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Castle Rest, Its story

Judy Wellman, the late Paul Malo’s wife, has donated Paul’s papers to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY.  While gathering the material,  she and her friend, Robert Charron, discovered photographs and a never-published manuscript. She asked if we would share it with our readers and we are delighted to present it to you. Ian Coristine provided modern photographs and we discovered some historic photos in Paul’s collection.  Enjoy.


Written by Paul Malo

Residence of George Mortimer Pullman Pullman Island,

Alexandria Bay, New York. Constructed in 1888

Solon Spencer Beman, Architect, Chicago, Illinois

Seth G. Pope, Builder, Ogdensburg and Alexandria Bay, New York

Main Building Demolished inI95(8?)

First of the Thousand Islands "castles", this famous summer home of the Pullman railroad car manufacturer began transmutation of the island "cottage," from wood into stone.

Castle Rest was intended to be a landmark on the local scene; its significance historically extends beyond this region, not only because George Pullman is still remembered, but because the architecture which he commissioned a century ago was then innovative and now is recognized as unique. Calculated to the picturesque, the architectonic composition combined rough masonry and wooden shingle siding in a romantic integration of buildings and natural landscape, stressing a motif characteristic of Thousand Islands imagery, the tower.

Pullman Castle, Ian Coristine ©
The modern Castle Rest on Pullman Island.  Photo by Ian Coristine ©

Owner George M. Pullman was becoming nationally known in 1888, when this "castle" replaced an older wooden cottage. He had acquired this island near Alexandria Bay twenty-four years earlier, shortly after beginning production of later famous Pullman railroad cars. His fame (or notoriety, to some) became greatest six years after Castle Rest was completed: during the bitter Pullman Strike of 1894, the employer retreated here while the President ordered the U.S. Army to Pullman, Illinois and news correspondents in rented boats encircled this distant island home.

Controversial in his last years, George M. Pullman nevertheless was regarded widely as a paragon of American success. His accomplishment was exemplified visibly by this island "castle," admired by hundreds of thousands of excursionists each summer. Generations of his family, retaining Pullman Island for about a century, established an enduring Chicago connection to the Thousand Islands. Governor Lowden of Illinois was George M. Pullman's son-in-law. President U. S. Grant was among many prominent guests at Pullman Island; his visit in 1872, when campaigning for reelection, was noted widely in the press, contributing to the sudden emergence of the Thousand Islands as a resort of international stature at that time.

The Pullmans were one of the first families to establish summer residence on these islands. Originally from Albion, New York (west of Rochester), they probably knew and may have been introduced to the region by the Hon. E. K. Hart of the same village. He owned nearby Hart (later famous as "Heart") Island, directly across from Alexandria Bay (where subsequently Boldt Castle was built.) About the time of the Civil War, three Pullman brothers and their mother began to "summer" here. Soon they acquired four different island properties, becoming some of the earliest of island settlers.

Harriet (Mrs. E. C.) Pullman occupied Ingleside, at the eastern end of Cherry Island. One of her sons, Rev. James M. Pullman, was at Cliff, which he had built as the first cottage on Summerland Island, where a cohesive colony soon shared a common kitchen and dining hall. Another son, Rev. Royal H. Pullman, lived under canvas for many seasons at Camp Royal. on Wellesley Island. Miss Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was a frequent visitor there (Royal Pullman's son was her secretary.) Nearby was smaller Pullman Island, soon to be pointed out to thousands of excursionists aboard giant side-wheeled steamboats as the summer residence of the famous third brother, George M. Pullman.

Pullman Island had been purchased from the partnership of Cornwall and Walton, proprietors of the landmark Stone Store, now a museum on the waterfront at Alexandria Bay. They owned most of the nearby islands at that time, when they were still mainly undeveloped.

Five years earlier when the business which took him to Chicago -- the lifting of existing buildings onto new foundations, as required by the raising of reconstructed city streets higher above the lake level-- was declining, Pullman began remodeling railroad cars into "sleepers." One was built especially for the purpose, just before the Union Army requisitioned his railroad cars for military use. For an interlude during the Civil War he operated a trading post in Colorado, returning to Chicago to build, during the winter of1863-4, the "Pioneer," most famous of his "Hotel" or "Palace" railroad cars.

