Peck's personal Web site
visit to Marlowe and Dima in Ottawa, Canada
may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught
up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Thousand Islands and Boldt Castle
crowd heads out on the tour boat from Rockport, Canada, through the Thousand Islands
in the St. Lawrence River, on the Swiss National Day 1 August 2004. We're going
to see . . .
the world's shortest international bridge, between Canada (left) and the USA (right).
The small island on the right may soon to be fortified and manned with a couple
of hard-jawed dark-clad agents of the Homeland Security Corps in ray-bans with
stunguns and laptop computers for playing solitaire on.
dock and food concessions at Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands, near Alexandria
Bay, New York, and therefore within the jurisdiction of the dreaded dark-clad
Homeland Security Corps. Thus the long waits as each visiting tour boat arrives
to marshal its passengers, each clutching two forms of photo-IDs, for a lengthy
wait on the docks as the fellows with machine guns pace back and forth along the
line. Lest al-Qaeda operatives sneak in to see what's happening at Boldt Castle
on Heart Island.
The American "paddlewheel steamer" out of Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River between the USA and Canada. The paddle wheel in the back is a mere affectation; it isn't connected to anything, and it flaps idly about in the current.
a Gatsby named George C. Boldt, a self-made
busboy who'd risen to own the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC and other valuable
properties, decided to join the summer-fun society of the 1000 Islands and
build himself a castle of his own, and he imported half of Italy's stonemasons
to assemble it for him. For four summers, as the castle took shape around him,
he and his brood hobnobbed and played at tennis and sailing with the Repugnant
Rich of the neighboring islands, but then alas! in
1904 his doting wife Louise suddenly wafted skyward and he gave it all up half-finished.
Oh misery! No more tinkling laughter on the manicured lawns -- 120 garish half-finished
rooms standing empty (including many on the top floor, the size of coffins, for
the servants), and his faith in the providence of the Good Lord perhaps shaken
at last. The sad old Rich Person never came back to
the island, and contented himself with tormenting and shortchanging his employees
back in the city. http://www.boldtcastle.com/
hall and staircase, filled with formicant tourists like our own good selves. Following
Louise's death in 1904, 73 vacant years of vandalism ensued, and I passed this way on a tour boat about 45 years ago, the castle, seen from
offshore, was a real mess.
Thousand Islands Bridge Authority "acquired the property in 1977" and
has been restoring it since, probably doing more good than harm. Kristin, viewing
the stained plywood substitutions for original oak columns, refers to it as a
"Home Depot restoration".
an antiques enthusiast, casts a fairly critical eye over the restoration.
We may grin at the pretenses of "castleness" but still appreciate
these efforts to keep the monuments of the past alive and accessible to the grand
public, and we really enjoyed the hotdogs at the concession stands on the docks. In
fact, we really enjoy hotdogs anywhere -- the ones you get in Europe are
not the same!
weird tower was meant to be the kids' playroom and originally came equipped with
little bowling alleys for those odd moments in life when the young rich-person-spawn
felt the need to bowl, and dragged the nannies with them down to the tower to
watch them bowl and record their scores. What has not been recorded is whether the
cute little spawn actually bowled there, before the site was abandoned
in grief, nor if so what their scores might have been. I did a 153 once, in about
1959, but have never come close since.
Hotelier George C. Boldt made the scene in 1900, this was called Hart Island (those
are "harts" up on top there) -- the sentimental old magnate re-engineered
the shape of the whole little land mass and renamed it "Heart Island" in honor of his
beloved Louise. Who, for all we know, was occupying her time in many varied ways
whilst George C. was redesigning islands in her honor.
is a monumental sandstone gateway sort of thing, which seems to serve no purpose
at all, until you realize that it's needed to give the island that vital "heart
Marlowe, Dwight, and Kristin reliving the Boldt Experience.
Castle may be clumsy, wasteful, presumptuous, and built on the
sweat of the ill-treated masses, but in the right light it's kind of beautiful.
Cleaning bills would have been enormous, though; a couple of rooms and a kitchen
are about all most of us can keep up with.
the castle motif, that's the power station, just
offshore. This cute, compact establishment had fallen to bits and has since been
lovingly restored according to some assumptions about what it probably looked
station again, from the "Italian gardens". It's all reminiscent of the
wonderful, lovely Eilean Donan castle near the Kyle
of Lochalsh, possibly the most beautiful late-medieval castle in the world, which
was "restored" in 1923 (if my memory serves) from an architectural plan
that luckily was revealed to one of the gardners at that time in a dream. Never
mind! It's delightful -- go there, or web
there, or watch the first five minutes of the movie "Highlander".
Castle rises to the heavens in all its sentimental glory.
Boldt Castle Expedition of 2004,
from left: Dwight, Marlowe, Dima, Dima's delightful parents Andrei and Elena (Kristin
behind the camera)
May the ghosts
of Boldts past roam peacefully through your Rhineland, northern Italian/Lombardy,
Scottish, Renaissance and late medieval, and sometimes baroque, papal, Transylvanian,
and Home Depot halls, and stick with the kosher all-beef hot dogs down on the
dock, that's my advice to you.
old Power Station
And those fake paddlewheel steamers from the American side -- please, either take
the fake paddlewheels off, just flapping in the tide there, or get some real
you beautiful old fraud you.
I may have been unfair to Mr George
Boldt, who has been said actually to have been a very nice guy, indeed "a
real American success story", who was not really a capitalist bad guy and
in fact invented room service in hotels.
So let's all
agree that not all Gilded Age consumers of Really Excessive Wealth were necessarily
appallingly bad people and just confess that the narrator has no first-hand knowledge
whatsoever of Mr George Boldt's moral qualities, but continues to disdain Gilded
Age magnates, in general, anyway.
and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative,
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 24 September 2004, updated 13
March 2008, 8 May 2013.