Boldt Castle: A Legacy of Love

Author: By Joan Fox Rose
Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009

It was just after dusk when I looked across Alexandria Bay and saw bright yellow lights beaming from the Boldt Castle windows  a beautiful castle that was never finished. Watching the lights flicker I could almost hear a Strauss waltz played on a baby grand as elegant dancers swirled around the castle’s grand ballroom. That scene might have been a reality…until tragedy struck.

At the turn of the 20th century, millionaire George C. Boldt (1851-1916) had the former Hemlock Island reshaped like a heart and hired 300 skilled workers to build his wife Louise a replica of a 16th century Rhineland castle. This new home was to be set among the more than 1000 Islands located on the St. Laurence River between the United States and Canada. George had come a long way from his humble beginnings.

When he made his way to America in search of fame and fortune, 13-year-old George, a Prussian immigrant, found work in hotel kitchens where he learned hotel business basics through first-hand experience. As he developed more business acumen he was invited to manage The Philadelphia Club, an elite men’s club. During this employ he met Louise Augusta Kehrer, the blond, blue-eyed owner’s daughter.

It was love at first sight for George who reportedly told friends he had found his beautiful princess. The couple married when he was 26 and she 15, and they had two children, George Boldt, Jr and Louise Clover Boldt.

From the beginning of their marriage the Boldt’s were a successful business team. George had a knack for overall hotel management, and Louise supervised hotel staff and acted as hostess, first for the Bellevue hotel in Philadelphia and then the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. She had a natural sense of style and acquired knowledge about hotel amenities that were part of 19th century gracious living, and she was instrumental in making the 1890’s era Waldorf Astoria a major success.

Eventually George managed the Waldorf Astoria and eventually became the hotel’s proprietor. At that time, he was known as the most successful hotel magnate in the United States. With his know-how of where to purchase the finest European and American building materials George had the 120 room castle-like mansion built to his specifications and planned to present the winsome Louise keys to the castle for a Valentine’s Day gift.

Six months prior to the castle’s pending four-year completion, during January 1904 (a month prior to her 42nd birthday) Louise died suddenly, a victim of heart disease. At the moment of her death, George stopped all work and was determined to leave the beautiful mansion to wind, weather and sea birds as a silent tribute to the wife he mourned until his death more than 30 years later.


Joan Fox Rose is a freelance writer living in Saratoga County.


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