For this week’s blog feature we decided to focus on a story of monumental love and history, in honor of Valentine’s Day this Friday. If you’re a romantic, there’s a love story for you. If you’re not a romantic, never fear! We’ve included our usual focus on historical buildings and materials, and in this case, renovation and rehabilitation efforts at the site. This post includes something for everyone!


Boldt Castle. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


First, for the romantics among our readers:

Set on Heart Island (how apropos!) in Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York, Boldt Castle – a castle reminiscent of palaces scattered throughout the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany and built in the chateauesque architectural style – and its surrounding buildings originated from the love of a man for his wife. More specifically, that man was George C. Boldt, the proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York. His wife was Louise Boldt, a native of Pennsylvania, and the daughter of his former employer. Various accounts note they fell in love within a short time of meeting and that they were close companions in love, life, and business; Louise’s hostess and decorating skills were said to complement Boldt’s hotel business beautifully. They had two children and the family frequently vacationed to the Thousand Islands. Boldt decided to combine his love for his wife and the islands in an over-the-top show of affection, and no standard box of chocolates or bouquet of roses would do. He put his significant wealth to use creating a monument of his love for Louise on his newly-dubbed “Heart” Island (formally known as Hart Island after the previous owner); note the oft-repeated heart motif in the photos below.

As with many love stories, this one has a tragic twist. In January 1904, not long before Valentine’s Day, Boldt’s beloved wife Louise, the inspiration for this fairy tale island project, suddenly passed away still in her early 40’s. The grief-stricken Boldt immediately called a halt to construction on the project and never returned, reportedly unable to bear setting foot there without Louise. The magnificent work of countless artisans was left to deteriorate for most of the next century, a decaying representation echoing Boldt’s heart-break. Years later, the Boldts’ granddaughter even co-authored a book about the  story. 



Tile detail of heart motif. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

Heart motif in stained glass dome. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

Heart motif on castle exterior. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

Heart motif hidden in stone corner. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


Now, for the non-romantics:

For lovers of historical architecture, the years of deterioration and vandalism of the Boldt Castle property on Heart Island could have been a heart-breaking tragedy in and of itself. Luckily, in the late 1970’s the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property and agreed all net revenues from the castle operation would contribute to its rehabilitation and restoration. The full-size Rhineland castle and other structures on the island have slowly been rehabilitated over the years, and projects are ongoing.

Detail of unfinished and vandalized interior wall. Photo courtesy of Laura K.

Bedroom intended for Louise, fully restored. Photo courtesy of Laura K.


However, some concerns have been noted regarding the historical integrity of the site by astute preservation-minded people – including Thousand Islands author and architectural historian, the late Paul Malo – who have pointed out that as each room becomes renovated, little to no preservation is done on aspects of those rooms in their original state. Much of the rehabilitation efforts reportedly have been completed with entirely new plans and materials, with little reference to original plans and materials and ignoring replacement-in-kind, despite the proposed original intentions of the Bridge Authority. Further, little of the detailed historical context is presented on-site, and tours are self-guided with only small plaques with limited information throughout the property. Previous reports by those affiliated with the site and behind the rehabilitation acknowledge that compromises were made between restoration and preservation in some cases, in favor of economic sustainability and what would draw tourism to the site. Those same sources have asserted that, contrary to questions by preservationists, extensive research and expertise were involved in carefully assuming what the project might have originally looked like had it been completed as planned.             

The treatment of Boldt Castle over the past 40-plus years serves as an example of important discussion points for historians, preservationists, history-buffs, and even private-home owners and the general public, including deciding when restoration or rehabilitation are more appropriate than preservation. What is the best way to marry such projects with modern needs such as tourism, education, and cost?  More specifically, should we focus on what makes the general public happy and creates the most revenue (including romanticized stories that are possibly embellished and may even promote more deviation from the truth in the form of updates to a property driven by the legendary tales) at the cost of historical integrity? Should the love of love, or any questionable history or desire we have about how we wish things had been, be allowed to dictate how we care for or update a historic monument?

Regardless, no matter where one stands in terms of their romantic or preservation-mindedness, no one can deny the beauty of Boldt Castle. Its beautiful love story and aesthetic beauty remind us of all the ways we can show and feel love.  

P.S. If you would like to experience Boldt Castle for yourself, visit the website to learn more. If the Boldt Castle project has inspired you to learn more about maintenance and preservation, visit our post on maintaining your historical house and other resources on our blog. If you’re looking for a gift for yourself or a loved one for Valentine’s Day, consider sharing a free copy of our “Maintenance is Preservation” Booklet report – just send us a request via our contact page.  


Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.


1996 – Walnut Street Bridge, Dauphin & Cumberland Counties


Walnut Street Bridge

Photo by origamidon on flickr

• SAVED (Partially) •

Erected in 1889-1890 and comprised of 15 wrought-iron, steel pin-connected Baltimore truss spans, the 2,850-foot Walnut Street Bridge (or People’s Bridge) was one of the largest multi-span truss bridges ever fabricated by Pennsylvania’s nationally significant Phoenix Bridge Company using their patented Phoenix column.  By 1893, the toll bridge carried trolleys that transported passengers between the west shore of the Susquehanna River and the state capital, as well as foot traffic and horse-drawn vehicles.  The bridge also enabled recreational development on City Island in the early 20th century, including baseball, football and track, as well as picnicking, swimming and boating.

With evolutions in popular modes of transportation and periodic damage from storms and floods, owners of the Walnut Street Bridge have dealt with minor structural problems since about 1910.  After overcoming resistance by the private property owner, the Commonwealth finally acquired the toll bridge in 1954.  They continued to collect tolls on the bridge until 1957.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  That same year, flood waters from Hurricane Agnes caused severe damage to the bridge, and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  However, the bridge survived as an important pedestrian link between the west shore, City Island, and Harrisburg’s downtown commercial district.  The Walnut Street Bridge was one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

In January of 1996, the Walnut Street Bridge was again seriously damaged by ice-dammed flood waters.  Three metal trusses were destroyed, and the piers that had supported them were removed.  Overwhelming local support and extraordinary stewardship by the Commonwealth resulted in the rehabilitation of the remaining eastern spans, which provide pedestrian access between downtown Harrisburg and City Island facilities.  The bridge is used by over one million visitors, tourists, and residents each year.

There are no plans to replace the three missing spans to reconnect the Walnut Street Bridge to the Susquehanna River’s west shore.  The City of Harrisburg, which is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, is currently unable to devote financial resources to this project.  Fortunately, a coalition of residents, area businesses, and other partners, known collectively as Lighten Up Harrisburg, is working to illuminate the historic Walnut Street Bridge and address other urgent safety needs.

To support this project, please visit Lighten Up Harrisburg.


In 2008, metal truss bridges statewide were recognized by Preservation Pennsylvania as an endangered resource; many truss bridges were at risk for replacement due to strength deficiencies, size limitations, deferred maintenance and the high cost of repairs.  In 1996, 328 truss bridges in Pennsylvania were eligible for or listed in the National Register.  Following the Commonwealth’s “Accelerated Bridge Program,” that number was expected to decline to 237 by the end of 2008 and just 184 by the end of 2012.  While not all metal truss bridges can and should be saved, some may be strengthened to continue to serve the community.  

In reaction to concerns about the shrinking population of metal truss bridges in Pennsylvania, PennDOT is currently working to develop a management plan to help maintain the bridges and prioritize select bridges for rehabilitation rather than replacement.  The plan seeks to balance sound engineering with historic preservation considerations in evaluating the level of significance and the rehabilitation potential for each bridge.  PennDOT anticipates that the plan will be an invaluable tool to be used throughout their planning and project development process.


Historical architectural styles range from quaint and inviting to intimidating and forbearing, delicate and refined to stately and prominent, traditional and elegant to funky and modern.  Which one is your favorite?

After you answer our poll, you can go take this very fun quiz that determines which architectural style reflects your personality.

[polldaddy poll=6646588]

Art Deco Architectural Style

Art Deco architecture (a modern movement occurring in the 20th Century) is characterized by smooth wall surfaces, usually of stucco; zigzags, chevrons, and other stylized and geometric motifs occur as decorative elements on a facade; towers and other vertical projections above the roof line give a vertical emphasis.


Arts & Crafts Historical Architectural Style

The Arts & Crafts movement (late 19th and early 20th Century Revivals) of historical architecture is characterized by low pitched, gabled roofs (that are occasionally hipped) with wide, unenclosed eave overhang; roof rafters usually exposed; decorative (false) beams or braces commonly added under gables; porches, either full- or partial-width, with roof supported by tapered square columns or pedestals frequently extending to the ground level (without a break at level of porch floor).


Colonial Revival Historical Architectural Style

Colonial Revival historical architecture (late 19th and early 20th Century Revivals; Georgian Revival) is characterized by an accentuated front door, normally with decorative crown (pediment) supported by pilasters, or extended forward and supported by slender columns to form entry porch; doors commonly have overhead fanlights or sidelights; facade noramlly shows symmetrically balanced windows and center door (less commonly with door off-center); windows with double-hung sashes, usually with multi-pane glazing in one or both sashes; windows frequently in adjacent pairs.


