Dwight Peck's personal website

Summer 2004

A visit to Marlowe and Dima in Ottawa, Canada

You 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.

The Thousand Islands and Boldt Castle

A whole 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 . . .


Allegedly 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.

The 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.

In 1900, 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/

The central 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.

The 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".

Kristin, 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!

That 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.

Before 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.

This 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 shape".

Dima, Marlowe, Dwight, and Kristin reliving the Boldt Experience.

Boldt 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.

Continuing 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 like.

The power 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".

Boldt Castle rises to the heavens in all its sentimental glory.

The Boldt Castle Expedition of 2004, from left: Dwight, Marlowe, Dima, Dima's delightful parents Andrei and Elena (Kristin behind the camera)

Goodbye Old Pile

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.

Goodbye, 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 paddlewheel boats.

Goodbye, Boldt Castle, you beautiful old fraud you.

Unfairness notice

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.

Visit to North America, July 2004

Olympic National Park, Washington, USA, July 2004

Hoh Rain Forest and the Quileute Reservation at La Push

Ozette Lake and Cape Alava

Cape Flattery, Rialto Beach, and the Hole in the Wall

Hurricane Ridge and Obstruction Point

Dungeness Spit and Whidbey Island

and then

Visit to Marlowe, Ottawa, Ontario, 2004

The Thousand Islands and Boldt Castle

Feedback 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.

Marlowe Tyson Peck