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130-Year-Old House Tour…


How would you like to visit some Thousand Island homes and cottages as they were one hundred and thirty years ago? Great!

Let’s start with Mr. Cleveland’s home in Cape Vincent. Cleveland sells seeds for planting throughout the world. The warehouse, pictured in the lower right hand corner, is where the seeds are stored prior to shipping. The house and warehouse sit side by side facing the St. Lawrence River.
Reverend George Rockwell’s cottage “Sunnyside” which was the first cottage built on Cherry Island. Rockwell bought Cherry Island in the early 1870’s.
Ingleside Cottage on Cherry Island
Later Mrs. March bought part of Cherry Island from Rockwell and built the second cottage on the island which she named “Ingleside.” Mrs. March and George Pullman’s parents were from Chicago and great friends.
Bonnie Castle
Located in Alexandria Bay, Bonnie Castle was built in 1877. It is the summer home of Dr. and Mrs. Holland. Dr. Holland founded Scribner’s magazine in 1870 and served as its first editor.
This Bonnie Castle illustration was drawn by Julian Davison. His signature appears in the lower left hand corner of the picture.
 Round Island  top  - Hayes  bottom - Van Wagenen
The owner of the top cottage is Jacob Hayes while the bottom cottage belongs to Hubert Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen’s wife Kate is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Holland. The cottages sit next to each other at the head of Round Island.
In 1888 these two gentlemen joined a group of investors and leased the Round Island House. They changed the name to the Frontenac and made extensive improvements. However, it wasn’t until some ten years later when Charles Emery got involved that the Frontenac became a world class hotel.
Round Island
This cottage is located up river from the Frontenac dock on Round Island and is owned by James Eaton of Utica, New York.

 Brooklyn Heights - Cottage on Round Island
Pictured is the Round Island cottage owned by Charles Johnson of Brooklyn, New York. Johnson named his cottage “Brooklyn Heights.”
 Shady Ledge
Frank H. Taylor’s cottage “Shady Ledge” sits at the foot of Round Island. Taylor is both an author and illustrator and almost certainly illustrated many of the Round Island cottages.
Island Royal
Island Royal, owned by Royal Dean, is a stone’s throw from Wellesley Island on the main channel.

 Isle Imperial
Gilbert T. Rafferty was a multi millionaire from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. After he bought Imperial Isle he tore down this cottage in the picture and built a stone castle.  
Rafferty served eight years as Commodore of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club while George Boldt served as the club’s Vice Commodore those same eight years. Those years were probably the yacht club’s finest hour.
 Castle Rest
Pictured is George Pullman’s second cottage, Castle Rest, which he built in 1888. In August of that year, he gave Castle Rest to his mother as a birthday gift. She had just turned eighty.
 Sport Island
It’s difficult to choose a favorite illustration but this one comes close. The illustration of Sport Island is by Coughlin about whom we know absolutely nothing.
 Linlithgow or Belle Island
This illustration has all the earmarks of a Frank H. Taylor drawing. It is the summer residence of the Honorable Robert Livingston of New York City. The location is better known as Belle Island.
Greystone Villa
Mr. Warner, from Rochester, New York, made his fortune selling bottled medicine called Warner’s Safe and Kidney Cure.
In 1873 Warner built this twenty six room summer residence which he called “Greystone Villa.” The island’s location is irrelevant because it no longer exists. Do you know why?* 
Dewey Island
When Ed Dewey bought this property in 1883, he changed the name from Friendly Island to Dewey Island. President Grant expressed an interest in buying Friendly Island during his visit in 1872 but was told the island was not for sale.
Fairyland - what a great name for a place in the Thousand Islands. In 1873 this twenty acre property was acquired by the Hayden family from Columbus, Ohio. Mom and dad and their two sons built cottages on the property.
  Coughlin Little Lehigh Island
The illustration of Little Lehigh Island is by the same artist that drew Sport Island.
Calumet Island wood frame house
This Illustration of Calumet Island shows the wood frame cottage built in 1882. Please notice the yacht “Calumet” as it was Emery’s first yacht to bear that name. Charles Emery’s fortune was made in tobacco.


In my mind Taylor’s illustrations of the Thousand Island are somewhat comparable to A. C. McIntyre’s photographs. Well, almost! But aren’t we fortunate to have two great sources of visual records for those years? 

Outside of the two Coughlin Illustrations, only one other is signed, the Bonnie Castle illustration was drawn by Julian Davison.

For more information on Frank H Taylor and Julian Davidson, click on the following:

Click here: Julian Davidson

Click here: Frank H Taylor

My source for the excerpt on the Castle Rest illustration is from Susan Smith’s book The First Summer People. Such a warm account of a son’s love for his mother was well worth telling again.

and… *The answer to Warner’s Island question is the island was cut in half to make room for the St. Lawrence Seaway. The half of the island still remaining is known as “Stony Crest.”

Thank you for coming onboard and hope you enjoyed the 130-year-old house tour.

By Robert L. Matthews, Fishers Landing

Robert L. Matthews is  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.  Click here to see all of Robert's TI Life articles.  

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.


Ian Coristine
Comment by: Ian Coristine ( )
Left at: 10:20 AM Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Thank you for reminding us of how extraordinary and celebrated a place the Thousand Islands once was. The hope is that thanks to the efforts of many passionate people on the River, that it will regain its former status.
Carolyn McCarney
Comment by: Carolyn McCarney ( )
Left at: 1:45 PM Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Over my lifetime running the River and spending endless hours on the shoreline of Belabourer Island, I would always hear my beloved Grandparents and parents call out from the main house "Boat on the River"! Back in the day, it was a big invitation to stop what we were doing and run to a high point in order to see who or what might be going by. Back before electricity, phones, etc, it was big excitement. There was great speculation around the dinner table, as to who and where these travelers might be going. I loved the old antique boats best, with their mysterious names and low guteral engines. Our boathouse had stacks and stacks of old magazines that reflected those old ways of life. Seeing these pictures brought back many memories of my sibs and I pleading for River stories..."more stories...oh please!"
Len Ewald
Comment by: Len Ewald ( )
Left at: 11:24 PM Tuesday, April 15, 2014
If ever there was a time machine, this is the era and place I'd love to visit!
Diana Bowers-Smith
Comment by: Diana Bowers-Smith
Left at: 2:16 PM Tuesday, January 15, 2019
I am an archivist at Brooklyn Public Library. We recently received a photograph of Charles Johnson's "Brooklyn Heights Cottage" as a donation, and I found this page while trying to learn more. Is there more information about the cottage or this image of it available? We are trying to date and contextualize our photograph. Many thanks.
Susie Smith
Comment by: Susie Smith
Left at: 4:18 AM Wednesday, January 16, 2019
I am sorry to report the author of this article died last year, but I have passed on the question to two others who study architecture of the Thousand Islands. Please email me at and I will introduce you. And I would also like to hear the results. May lead to another story.