Recently, I had the privilege of visiting a real-life castle. For a fantasy author like me, the adventure was a treat. Behold, Boldt Castle!
Wait, my bad. That's just the power house.
So let me tell you a bit about this historic New York castle and the adventures I had there...
Note: Special thanks to my awesome photographer sister, Acacia, and to my friend Esther Thompson, who contributed their photos for this post. Check out Acacia's Instagram for more of her photos.
THE HISTORY OF BOLDT CASTLE
George Boldt lived at the turn of the twentieth century and he managed hotels. Swanky hotels. We're talking the Waldorf hotel--literally. After he made his millions, he decided that he wanted to treat his wife Louise to an extra-special Valentine's Day present: a 127-room castle on a heart-shaped island.
A month before George planned to present his wife with his expensive gift, she passed away at the age of 42.
Devastated, George Boldt abandoned the castle.
As far as we know, he never set foot on the island after Louise's death.
Weather, time, and vandals eroded and scarred Boldt Castle. And then, one day, the Thousand Islands authority decided it would be the perfect tourist attraction and began to renovate.
And here it stands today.
TOURING THE INSIDE OF THE CASTLE
Everything about Boldt castle is incredibly detailed. The mahogany paneling on the wall is carved with intricate designs, and every bit of molding or ceiling is an opportunity to add another artistic dimension to the lavish surroundings. From the stained-glass dome to the shining floors, everything speaks of luxury.
Photo credit for these 3 photos: Acacia Wheeler
I was particularly excited about the library. Check out what I found. A book! Carved into the wall! In a library! In a castle!
If you're a bookworm and that doesn't make you freak out with nerdy glee, are you sure you're feeling okay?
Also, since every fantasy author is a romantic at heart, no matter how prosaic their writing style, I admired the staircase. What young lady has not dreamed of her own fairytale, in which she descends a curving staircase to meet the waiting prince, her stunning gown drawing admiration from all onlookers? Seriously, if you're a gal and you've squelched your inner princess all these years, check out the stairs. (Took this with my phone, but it's better than nothing!)
While the lower floors were filled with lavish detail...
These 4 photos are from my friend Esther Thompson, who, like my sister, spent the whole trip behind a camera.
...the upper floors still needed work, and will be renovated in the future. They bore the graffiti of decades, from declarations of newlywed love to "Joe was here." As I walked through the long corridors and mounted the creaking stairs, accompanied by the echo of my own footsteps, the fairy-tale castle turned ghostly.
touring the castle grounds
Once I had explored every room available to tourists like myself, I made my way to the tunnels underneath the castle. This was so exciting to me, because my castle in The Dying Prince was built on a hill atop a maze of subterranean corridors, hiding-places that then become very important in the story.
The prince led them through the garden and down a flight of steps toward a high stone wall covered in dark green ivy whose leaves were just beginning to brown. The prince unlocked a small iron-bound door and ushered his guests inside.
It was a beautiful day for combing Heart Island, visiting the dovecote, the powerhouse, the archway, the yacht house, and the building amusingly called "the playhouse," whose bowling alley is being restored now.
The conclusion of the adventure
I could tell many more stories, of how we sang in the powerhouse because the acoustics made our voices sound like a choir in a chapel, of the things we read in the writing on the walls, of the fascinating facts we learned about George Boldt and his family. It was a day of many merry memories. (Ha. Alliteration! I love doing that.)
I am glad that I came too early see the castle in all its splendor. The mingling of sparkle and shadow exactly touched at the heart of those things which people seek in stories of castles and heroic deeds: the peculiar marriage of pain and purpose, of victory and defeat, of exultation and tragedy. All the stories that I have most enjoyed have been like this castle, pulling me through light and shadows and revealing both the past and the present, with ghosts of the possibilities for the future.
The castle became, for me, what every best speculative fiction story embodies: the powerful contradictions of human life.