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Thursday, January 4, 2024

Exploring the Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Thursday, January 4, 2024

Nestled amidst the picturesque Thousand Islands archipelago, on the northeast shore of Wellesley Island, lies a testament to the opulent lifestyle of the Gilded Age: the Boldt Yacht House. Commissioned in 1903 by millionaire hotelier George C. Boldt, this grand structure served as a luxurious haven for his extensive fleet of watercraft, a stone's throw from his majestic Boldt Castle.

Boldt Yacht House 

Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island
Image of Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun.  Source:

A Masterpiece of Eclectic Design:

Designed by the Philadelphia architects G. W. & W. D. Hewitt, the Boldt Yacht House is a captivating blend of architectural styles. Its massive, Shingle-style silhouette is punctuated by five distinct sections, each serving a specific purpose:

  • A charming circular tower, adorned with intricate stonework, welcomes guests with an air of sophistication.
  • Three central yacht bays provide ample space for showcasing vintage boats, offering a glimpse into Boldt's nautical passion.
  • A spacious east bay accommodated larger vessels, hinting at the extravagance of Boldt's aquatic pursuits.
  • A crenelated office and storage wing adds a touch of medieval whimsy, while ensuring efficient management of the yacht collection.
  • A cozy caretaker's residence nestled within the structure ensured 24/7 vigilance over the prized fleet.

Step inside the Yacht House, and prepare to be transported to another era. Gleaming wooden interiors, intricate detailing, and soaring arched ceilings exude an undeniable elegance. Explore the exhibits to learn about the history of this fascinating landmark, and marvel at the craftsmanship that went into its construction. Read more about Alexandria Bay.

A Glimpse into the Grandiose Past

the Boldt Yacht House interior bays prior to restoration, circa 1980
Image of the Boldt Yacht House interior bays prior to restoration, circa 1980, showcasing the raw potential waiting to be rediscovered. Source:

Stepping inside the Yacht House is like stepping back in time. The air hums with the whispers of a bygone era, where wealth and extravagance knew no bounds. Visitors are greeted by the awe-inspiring service bay, a testament to the era's engineering prowess. Towering steel trusses, intricate overhead cranes, and sturdy screw jacks stand as silent sentinels, once dedicated to keeping the Boldt fleet in pristine condition.

A Treasure Trove of Antique Boats

But the true stars of the show are the antique wooden boats lining the bays. These gleaming vessels, each a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design, whisper tales of carefree days spent cruising the St. Lawrence. From sleek racing launches and sturdy houseboats to playful rowboats, each boat tells a unique story, transporting visitors to a time when the river was a playground for the wealthy elite.

The Crown Jewel: The Steam Yacht Kestrel

the Steam Yacht Kestrel, proudly moored at the Boldt Yacht House
Image of the Steam Yacht Kestrel, proudly moored at the Boldt Yacht House, its elegant lines and gleaming brasswork capturing the essence of the Gilded Age. Source:

Presiding over this collection is the majestic Steam Yacht Kestrel, a 1892 beauty that embodies the opulence of the Gilded Age. This meticulously restored vessel, once owned by George Boldt himself, is a testament to the era's technological marvels and luxurious lifestyles. Visitors can explore the Kestrel's decks, adorned with gleaming brass fittings and polished mahogany, and peek into its lavishly appointed cabins, imagining themselves gliding across the water in a bygone era.

More Than Just a Museum

The Boldt Yacht House is more than just a museum; it's an experience. It's a chance to walk in the footsteps of the wealthy elite, to feel the spray of the river on your face as you imagine yourself cruising alongside George Boldt in his steam yacht. It's a reminder of the ingenuity, craftsmanship, and sheer joy of life that characterized the Gilded Age.

So, if you find yourself amidst the Thousand Islands, be sure to make time for the Boldt Yacht House. It's an experience that will leave you breathless and filled with wonder.

Additional Information to Enhance Your Visit:

  • Location: Wellesley Island, New York
  • Season: Opens May 11th for the 2024 season and runs until October 14th.

  • Admission: Separate admission fee for the Yacht House. Combination tickets for Boldt Castle and the Yacht House are available.
  • Getting There: Boat tours from both the U.S. and Canada stop at Heart Island. Extensive docking is available for private pleasure craft. A shuttle from Heart Island provides access to the Yacht House.
  • Highlights: Antique wooden boat collection, Steam Yacht Kestrel, service bay, stunning views of the St. Lawrence River.

Tips for an Enriching Experience:

  • Book your tour in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, as there is some walking involved.
  • Bring your camera to capture the beauty of the Yacht House and the surrounding scenery.
  • Ask questions and engage with the knowledgeable tour guides.
  • Let your imagination run wild and transport yourself to the Gilded Age.

With its rich history, stunning architecture, and captivating collection of boats, the Boldt Yacht House is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience a slice of the Gilded Age on the St. Lawrence River.

So, if you're ever in the Thousand Islands region, don't miss the opportunity to step back in time and explore the grandeur of the Boldt Yacht House. This architectural gem, with its rich history and captivating stories, promises a journey you won't soon forget.


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