A subsequent summer visit to the Thousand Islands may have served as well-earned vacation: his purchase of his island in 1864 may have been a commemorative celebration. It was during that summer that General Sherman was marching through Georgia to the sea. The following spring the "Pioneer" was engaged for the train which was to carry President Lincoln's casket from Chicago to Springfield --by some accounts at Mrs. Lincoln’s request. The national attention directed to Pullman's car was critical for its acceptance; it had been called the "Pioneer" because it was innovative --larger in every way than existing railroad coaches, requiring major alteration of all station platforms and relocation of other obstacles in order to provide adequate clearance. Pullman had gambled --the "Pioneer" had cost five times as much for him to build as any competing car, while the cost to the railroad companies to provide for its use would be great. Pullman had hoped that a better standard of service would create sufficient demand for his product. His competitive instinct was rewarded with great success.

George Pullman was the first of many businessmen who would celebrate personal accomplishment by acquisition of a splendid summer residence at the Thousand Islands. Wealth quickly rewarded the enterprise of many post-Civil War entrepreneurs. But in the 'Sixties the Thousand Islands were known only to a few as a place of rustic retreat in the wilderness. It would be twenty-four years before Pullman's subsequent stone "castle" would initiate an era of grandeur at the Thousand Islands.

At first, building a dock and acquiring a small steam launch, he and his family camped modestly on their new island. After several seasons, a plain frame house near the water's edge sufficed to begin entertaining. In 1872 an additional frame cottage on the crown of his island accommodated larger house parties, still supplemented by tents as well as service structures for ice, pumps and boats.

During that summer of 1872 the Pullmans invited to their newly improved place President U. S. Grant and his party, including Generals Sherman and Sheridan who, like the President, were then revered nationally as war heroes. The Pullmans and Grants had been neighbors at Longbranch, a fashionable New Jersey seaside resort. Among those invited to share heroic company at a week-long rustic island house party was a youngster, writer-to-be Brander Matthews, who many years later recalled:

"In reverent awe I stared ... intently whenever occasion offered", especially fascinated by "the locomotive headlights which had been borrowed to illuminate the tiny stage set up in a little clearing leveled amid the trees and the rocks --a clearing which served also as a dancing floor on the occasion of the ball given one night ... in honor of the President, ... attended by the cottagers from all the islands for miles up and down the St. Lawrence.:"

The Pullmans initiated social life - of national "society", at least-- at the Thousand Islands. Widespread press attention given this 1872 gala Presidential visit put the resort on the map. Construction of grand hotels was rushed to completion for the next season. Regularly scheduled island transport began, as large side-paddle steamboats were constructed to meet trains at riverside railroad docks. 


The Pullmans were the first of the islanders to arrive by private railroad car -a sumptuous conveyance, as might be expected of the railroad car builder. In other ways, however, their island life was relatively modest: they only chartered a moderate sized yacht for example, instead of acquiring an ostentatious one. Some of the Pullman's island neighbors in later years would descend from "Pullman" cars at the Clayton depot to welcoming salutes from deck cannons aboard splendid steam yachts, awaiting off the station pier. Then, under the canopy of stern decks, leisurely breakfasts would be served by uniformed crews, en route to island residences.


Meanwhile Pullman himself might be seen reading his newspaper on the deck of one of the commercial steam boats which frequently transported him, along with hundreds of other vacationers, from the Clayton station to the village of Alexandria Bay, which was nearer to his island. But Pullman's own private railroad car often had been left behind at the railroad terminus; no other islander of his time, moreover, was so acquainted with Presidents and other heroic achievers. George Pullman maintained many other residences and traveled widely; an absence of several seasons caused concern on the River, but on return he promptly decided to replace his old wooden "cottage" with a new stone "castle."

George Pullman's mother, after enjoying summers on the river for about a quarter of a century at Ingleside, at the foot of Cherry Island (later occupied by actress Fay Templeton and then rebuilt by Macy's proprietor, Nathan Straus) was becoming too old to maintain her own cottage there, so her son built for her on his nearby Pullman Island a splendid new summer home, which he named "Castle Rest." There she would enjoy her last summers together with her large family, making it a place of summer reunion.

