Last week I was in Clover Boldt’s bedroom. She was not there. In fact, she was never there, and her bedroom at Boldt Castle was never finished. Today it has been carefully recreated as the room it would have been, had not her mother, Louise, died in 1904 during the castle’s construction, halting all work and leaving the castle an open ruin for decades, sitting on Heart Island across the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay.
It was as a ruin that I first saw Boldt Castle, on a summer’s day some time around 1954 or ’55. I was a boy, expecting a castle like in the books and movies, and instead seeing bare rooms, fireplaces filled with gray dirt, plaster fallen from the walls. I was shocked that adults would let something so grand go unfinished and fall into such disrepair. The images have stuck with me for 60 years.
My wife on the other hand, had never stepped inside Boldt Castle. When she was a girl, her family had money for the boat ride, but not enough for the admission to the castle.
And so when the Skaneateles Historical Society offered a bus trip to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, and a boat tour of the Thousand Islands from Alexandria Bay, with a stop at Boldt Castle, we both felt it was an opportunity to close a circle.
In 1977, the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and began rehabilitating, restoring and improving the estate. The castle is becoming more and more of what George Boldt wanted for his wife. An entrance hall, a grand staircase, a dining room with Boldt family china, a library with George Boldt’s books, a era-appropriate kitchen and butler’s pantry, small dining rooms for the servants and kitchen staff, bedrooms for George, Louise and Clover have all taken shape in the years since 1977, and the work continues.
But for me, the most wonderful part was a “before” picture at the entrance to one of the rooms. It was the room exactly as I remembered it from my visit 60 years ago. It wasn’t a dream. I hadn’t made it up. And now Boldt Castle really does look like a castle from the books and movies. It’s a good feeling.
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The images above and below are from the menu of Clover Boldt’s bridesmaids’ luncheon, with thanks to the digital collection of the New York Public Library. When your father runs the Waldorf-Astoria, he can put on quite a spread for you.