A Controversial Restoration
by Paul Malo
Boldt Castle, on one of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River, between northern New York State and eastern Province of Ontario, ranks among the largest and most prominent houses in the United States. The seven-story granite structure, comparable in grandeur to Hearst Castle in California, has sparked debate about the appropriate goals of historic restoration.
Boldt Castle draws some quarter-million international visitors each summer, and the number has increased annually as an ongoing campaign of improvement continues. The cost of recent years' work now approaches $15 million.
But much of this work is not consistent with the original construction. This raises a critical question: to what degree should a historic building be "improved" to attract and entertain visitors?
At Boldt Castle in the past three years a grand staircase, a great stained-glass dome, and a marble pavement have been installed in the central rotunda. None of this work is authentic, and it was fabricated without reliable documentation. In the meantime, visitors are given misinformation about the history of the place, provided instead with a romantic, fictionalized account.
The management has indicated its intention to disregard evidence produced by historical research. Instead it says it will continue its present narrative because this has proved satisfying to tourists. >>>
Boldt Castle, designed by William Hewitt in 1900, on an island in the St. Lawrence River.
Photo: Daniel A. Boyce
How the rotunda might have looked if completed in 1900.
Image: Paul Malo
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