowed to live there or stay there. To date, $38 million have been used in restoring the castle and only one and a half of the 6 floors have been fully restored.
Beginning at the top left corner and continuing clockwise, the photographs are: A view of 75% of Heart Island as seen from our hotel suite’s balcony; the Italian Garden at the rear of the castle with the castle’s power house (also a castle-like structure) in the background; the view of the castle’s main arch entrance where George imagined his guests docking their boats and visiting he and Louise at the castle–to the right is a 6 story playhouse he had designed and constructed for his children and their guests; a rear view of the castle; and, again, the arched entrance to the island.
Steve took me to the Thousand Islands for our anniversary trip, and I was instantly overtaken with the immense love George Boldt had for his wife. I snapped over 500 photographs, and I apologize that I don’t have a closeup of the front of the castle for you, but those are on another camera card that I have not yet downloaded.
The entire time we were exploring the castle and its grounds on a self-guided tour, Steve and I discussed George and Louise. All around us were visual signs of their love from heart-shaped flower beds to hand-carved granite benches with huge hearts carved out of the center of each bench’s backrest to the portraits of Louise to the Italian Garden with its carved granite statues. We wondered what George would think of all the people tramping around the grounds and invading the castle. We wondered how he would have looked upon the vandalism each room on each floor suffered from careless youths who didn’t know the story behind the castle or perhaps knew it and didn’t care.
As we sat on a magnificent porch, on a heart-shaped bench, I became weepy thinking about George and his immense love of Louise. With all that Steve has been through this year, perhaps George’s story hit a little too close to home. Or perhaps I’m just too softhearted and enjoy a good love story. Maybe a little of both. One thing I know for certain, George and Louise Boldt are now a part of my own history, and their love story reminds me to be thankful for my own love story!
Finally–so as not to leave on such a sad note–It has been my dream to own an island. Strange dream, I know. But ever since I learned that Raymond Burr owned his own island, I’ve wanted to own one myself. During our stay in Alexandria Bay, we came to learn that there were 3 islands for sale. The first one we saw had a price of $1.4 million. The second one we saw had the hefty price tag of $5.5 million. And the third one was selling for $80,000. I’ll leave you with the photo of the third island, which is still swimming around in my thoughts as a possibility!
It’s not the size of the house that matters, but rather the island itself that remains important to me. <grin>
Until next time, may you be as loved as Louise!! ❤