Today is an exciting day. When we started planning this trip last spring this was not on the itinerary. But a Singer sewing machine in one of the old houses we toured reminded me about Mr. Bourne’s castle, located here in the 1000 Islands
But first we had to get there! We left our campground outside Montreal before first light. We were at the KOA in Ivy Lea, ON, by 9:00 am. Luckily our reserved site had just been vacated, so we could pull in and do a minimum of set up. We left and headed for the bridge over the St. Lawrence River, across the border, to Alexandria Bay, New York!
We slipped through customs very easily, because we were not pulling the Villa. We were soon on the boat trip to the Singer Castle:
The 1000 Islands are a group of more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada, extending from the edge of Lake Ontario and stretching 50-60 miles down river. A fashionable retreat for the elite in the late 19th century, today the area is a hub for outdoor activities. It’s home to elaborate island mansions and modest summer cottages.
We were amazed at the beauty of this place. It rivals Nova Scotia, but it is at a much more human scale. hundreds of miles of coastline are covered with cabins, docks, mansions, boat houses, beaches and forests. Anyone who loves water and boats will love this place:
We cruised down the river for about an hour; soon we approached the Singer Castle:
American history and local folklore meet at Singer Castle on Dark Island, located in the St. Lawrence River, about 30 miles down river from Alexandria Bay, NY.. Singer Castle is the only remaining/existing castle on the river to be completed, fully furnished and resided in during the heyday of the great builders of castles. The Castle remained in the possession of the original owners, the Bourne family, from its construction in 1905 until the mid 1950’s. Frederick Bourne was the fifth President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, which is where the name “Singer Castle” came from.
I love the Boathouse:
The dungeon is in the tower, at the tiny windows:
As the story goes, Bourne and his architect had read the novel “Woodstock” by Walter Scott; it is set in Woodstock Palace, a bizarre and spooky place with secret doors, stairs, and passages. This was their inspiration for designing all the service corridors and stairs in “secret” locations. There are 3 circular stairs located behind hidden doors, plus a maze of corridors, many on an interstitial level, allowing the servants to watch activities of the family and allowing them to see and anticipate the family’s needs, say for the refill of a drink, or a second helping of food at dinner…
The house contains all the original furniture. It looks like the family walked away yesterday… In reality, the family sold it in the early 1950s, and it had a sucession of owners, but it was left intact. Today it is owned by a multi-national corporation who buys and restores these great old buildings and opens them to the public. They are also available for weddings and other activities. In the case of the Singer Castle, you can rent a 2 bedroom apartment in the house, up to 6 guests, for overnight stays, including full access to the castle, dinner served in the dining room, etc.
The Wine Cellar:
One of the “secret” circular stairways:
The Dining Room:
It was a delightful visit. We boarded the boat and cruised up the river back towards Alexandria Bay. Directly across from Alexandria Bay is Boldt Castle. It is larger than the Singer Castle, but it was never finished (due to family “issues”…) and it was never occupied. After sitting vacant for over 70 years, it was finally donated to Alexandria Bay with the condition that it be opened to the public, but never finished or occupied…
So after this exhilarating day, we stopped off and bought some Kentucky bourbon (rarely available in Canada) and headed back across the border to return to the Villa. We relaxed with Happy Hours; an enjoyable time was had by all…