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7 of America's best castles to visit by luxury yacht

7 of America's best castles to visit by luxury yacht


Hammond Castle


Inspired by the grandeur of Old World castles, American royalty — for the most part, self-made captains of industry — built monuments to their success a century ago, complete with drawbridges, secret passageways and turrets. Pull up by yacht and explore seven of these castles from the Thousand Islands to Honolulu.

1. Hammond Castle

Hammond Castle was built between 1926 and 1929 by Dr John Hay Hammond Jr. to act as a home for both himself and his collection of historical pieces. It was a wedding gift for his wife, Irene Fenton Hammond, but also housed the Hammond Research Corporation. Hammond was one of America’s most prolific inventors and produced more than 800 patents for different inventions — exceeding any other practitioner other than Thomas Edison, who was a lifelong friend of Hammond.

Sometimes known as “the father of remote control”, he invented a number of radio-guided vessels and vehicles as well as some of the earliest forms of FM broadcasting. Nowadays, his castle is used solely as a museum, which features Hammond’s extensive collection of Roman, medieval and Renaissance artefacts.

The castle took three years to build, cost approximately $500,000 and is a nod to Hammond’s eccentric nature and wild imagination. Outside the design is extremely gothic, featuring stone gargoyles, a number of gravestones acquired from Europe and a drawbridge main entrance to the castle.

The drawbridge leads into the Great Hall, which was designed to look like a 13th century French cathedral and acted as a main living area for Hammond and his guests. It also hosted a vast pipe organ that stretches up eight storeys. Hammond exhibited his sense of humour in the guest bedrooms by creating ‘vashining doors’ — they are covered in matching wallpaper to the rest of the room and have no handles, causing visitors confusion when trying to leave their room.

One of the most impressive feats of Hammond’s design is the indoor courtyard, which has a deep swimming pool that has a specific flooring design to create the illusion of a shallow end that moves location depending on where you stand. Additionally, this room had a system installed overhead that allowed Hammond to create sunshine on a cloudy day or moonlight on a dark night. The courtyard also features long pipes across the glass ceiling which produced rainfall.

Don’t miss: In the Great Hall lies one of Hammond’s most prized artefacts, a skull that is believed to have belonged to one of Christopher Columbus' crewmen.

How to visit on a superyacht: Anyone discovering New England by superyacht should head to the Boston Yacht Haven Marina where vessels up to 92 metres can moor in one of 15 berths, then take a private car to Hammond Castle.

Picture courtesy of Instagram.com / @frankcgrace

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Singer Castle

Singer Castle

In bringing to life his fanciful vision of Singer Castle, Frederick Bourne spared no expense. The self-made millionaire, the fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and once Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, built his private home on Dark Island in the Thousand Islands region between the northeast U.S. and Canada. He hired Italian stonecutters to shape tons of granite quarried from nearby Oak Island into stones for the 28-room castle, complete with clock tower, turrets, terracotta-tiled roofs, boathouses, elaborate marble fireplaces, secret passageways, dungeons, grass tennis court and then-state-of-the-art early 20th-century electric and plumbing systems.

“The design was inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s novel about Woodstock Castle in Scotland. Bourne commissioned American Beaux-Arts-style architect Ernest Flagg to design a hunting-style lodge as a surprise for his wife and their nine children,” says Thomas Weldon, president of Dark Island Tours.

Originally called “The Towers,” the castle soon became a hot spot for Bourne’s business contemporaries and celebrity visitors, including Cornelius Vanderbilt and Vincent Astor. After Bourne passed away in 1919, his daughter Marjorie added a wing with a sports therapy room, plus a squash court and other amenities, and spent more than 30 summers on the property with her husband, Alexander Dallas Thayer.

Today, visitors can arrive by boat to the castle. “The water depth is thirty-five feet, and we have over six hundred feet of docks (in total) on both sides of the island. We can take just about any vessel,” says Weldon.

