Friday, September 7, 2012

House Crashing: Boldt Castle (part one)

Two weeks ago my parents packed up their RV, and journeyed up from Pennsylvania to visit us. Our area features a lot of lovely campgrounds and state parks, and so they made a little camping trip out of their vacation. It gave us a chance to show off our new house, take them on a little tour of the area, and of course give them spend time with our daughter.

In the week that they spent up here, we managed to take a day trip up to Alexandria Bay for a boat tour of the Saint Lawrence River, and tour of Boldt Castle. I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to take lots of pictures and spread the inspiration that this lovely place gave us. Are you ready for your virtual tour? This post is filled with a TON of pictures, so prepare yourself!

Here's a view from the boat while we were on the river tour. It was such a beautiful day! Most of the houses up here are summer homes since it gets extremely cold in the winter, and a majority of the river actually freezes over. Some houses on the islands are only generator powered, but still-- how amazing would it be to have a summer house here?

This is just one of the amazing summer homes. I remember our guide telling about this place. It was formerly the boat house of the adjacent property until that owner renovated it and sold it to the current owner. SUCH an amazing place... and look how huge it is! The house next door (the property which is was formerly a part of) is even bigger!

Check out this house... they don't call it the Thousand Island's Region for nothing! Our tour guide informed us that it only involves a few small criteria in order for a piece of land to be claimed an island here. Aside from it being a natural formation, it has to be completely surrounded by water and remain above water at high tide. It also has to be at least one square foot, and it has to support at least one tree.

Part way throughout the boat tour, the kids had the opportunity to go up to the boat and be "Captain". Here's our daughter driving the ship before receiving her certificate. Look mom! No hands!

She really got a kick out of watching the water. Unfortunately, our seats were in the middle of the boat, so she only had limited opportunity to sneak up to the side and look overboard. It also meant that my photos would be plagued with the tops of people's heads.

This is the bridge that leads into Canada.

After spending about two hours cruising up and down the St Lawrence, checking out the various islands and Millionaires Row, we approached the Boldt Castle on Heart Island. Originally the island was named Hart Island, but Mr. Boldt had the spelling changed as the property was a gift for his wife whom he loved dearly. He even had the topography of the island altered, and certain structures placed so that it would actually be in the shape of a heart!

The first structure we passed (above) was the power plant for the island. This housed all of the equipment to power the island up. When we docked on the island, we paid our admission for the Castle self-tour, and set off on our adventure.

George C. Boldt was a millionaire proprietor of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC. He spent most of his life working in the hotel industry, and built the full size Rhineland inspired castle as a token of love for his wife, Louise

Construction began in the early 1900s as Mr. Boldt employed over 300 workers to complete work on the castle while the family stayed at their summer home just down the river on Wellesley Island.

Here's the view as we were walking towards the front of the property...

Jaw-dropping architecture... When we rounded the corner, we also caught glimpse of two other massive structures. The play house built for their children that included a 2-lane bowling alley inside (sadly we couldn't enter this building as it was undergoing renovations, and the beautiful replica of the Arc De Triomphe. All guests were formally received at the Arc when arriving to the island while the Boldt family was there.

We also enjoyed the beautiful gardens and landscaping as we toured the grounds first. Love the bright fuchsia of these flowers. Our daughter even noticed that they matched her dress. The picture below shows her excitement over that. That's my girl!

Next, we strolled over to the power house... a beautiful building all on it's own. Apparently this building needed some extensive restoration as an errant firework set flame to the structure and the contents inside. The building is now a museum that displays pictures of the times, and also some of the original equipment from that time period.

Next, we ventured into the castle itself by way of a rear "servants tunnel" into the home. The gravel path was fairly long and wide, and I am sure provided entrance for supplies and the like into the home. This long corridor was also lit, as you can see the old electrical tubing and light fixtures still mounted on the ceiling. The windows also kept it well lit during the day.

This basement area was still unfinished as most of the plaster had either disintegrated or was removed for safety reasons. It did, however, feature a small in-ground pool where the Boldt children would swim during the summer months. Now it's become a wishing well for visitors of the island.

A stairway led up into the grand hallway of the castle (you can see the entrance to it under the large staircase to the second floor). Sorry for the blurry picture, but the hallway was filled with so many passing by. Look at that gorgeous, ornate scroll work on the ceiling. Beautiful.

From there, we ventured onto an outdoor veranda that was just outside of the dining room. It had a very large outdoor fireplace (pretty much every single room in the castle had it's own fireplace) and featured a beautiful stone beam/wood planked ceiling.

Look familiar? Oh, if only our ceilings were that high!

From there, we ventured over to the ballroom. Naturally this had to involve a father/daughter dance. Boldt Castle actually books weddings. Hopefully some day when she is older, she can share that same dance in such a beautiful venue as this.

off of this room seemed to be the men's "cigar lounge". It was very masculine-ly decorated. I can just imagine Mr. Boldt and his male guests escaping to this room to smoke their cigars or pipes, and discuss politics over brandy.

On the other side of this room, after a hallway which led to another porch area, seemed to be the ladies parlor. Again, more beautiful scroll in the plaster.

The pool hall was located just off of the parlor. Get a load of that AWESOME honeycomb ceiling! Love.

That pretty much concludes the downstairs tour of Boldt Castle, and also the property grounds. The post is pretty picture intensive, which is why I chose to split it up into separate posts for those of you who may have trouble letting the page load. Stay tuned, I should have the rest of the tour which includes the next 4 floors (Yes! FOUR stories!) posted by tomorrow!

Thanks so much for going on a virtual tour of Boldt Castle with me. Hopefully you enjoyed seeing the pictures of this beautiful building just as much as I enjoyed taking/seeing the rooms in person. Don't forget to check back tomorrow for the second half!

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