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Rich Calabrese, Jr
Comment by: Rich Calabrese, Jr ( )
Left at: 10:00 PM Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wow, what a great article. I'm thrilled that Judy Wellman found this article and suggested Thousand Islands Life Magazine print it. I've spent the last 39 years growing up on the Island with my brothers, sisters and family. There's no other place in the world I'd rather be, even if it's wintertime. I'm already looking forward to the spring!
Jan Gilbert
Comment by: Jan Gilbert ( )
Left at: 11:40 AM Friday, October 16, 2009
Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. I learned more today about Castle Rest and Pullman Island than ever before.
John McCullough
Comment by: John McCullough ( )
Left at: 1:25 PM Sunday, October 18, 2009
I am very curious about when the man house was torn down. If it was really in the Fifites, there should be a number of people around who remember the story. We often hear the old story of the tax board responding
"If you want to live in a castle, you have to pay the taxes of a king".Can anyone shed further light on this?
Mike Cox
Comment by: Mike Cox
Left at: 6:18 PM Thursday, October 29, 2009
Another comment
Rich Calabrese, Jr
Comment by: Rich Calabrese, Jr ( )
Left at: 8:47 AM Friday, October 30, 2009
Yes, it was the 50's when the main house was torn down. My family was given a picture of the beginning stages of destruction, taken by Alan Ray. Alan owned Friendly Island and he watch the destruction over several weeks. I was at the antique boat show this summer and met a man that has been on the River for 85 years. He also remembers the house being torn down and he told me everyone was sad to see it go.
Jerry McHenry
Comment by: Jerry McHenry ( )
Left at: 10:13 AM Monday, November 9, 2009
My grandfather, Walter Jerome Green, Jr. built Watch Island in 1903. We enjoyed so many wonderful summers on "the river" and will always remember Watch Island forever.
My mother Rosemary Green McHenry was born in Utica and grew up on the river. Her grandfather, Walter Jerome Green build the first railroad in Florida, The Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railroad after the Civil War.
He died in his forties and Henry Flagler bought the railroad from his estate.
I lived in Watertown for four years so I was always close by.
Jerry McHenry
anthony elicati
Comment by: anthony elicati ( )
Left at: 9:53 PM Sunday, October 3, 2010
I have a oil painting of castle rest by M. BABUINI. Does it have any value?
Susan W. Smith
Comment by: Susan W. Smith ( )
Left at: 2:23 PM Monday, October 4, 2010
Would Anthony Elicati please contact TI Life magazine again.
Donna Williams-Suchocki
Comment by: Donna Williams-Suchocki ( )
Left at: 12:11 AM Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This is so interesting. My Mother and I have been researching our Pullman history. We are descendants of George Pullman on my Mothers side (maiden named Krinner). Thank you for sharing this information and these stories that somehow bring our heritage to life. I believe the names descend as follows... (Im sure my Mother will correct me if I'm wrong) Pullman>Chisholm>Krinner>Williams
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 5:09 PM Thursday, June 9, 2011
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 8:10 AM Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Nancy Cardoni
Comment by: Nancy Cardoni ( )
Left at: 5:45 PM Thursday, August 2, 2012
Many Summers growing up here on Castle Rest owned by my Uncle and through the years how he restored and made that a place we grew up the hole family, Wonderful Memories here and just beautiful, historical Thank you Uncle for my childhood summer memories!!!!!
Anonymous User
Comment by: Anonymous User
Left at: 11:02 AM Saturday, October 6, 2012
Diane M Funk
Comment by: Diane M Funk
Left at: 4:13 AM Thursday, December 31, 2015
Thank you for your time, research into a time long ago. As a child , i would visit this area and my uncle, growing up in the area, would proudly show off this and other delights... Boldt castle one of them.... Pullman... a name I know well. I prefer rail travel to plane travel where and when possible and i know to have the experience to ride in a true blue Pullman car something few understand.... I am so pleased that Castle Rest is still with us. So many have been lost due to neglect and misunderstanding.