History of the 1000 Islands
The 1000 Islands actually consist of 1864 islands that span a 50 mile radius along St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Brockville. Formed almost 12,000 years ago during the last ice age, these islands are the marvel and beauty of Mother Nature hard at work. The islands can range in size from the biggest, Wolf Island (48 mi²) and Howe Island (12 mil²) which house a large number of residents, farms and churches compared to smaller islands occupied by single family homes and other uninhibited islands that are not much more than a rocky shore.
Since the early 1700’s Native Canadians followed by immigrant settlers built their homes, hunted and fished this magnificent area abundant with life and game. Today, the islands are the corridor for the nature lovers because they are still as vibrant and full of wild life. In the spring, the migration of waterfowl is a mesmerizing site for all the bird watchers. The islands are also home to ducks, Canada geese and loons. If you watch carefully, you will be able to see wild turkeys, ospreys, bald eagles and even the ever increasing numbers of white tail deer. As for fishing, the islands have always been a famous fishing destination, home to bass, pike and perch.
Huge freighters, cruise ships, fishing boats and yachts navigate the mighty St. Lawrence River now. But before all the evolution, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands had high military presence. The St. Lawrence served as a highway between Canada and the U.S., and military traffic dominated the islands during a number of wars even displaying acts of piracy. Today, this region is known as the diving destination famous for its sunken treasures, shipwreck of the 1000 Islands. Most of them are over 100 feet underwater, but some are a mere 15 feet and can be easily seen from the surface.
Boldt and Singer Castles
In the early 20th century, the islands become widely known as the summer capital for the rich and famous. Its distinguished visitors built luxurious homes, mansions and even castles on their private islands, some still remain as international landmarks. The two most famous and marvelous examples of this opulence are Boldt and Singer Castles.
Boldt Castle located on Heart Island is 120 rooms, a six story structure designed by George Boldt, the heir of the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. The structure was built as a lasting tribute to his beautiful wife Louise, but was never completed. After her death, George abandoned the project and broken hearted never returned to the island. The long neglected Boldt Castle has been left unfinished for over 75 years until it was purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority two decades ago. Construction and restoration has been ongoing in accordance with the original plans, but some modern technological conveniences have been incorporated.
Singer Castle located on Dark Island previously known as “The Towers” was owned by Frederick Gilbert Bourne, president of the Singer Company which manufactured the famous Singer sewing machine. Singer Castle is the only castle in the Thousand Islands to be completed, fully furnished and lived in by the Bourne family from its construction in 1905 until the 1960’s. The castle is famous for its secret passageways and underground tunnels constructed by the request of Mr. Bourne so that he could spy on his guests.
Today, both castles serve as the premier tourist attraction of the 1000 Islands.