I have a confession to make. I am a hopeless romantic. There are very few things that I love more than a good love story, especially the ones that can make me cry. Love stories don't have to end with “and they lived happily ever after.” I guess that's why I find the story of Boldt Castle so fascinating. And, since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I want to share it with you.
George C. Boldt, a young immigrant from Prussia, immigrated to America at the age of thirteen. His first job was as a busboy in a busy hotel restaurant. After a failed attempt at ranching out west, he moved back to the East coast and returned to the hotel business. He met and fell in love Louise Kehrer while working as a steward at her father's Clover Club in Philadelphia in 1876. George was twenty-six, and Louise was just fifteen. Their son, George Jr., was born in 1879, and their daughter, Louise Clover, in 1885.
Soon, George was the manager of the Waldorf Astoria, and the owner of a couple of smaller hotels. His booming success allowed him to purchase Hart Island, part of the Thousand Islands of northern New York. The Boldts had a beautiful summerhouse built there, and reshaped the island into a heart shape, changing the spelling of the name to Heart Island. The family spent several happy summers there.
In 1900, George ordered the construction of a castle where the family's summer home was located. It was to be a Valentine's Day surprise for his wife, as a testament of his love for her. In January of 1904, with the castle almost complete, tragedy struck. Louise Boldt died. It was both sudden and very unexpected. In his grief, George halted the construction of the castle. He would never set foot on Heart Island again.
For years, the castle sat neglected, left to the whim of vandals and northern NY weather. Finally, in 1977, the property was bought by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. $15 million dollars, and several years later, the castle was reopened as a tourist attraction. Renovations are still ongoing, though, and probably will be for a long time.
Whenever I visit Heart Island, I can't help but be swept away by the sheer scale of this place. Sure, the Boldt family was incredibly well off, allowing them to afford a castle this size, but the kind of love shared between George and Louise was obviously something very special and rare. And the castle has become just what George dreamed of- a lasting testament of the love he felt for his wife.
Want to visit this beautiful castle for yourself? I highly recommend it. They are open May-October, but the best time to visit is in the mid-to-late spring. This is when all the flowers are in bloom, and it's not as crowded as it will be during the summer months. The island is accessible by boat, and there are several ferries, from both Canada and New York, that go to the island numerous times a day. For more information, check out the Boldt Castle website.
Where is the most romantic place that you've ever visited?