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Clayton, New York, and the Thousand Islands

St. 1000 Islands, St. Lawrence River, New York
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1000 Islands, St. Lawrence River, New York

Sightseeing excursions cruise the St. Lawrence River past the summer “castles” of the Thousand Islands. The border between the United States and Canada wraps around the 1,864 islands in this archipelago so that each belongs to one country or the other.

George Pullman, inventor of the Pullman sleeping car, brought attention to the area when he invited President Grant and General Sherman  to visit. It soon grew as a resort area for Gilded Age magnates.

Frick Park, Clayton, New York
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Frick Park, Clayton, New York

Boldt Castle

Hotelier George Boldt was one of the Gilded Age magnates who built a summer home in the Thousand Islands. He had built a fortune as owner of the Belleview-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia and as  manager of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. No expense was spared  in building his six-story 120 room dream home styled after the castles on the Rhine. He even reshaped Hart Island and renamed it, appropriately, Heart Island.

Boldt Castle, 1000 Islands, New York
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Boldt Castle, 1000 Islands, New York

He intended to give it to his wife, Louise, as a Valentine’s Day gift. He purchased the finest Italian marble, tapestries, chandeliers, paintings, sculptures and furniture in Europe. Then Louise, 42, died unexpectedly at the home in New York City.

The heartbroken Boldt abandoned the unfinished castle. It was eventually acquired and restored by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and is open to the public. To get there, take a tour boat or the ferry from the 64’ high Yacht House on Wellesley Island, which is linked to the mainland by a bridge.

Boldt Yacht House, 1000 Islands, NY
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Boldt Yacht House, Wellesley Island, NY

Tours of Singer Castle, built by Commodore Frederick Gilbert Bourne, fifth president of the sewing machine company, are also available. Bourne spent $500,000 on a 28 room four story hunting lodge with turrets, dungeons, secret passageways, boathouses and a two-story icehouse for entertaining. The Bourne family lived in their island summer residence until the 1960s.

Singer Castle

Singer Castle, 1000 Islands, New York
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Singer Castle, 1000 Islands, New York

Clayton

The riverfront town of Clayton is an ideal place to stay when booking a Thousand Islands tour or visiting the islands independently. The scenic Riverwalk overlooks the islands, pleasure boats and the commercial ships traveling between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Clayton was once a major lumbering and ship building port. Once steamships and the railroad arrived it developed into a summer resort with luxury hotels. If you visit, stop at the Chamber of Commerce for the historic walking map, a pathway of architectural highlights. 

mural depicting early forms of transportation for vacationers, Clayton, New York
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mural depicting early forms of transportation for vacationers, Clayton, New York

Today’s visitors might come to Clayton for a performance at the four-story brick Clayton Opera House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, or for an event at Frick Park.

There are shops as well as galleries featuring art inspired by the beauty of the region. Local food and drink includes Coyote Moon’s award-winning wine and cheddar or curds from 1000 Islands River Rat Cheese.

Coyote Moon wine, Clayton, NY
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Coyote Moon wine, Clayton, NY

River Rat Cheese, Clayton, NY
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River Rat Cheese, Clayton, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clayton’s Antique Boat Museum is a place to learn more about the St. Lawrence River’s activity and history. With more than 300 unique preserved boats and thousands of artifacts, it is the nation’s top freshwater nautical collection.

Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, New York
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Antique Boat Museum, Clayton, New York

Combination tickets are available for a tour of George Boldt’s former 106’ 1903 houseboat “La Duchesse” or for a 45 minute ride aboard a 30’ triple cockpit Hacker Craft. There is also a Thousand Islands Museum.

Thousand Islands Museum, Clayton, NY
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Thousand Islands Museum, Clayton, NY

Accommodations

1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, Clayton, New York
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1000 Islands Harbor Hotel, Clayton, New York

To get the most from your experience book a waterfront hotel like the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.  It offers concierge service, sumptuous bedding, chocolate-on-the-pillow nightly turndown service, and an award-winning restaurant. It is also a popular choice for weddings, corporate and other special events.

1000 Islands Harbor Hotel from dock, Clayton, New York
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1000 Islands Harbor Hotel from dock, Clayton, New York

It was awarded a Best Scenic View award in 2018. Trip Advisor gave the property a Certificate of Excellence in 2018. AAA awarded their 4 Diamond designation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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