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Broomstick Castle in Fairyland

Storybook bridges. Broomstick Castle. An historic boathouse and an idyllic summer retreat called The Folly.

This is Fairyland Island, a place that finds its name in both its natural beauty and folklore. Fairyland is not too far from another island on the St. Lawrence River famous for its Boldt Castle: Heart Island.

It evokes another era of the Thousand Islands: the Golden Age of the late 1800s and early 1900s when millionaires built grand summer estates and castles, cruised in steam yachts, played tennis and held formal parties on the island’s manicured lawns.

“It’s just another world,” said Peter Charron, the owner of the residence known as The Folly as he steers his boat towards the island with its towering French poplar trees in the Manhattan Group of the Thousand Islands.

The three-bedroom summer home with its fireplace, double pine staircase and airy veranda surrounded by gardens of hydrangeas is a dreamy island retreat. It was featured last year in Elle Décor magazine as the getaway of its previous owner, a New York City interior designer.

Charron and his wife Catrine, of San Francisco, fell in love with the island and the residence built in 1870 while scouting Thousand Island properties two years ago.

“I saw Fairyland and I just loved it,” said Peter. “Fairyland is just the best name ever. It’s magical.”

Peter, who automates port authorities all over the world, is a native of Ogdensburg who had spent his childhood summers swimming and fishing in the Thousand Islands.

Catrine initially said: “Nothing on an island,” recalled Peter with a chuckle. They first looked at properties on Bostwick Island and Grenell Island but were enamoured with Fairyland’s Folly. It’s easy to see why.

“It’s completely impractical,” said Peter as he took me on a tour of the island’s winding paths leading to Broomstick Castle, a distinctive home with turrets perched over the river’s edge, the ruins of the original Fairyland residence, and over a bridge to Estrallita Island’s Estrallita.

“They’re the real deal,” said Peter. “They’re really special homes.”

The Folly was originally built as a gentleman’s guest lodge to its neighboring Estrallita, a grand summer estate. Men would retire there after dinner to smoke cigars and drink brandy by the fireplace. There was no kitchen in the original structure which is set back on two acres. One has since been added to the summer home.

Now it is the island escape of the California couple, their young daughter Cosette and two Dalmations named Henry and James.

“I think of it as a child’s paradise,” said Peter.

It is said Fairyland’s tranquil charms cured a sickly little girl who had to be carried onto the island one summer over a century ago. She left healthy and rejuvenated after a summer. That is believed how the island got its name.

The fairy tale of Fairyland was first told in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in the late 1800s in a story called ‘Summering Among the Thousand Isles.”

The writer described the Thousand Islands as a “Lotus Land” and a “real land of dreamy forgetfulness.” The article’s author extolled “the wondrous beauties of this lovely archipelago” featuring illustrations of Wellesley Island’s Thousand Island Park, Alexandria Bay and Fairyland Island. It also recounts the story of a wealthy family from Ohio that brought an “invalid daughter to the islands in an almost hopeless search for health.”

“Each season sees Fairyland grow more and more suggestive of its even more appropriate name,” the author observed.

The Hayden family of Columbus Ohio made their fortune on horse collars when they purchased Fairyland, which is now only a pile of rocky ruins on the island.

Peter Hayden bought Fairly around 1869. He and his two sons; Charles Hayden and William B. Hayden built three large homes on the island including nearby Estrallita and the remains of Fairyland just behind Broomstick Castle.

Peter's wealth came from hardware manufacturing and inventing the "modern horse collar". His sons became prominent Ohio bankers and continued to run their father's business, Hayden Saddlery.

Today Catrine, a native of France who works for a marketing agency in the Bay area, has become a Thousand Islander, collecting archival information and vintage postcards of Fairyland Island.

“You wonder what a person from France is doing in the Thousand Islands,” she said with a laugh.

A quick glance from the porch of The Folly provides the answer. “Everything surrounding it is beautiful,” Catrine said. Like all good fairy tales, Fairyland Island is quietly true.


By Kim Lunman,

Kim Lunman is a member of our TI Life team and lives in her hometown of Brockville.  Kim is the recipient of a National Newspaper Award for feature writing and received a National Newspaper Award citation of merit for enterprise reporting. She received a Southam Fellowship for journalists at University of Toronto's Massey College. Kim was also was nominated for a Michener Award, the highest honor in Canada for public service journalism. Kim produced several articles for local magazines in the past two year.  Her work is always popular.

Posted in: Places, People
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Janice Laprade
Comment by: Janice Laprade ( )
Left at: 12:26 PM Thursday, October 15, 2009
Thanks again to Kim for bringing to life the many stories of our beloved Thousand Islands.

Til next season...The Laprade's at Honey Bee
Peter Charron
Comment by: Peter Charron ( )
Left at: 8:21 PM Monday, November 2, 2009
Kim, thank you for your beautiful article. It truely conveys how we feel about the magic that is Fairyland Island.

Though Fairyland has the name, all the islands are a fairyland. So I'm hoping this is the beginning of many more articles by you about the other islands that all have an interesting story to tell.

M. Lee
Comment by: M. Lee ( )
Left at: 1:51 PM Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I spent many summers as a kid on Fairyland during the years a family from OK owned both Estrallita and the Lodge. We would take the "Texan" to Canada for fireworks and have huge parties on the playground. I remember crying so hard every year when it was time to go home. I wanted to stay on all year with the help. We flew there in the summers in a DC3 and stopped one year in NYC for the Worlds fair. I've now been married many years and have told many tales about Fairyland to my husband. This summer we are joining friends in the Hamptons then the two of us are going to the 1000 Islands for the express purpose of seeing Fairyland again. We plan to get a boat and driver and circle it a few times. It's sort of a bucket list item although I don't think I'm anywhere near kicking it. He thinks the whole thing will be so much
less than I remember. He's in for a surprise.
Peter Charron
Comment by: Peter Charron ( )
Left at: 8:42 PM Wednesday, April 28, 2010
No need to circle. You are welcome to stop by and visit. Please contact TI Life to get my email. . I will be on the island off and on over the summer and hopefully we can sync up our schedules.
Catherine Vivers
Comment by: Catherine Vivers ( )
Left at: 10:16 PM Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I am so pleased I was able to find info. on Fairyland Island. I was fortunate enough to spend 6 summers in the Thousand Islands. Truely Heaven on Earth. Let's keep it a secret..... :) thank you.