From the South Boathouse dock, walk up the brick bridle path to a massive wooden door with a polished brass lion knocker. Entering the Great Hall, several suits of armor stand guard over medieval weaponry, a granite fireplace and a variety of antiques, including some of the many historic Singer sewing machines that decorate the castle.

Guides lead visitors on a 45-minute informative tour through four floors of original furnishings and artifacts, revealing secret passageways and pointing out quirky innovations such as a wind dial in the ceiling that is connected to a weather vane atop the building. From the wine cellar, with more than 600 terracotta slots for bottles, to the fourth-floor female staff dormitory, guests can learn about life as both servant and business entrepreneur in the Gilded Age.

Guests who stay overnight in the two-bedroom Royal Suite can call the seven-acre island home. “We want visitors to feel as if Frederick Bourne had personally invited them,” says Weldon. Play table tennis or shoot hoops in the maple-lined squash courts, wander through the rooms and savor a catered dinner and continental breakfast anywhere, including in the tearoom, dining room, drawing room, loggia or front terrace.

Overnight guests are also privy to a private tour that includes a visit to the inner workings of the five-story clock tower (where Westminster Chimes toll every 15 minutes), secret stairwells, dungeons, squash court, the North Boathouse’s male servant quarters and 125-foot boat slip with giant chimney funnel for Bourne’s 100-foot steam yacht Delaware, and the original powerhouse with coal boiler, generator and battery room.

“We like to think we’re a living, breathing castle. Why keep it as a stuffy museum?” says Weldon.

Don’t miss: On the mantle in the formal dining room, look for a replica of the Bronco Buster sculpture on loan from the Frederic Remington Art Museum in nearby Ogdensburg, New York. The original resides in the Oval Office.

How to visit by yacht: Singer Castle on Dark Island can accommodate any size yacht with 600 feet of docks and 35 feet of depth. Call ahead at (877) 327-5475 or hail them on channel 16.

Words by Necee Regis/ Picture courtesy of Singer Castle

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Boldt Castle


The story of Boldt Castle is a tragic tale of love and loss. In 1900, millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, broke ground on a six-story, 120-room summer dream home as a tribute to his beloved wife, Louise. Boldt employed 300 workers to execute his vision to create a Rhineland-style castle on Heart Island in the center of the Saint Lawrence River’s Thousand Islands region.

“Boldt even had the island reshaped into a heart, rounded at the top with a point at the bottom,” says Shane K. Sanford, director of operations and maintenance. The monumental structures on the seven-acre island, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge, children’s playhouse and dovecote, were never completed. In 1904, Louise unexpectedly passed away, and a heartbroken Boldt telegraphed the island and demanded all construction be stopped. He never returned.

The property sat vacant for more than 70 years, ravaged by weather and vandals, until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority — which now owns and operates Boldt Castle and the nearby Boldt Yacht House — began a painstaking rehabilitation and restoration project. About 50 percent of the castle is open to the public, including the library, dining room, master bedroom suites and the newly finished first-floor kitchen, as work continues one room at a time.

“The Boldt story is more than just the castle. He was very much into boats and boating,” says Sanford. The Boldt Castle Yacht House, built in 1903 on nearby Wellesley Island, is a quick shuttle boat ride across the river. The 64-foot-high shingle-style structure features towers, spires, steep-pitched gables and 128-foot covered slips that once housed the family’s yachts and enormous 106-foot houseboat La Duchesse (on display in the Antique Boat Museum in nearby Clayton, New York). Visitors today can view some boats from the original Boldt fleet such as P.D.Q. (Pretty Damn Quick), a 1904 raceboat with original 24-hp Barber Brothers Engine.

Don’t miss: Representing boats of George Boldt’s era is the 63-foot 1892 steam yacht Kestrel, which was donated to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and now resides at Boldt Castle’s Yacht House.

How to visit on a superyacht: With advance notice, Boldt Castle’s dock can accommodate vessels up to 75 feet. Larger vessels can anchor nearby and tender in. Heart Island is a U.S. Customs Port of Entry.

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