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A Look Back in Time…

Now That We’re Here, Where Will We Stay?

Some people collect postcards or stamps but my efforts  turned to acquiring old illustrations [pre 1900] of the Thousand Islands. In the early days, photography had not yet become the norm.  Most illustrations in brochures and ephemera, were drawings, often produced by woodcuts.

I consider my  best source of early illustrations to be from a Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad brochure titled "Summer Tours." It is also full of important research information.

My first challenge was moving the images to my computer through scanning.  Often the images were too dark or too light or just plain dirty. Fortunately software programs solved  80% of those problems.  Another software program called "paint" helped produce an acceptable result.

Then thanks to our editor Susie Smith and her daughter, voiceover artist Jan Eliot, we found that working together we could share some of the early history of the Thousand Islands in a different format.

As for my part, do I consider this work? Far from it. It's a challenge -  It's history -  It's the Thousand Islands and I love it.

So I invite you to look back in time, with these illustrations from my collection.

Also see 1000 Islands 130 Years Ago, from the January 2013 issue of Thousand Islands Life

By Robert L. Matthews, Fishers Landing

Robert L. Matthews is our “go to reference” for Thousand Islands memorabilia.

Robert  is also the author of two popular books:  Glimpses of St. Lawrence Summer Life: Souvenirs from the Thousand Islands: Robert and Prudence Matthews Collection, and A History of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, published in 2009.   He and his wife Prudence (well known River artist whose work was presented in Hooked on Prudence in 2009) have one of the most extensive collections of  Thousand Islands memorabilia.  When not at their beautiful River cottage at Fisher’s Landing, they live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Voice over by Jan Eliot

Jan Eliot works full-time during winter months as an in-studio & on-mountain radio ski reporter for You can hear her voice on over 50 radio stations from New York to California! Jan started out being a producer for commercial editors in the post production world and realized she loved doing commercial voice overs.  Today she has voiced countless e-learning modules, tutorials, Telephone Recording Messages as well as creating bumpers for podcasts and radio shows through  Jan spends summer vacations in the Admiralty Islands.

Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Heather Chitty
Comment by: Heather Chitty ( )
Left at: 6:52 PM Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Fantastic tour of the area's past. Thank you for sharing.
Barbara Thomas
Comment by: Barbara Thomas ( )
Left at: 9:04 PM Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Loved it ! Even a hotel (the one in Westminster Park) I didn't know about. Beautiful job !
Ian Coristine
Comment by: Ian Coristine ( )
Left at: 7:20 PM Thursday, June 6, 2013
What a wonderful way to summarize the great hotels of the Gilded Age!

Thanks to the Aquatarium, RiverQuest, Joe and Lucie Pal's Ivy Lea Club and their new ventures in Gananoque along with Simon Fuller, a renaissance has begun to create another exceptional era on the River. In the last century, the infrastructure has been a weak link, but thanks to these visionary people who want to make a difference, that is changing quickly.