Oct 5, 2010

Visit Singer Castle in New York's 1000 Islands

Now there are two castles to explore in the 1000 Islands. The newest castle open to the public is Singer Castle on Dark Island. Built in 1905 by Frederick Bourne, president of Singer Sewing Machine Company, the castle’s design was based on the book “Woodstock” by Sir Walter Scott. True to the book the five-story castle has underground tunnels, secret passageways, and a turret dungeon.

John and I took the Singer Castle tour offered by Uncle Sam Boat Tours. On the hour ride to Dark Island we saw four ships. The guide explained the difference between a salty and a laker. A salty is an ocean-going ship that enters the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence. They are required to have a certified pilot aboard for the duration of their trip on the lakes and are usually referred to as ships. Whereas a “laker” stays within the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence and is usually called a boat. The vessels are huge and it was impressive to see them gliding by us.

On the trip we passed Manhattan Island so named because it was purchased for about the same price that Peter Minuit paid the local natives for Manhattan Island in 1624 and Oak Island where the granite for Boldt Castle was quarried.

When we arrived on Dark Island we were divided into small groups for the fascinating 45-minute tour. We entered the Great Hall with knights of armor and sewing machines on display. As I peered into the secret stairway next to the wine cellar the guide explained that the secret passages actually served three purposes. They were true to Scott’s book, provided a way for the staff to serve the family and their quests unobtrusively, and provided a place for the wiring and piping to be threaded throughout the building. The secret passages are not the only unique aspect of Singer Castle.

Along with the to-be-expected dining room, library, and other rooms is the Sport Therapy Room where Marjorie Bourne Thayer, the youngest daughter of Frederick Bourne and an excellent athlete, would relax under the administrations of her personal masseuse. Most interesting is the incandescent light bath that was promoted as a curative to many ailments. At every turn there are interesting things to see and stories to learn.

Singer Castle was built during a time when people who had money were extremely wealthy and the American millionaires wanted to be given the same respect as the landed gentry of Europe. The elite of Europe had money and castles, the Americans had the money but no castles. So they built their own castles.

After the castle tour we headed back toward Alex Bay and learned more about the 1000 Islands. Actually there are over 1800 islands in the archipelago. To be classified as an island it must be out of the water 365 days a year, have one tree and some other vegetation.

The boat tour also stopped at Boldt Castle. We have been to Boldt Castle several times over the years and what as been accomplished over the years is impressive. The entry hall has a magnificent staircase with a beautiful stained glass ceiling. Now there is an elevator to the upper floors so the castle is handicap accessible.

We stayed at Capt. Thomson’s Resort and dined out – out on our room’s balcony while watching the harbor activity.