– The History of Heart Island –
The five-acre island in the St. Lawrence River, now known as ‘Heart Island,’ on which Boldt Castle stands was once called ‘Hemlock Island’ and was then owned by brothers Charles and John Walton of Alexandria Bay.
The Waltons sold Hemlock Island to Mr. Elizur Kirke Hart for $100 on July 31,1871. He then renamed the island ‘Hart Island.’
In 1872 Elizur Hart spent alot of time and money beautifying the grounds, and invested $10,000 to have a summer ‘cottage’ built on the island.
The word ‘cottage’ is perhaps misleading – Mr. Hart’s summer ‘cottage’ was 84 feet long and 76 feet wide, contained 80 rooms and had a tower and a high sleeping porch attached for spectacular viewing of the St. Lawrence River.
In 1893, Mr. Elizur Kirke Hart died. His widow, Louise S. Hart had absolutely no intentions of selling the property, at any price, as it was one of the most desirable locations in the area for a summer home.
The summer home on Hart Island went unoccupied for some time, until Mr. Edward Wallace Dewey purchased the property for $10,000 from Mr. Hart’s widow, Louise, on June 21, 1895.
Eleven days later he transferred ownership of Hart Island (and the summer cottage) to Louise Boldt, George Boldt’s wife, for only $1.00
George Boldt immediately went to work beautifying the island. One of the first things he had done was to alter the shape of the island into more of a ‘heart-shape,’ and changed the name from ‘Hart Island’ to ‘Heart Island.’
The family spent several summers on Heart Island in the old summer cottage, while they made improvements. The Power-House was built to provide electricity to island buildings. The Hennery, or Dove-Cote, was built to house Mr. Boldt’s favorite birds, and the Arch part of a Peristyle was under construction. This was to be the entry to the island grounds.
In 1899, Alster Tower was completed. This was a tower first conceived by Mr. Boldt while on a tour up the Rhine River, in Germany. It’s primary function was for recreational facilities for the family. The ‘Playhouse’ as it has been called, contained a billiard room, library, kitchen, ballroom and several apartments. In the basement was a two-lane bowling alley.
In 1900 work began on Boldt Castle. Thr first thing that needed to be done was to remove the old summer cottage. And so.. the building was slid (in sections) across the frozen St. Lawrence River, to become the Wellesley House and Part of the Thousand Islands Country Club.
Louise Boldt died in 1904 and construction on the castle stopped completely. The building was left standing unfinished as a monument to love.
For 73 years Heart Island and Boldt Castle fell into extreme disrepair. Vandals stole valuable architectural elements, and anything else of any value. Fires destroyed the roof of the Power House and ‘salvagers’ stripped the castle, and its grounds, of tons and tons of iron and steel during WWII.
In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority took over ownership of the property, and have pledged to restore and maintain the property as a treasured tourist attraction.
In the past 30 years, over $14 million have been spent on the ongoing restoration and restabilization projects at Heart Island.