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May 27, 2016

Heart Island, NY - Field Trip Friday

Every May, our co-op enjoys an amazing field trip that involves a bit of a drive, a hotel stay, and a bigger than your usual field trip kind of destination.  This is what all that fundraising we do throughout the year is all about.  So a big THANK YOU to everyone who buys fruit or fudge and shops at Hannaford's for us!

Boldt Castle on Heart Island was on our list of possibilities last year and came in a close second.  We added it back in this year and chose it.  It was a great trip.  From the hotel, to the boat ride, to the actual castle in the Thousand Islands, everything was perfect.  It was breezy and cool, but not cold or rainy.  Since we were outside a lot, that made a very pleasant trip.

We stayed at The Best Western in Watertown.  The boys could *not* wait to use the pool!  In the evening, Micah was able to get a run on the treadmill, so his schedule wasn't terribly interrupted.  It also had a huge room for breakfast and we took it over for games and a pizza party in the evening.  We also enjoyed their full breakfast Monday before we left for Alexandria Bay.

Uncle Sam Boat Tours took us to the island and to the yacht house on a nearby island.  I don't want to get ahead of myself about that place!  The people were all terrific and no boats sank with us on board, so I consider that a success!

The Castle

The castle was being built by a hotel magnate George Boldt for his wife as a gift.  Louise died before completion and the home was never completed.  It was left to rot where it stood and was vandalized.  The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority owns and is rebuilding the "castle" and other buildings.  Almost all of it is accessible to the public.

I want to say there were six levels from the foundation to the top.  In the foundation, there was a small pool.  One side of the foundation opened right out at ground level.  A tunnel led out to the grounds on the power house side.

The entry and grand staircase with kitchen, dining rooms (formal, maid, and servant), reception areas, den (or library), and sitting room were on the first floor.  On this floor, there also was a ballroom with a pipe organ and doors opening to the veranda that looked out over the gardens.

The second floor housed the family bedrooms and bathrooms.  There also was a small theater for modern day visitors to see a short film about the Boldt family, the life they led, and the building and abandonment of Boldt Castle.  The end of the video was a bit silly, claiming the Boldts' spirits have been seen roaming the grounds.  This is also where the gift shop is located.The entire floor was not finished and part of every level from here up was closed off.

The third floor seemed to be intended for nice sized rooms as well.  Maybe for guests?  I didn't look at the architectural plans on the wall.  I should have because from here up, I'm guessing about the purpose of each area.  (Ah ha!  I found the Boldt Castle map brochure which shows floor plans.  You can check it out.  I'm leaving my impressions of the upper levels here, but they aren't 100% accurate.)

The two higher levels, I imagine would have housed servants.  There was one odd, round window I noticed and couldn't figure out. But when I went out on a balcony, I could see that it made perfect sense on the face of the building.

Around Heart Island

Heart Island has several out buildings.  There was a power house where the generators to power the island were to be kept. It's connected to the island by an arched bridge.  It was severely damaged by a fire in the 1930s and now has some displays and old photographs of life on the river.  It was neat to see the games and other entertainments held on the St. Lawrence.

Alster Tower, or the "children's playhouse" was an incredible stone building surrounded by nooks and crannies and small sized doors.  The bowling alley was in this building as well as a billiards room.  The plans called for bedrooms and cafes and dancing areas.  This was the most castle-like building of them all to me, resembling a corner defense tower that would be set in an exterior castle wall.

The Dove-Cote once held the water tank for the island buildings and is where they kept fancy birds.  It was the first tower built on the island.

There was a lovely gazebo in the gardens around the island which had several heart shaped areas and fountains.  There also is a swan pond, which is actually void of swans.

The entry arch was stunning.  We didn't go in that way, there is another dock where visitors are brought in.  It once was the entry where guests would arrive.  It was never completed, as it was intended to have covered walkways.  Three stags, or harts (a play on the heart theme?), were placed atop the arch.

This is the part where we pointed out the yacht house on another island and the boys asked how we would get there.  Micah said, "Swim, of course."

Swim, little fish boys!

The Yacht House

The yacht house is located on nearby Wellesley Island.  Here, antique boats are housed.  We not only saw all of the wonderful boats, but Xav asked many appropriate questions and we learned about the screw jacks that raise and lower the boat decks for storage or use, respectively.

The steam yacht, The Kestrel, was housed there.  It was donated by a private owner.  Other boats on the premises, have been provided for display by the Antique Boat museum.

The building also housed the Yacht House keeper and his family.  The first floor of their tower home was also open to visitors.

I kept looking at the whole estate, especially from the river, and admiring the beauty of it.  Micah said he looks at it and just sees a lot of maintenance.  I think Dad Boldt probably wouldn't have had to worry about the maintenance himself.  He would have hired plenty of people to take care of all of that.  There is still so much work to be done, it's mind boggling.

I found an inflation calculator which tells me $1,000,000 then is over $24,000,000 today, so the Boldt family certainly had plenty of money.  No matter how wealthy someone is, though, the abandonment of the island was a terrible waste of money.  And I'm a bit romantic myself, but I thought never stepping foot back on the island (where neither of them died) seemed silly.

It was a really fun day with our co-op friends, definitely one of my favorite trips.

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