French Renaissance Historical Architectural Style

French Renaissance historical architecture occurred from the late 19th Century through the Early 20th Century revivals and is characterized by chateauesque features. Steeply pitched hipped roof; busy roof line with many vertical elements (spires, pinnacles, turrets, gables, and shaped chimneys); multiple dormers, usually wall dormers extending through cornice line; walls of masonry (usually stone).



The Georgian historical architectural style is a Colonial style characterized by paneled front doors, usually centered and capped by an elaborate decorative crown (entablature) supported by decorative pilasters (flattened columns); usually with a row of small rectangular panes of glass beneath the crown, either within the door or in a transom just above; cornice usually emphasized by decorative moldings, most commonly with tooth-like dentils; windows with double-hung sashes having many small panes (most commonly nine or twelve panes per sash) separated by thick wooden muntins; windows aligned horizontally and vertically in symmetrical rows, never in adjacent pairs, usually five-ranked on front facade, less commonly three- or seven-ranked.


Gothic & Gothic Revival Historical Architectural Style

Gothic and Gothic Revival historical architectural styles (mid-19th Century to Early Gothic Revival period) are characterized by steeply pitched roofs, usually with steep cross gables (roof normally side gabled, less commonly front gabled or hipped; rarely flat with castellated parapet); gables commonly have decorated vergeboards; wall surface extending into gable without break (eave or trim normally lacking beneath gable); windows commonly extended into gables, frequently having pointed-arch (Gothic) shape; one-story porch (either entry or full-width) usually present, commonly supported by flattened Gothic arches.


Greek Revival Historical Architectural Style

Greek Revival historical architecture (mid-19th Century) is characterized by gable or hipped roof of low pitch; cornice line of main roof and porch roofs emphasized with wide band of trim (this represents the classical entablature and is usually divided into two parts; the frieze and the architrave below) most have porches (either entry or full-width) supported by prominent square or round columns, typically of Doric style; front door surrounded by narrow sidelights and reactangular line of transom lights above, door and lights usually incorporated into more elaborate door surround.


Italianate Historical Architectural Style

Italianate historical architectural style (late Victorian, Victorian or High Victorian Italianate) is characterized by two or three stories (rarely one story); low pitched roof with widely overhanging eaves having decorative brackets beneath; tall narrow windows, commonly arched or curved above; windows frequently with elaborate crowns, usually inverted U shape; many examples with square cupola or tower.


Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival Historical Architectural Style

(Late 19th and 20th Century Revivals – Spanish Revival; Mediterranean Revival)

Mission style historical architecture is characterized by a mission shaped ormer or roof parapet (these may be either main roof or porch roof); commonly with red tile covering; widely overhanging eaves, usually open; porch roofs supported by large, square piers, commonly arched above; wall surfaces usually smooth stucco.

Spanish Colonial Revival historical architecture is characterized by a low-pitched roof, usually with little or no eave overhang; red tile roof covering; typically with one or more prominent arches placed above door or principal window or beneath porch roof; wall surface usually stucco; facade normally asymmetrical.


Prairie School Historical Architectural Style

Prairie School historical architectural style (late 19th and early 20th Century American Movement) is characterized by low-pitched roofs, usually hipped, with widely overhanging eaves; two stories, with one story wings or porches; eaves, cornices, and facade detailing ephasizing horizontal lines; often with massive, square porch supports.  The best known architecture in this style is that of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


Tudor Revival Historical Architectural Style

The Tudor Revival historical architectural style (late 19th and early 20th Century Revivals – Jacobean or Jacobethan Revival; Elizabethan Revival) are characterized by steeply pitched roofs, usually side gable (less commonly hipped or front gable); facade dominated by one or more prominent cross gables, usually steeply pitched; decorative (i.e., not structural) half-timbering present on about half of examples; tall narrow windows, usually in multiple groups and with multi-pane glazing; massive chimneys, commonly crowned by decorative chimney pots.


Victorian “Queen Anne” Historical Architectural Style

Queen Anne historical architecture (late Victorian – Queen Anne Revival; Queen Anne-Eastlake) is a Victorian architectural style characterized by steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, usually with a dominant front-facing gable; patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and other devices used to avoid a smooth-walled appearance; asymmetrical facade with partial or full-width porch which is usually one story high and extending along one or both side walls; often painted in multiple layers of color.  These showy “peacocks” of architecture are often called “painted ladies”