Saturday, June 21, 2014

Singer Castle

 Hubby and I are back from a great vacation. We were blessed to spend it with close friends that go back to my husband in first grade and myself at the age of fifteen. What is it about really close lifelong friends? They are  such a blessing. We don't judge. We share a deep history. And we love each other as only best friends can.

One of the highlights of our vakay in the Thousand Island area of upper NY state/Canada was a visit to the Singer castle. That is Singer as in Singer sewing machines and there had to be a machine in almost every room in the castle! Our trip to the castle consisted of an almost four hour cruise through "Millionaire's Row" in the Thousand Islands and a tour of the Singer estate.

We approach the front door after a wicked uphill climb from the boat house. 

Singer Castle was built on Dark Island by Frederic Bourne, who at the age of 36 became the Director and President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. In his teens, Bourne worked at the Clark O.N.T. Thread company and from there worked his way up in the rapidly growing home sewing industry. I am thinking this must be sort of like our current dot.com billionaires as Mr. Bourne was very very wealthy from the growth and sales of home sewing machines. Besides an apartment at the Dakota in New York City, Bourne also owned an estate of over a thousand acres in Oakdale, Long Island. Clearly he was no stranger to extravagant real estate!
View from the castle of a lovely sitting area facing the St. Lawrence Seaway and the U.S. 

Bourne wanted to surprise his wife with an island hunting estate and thus work on the castle was begun. He was adamant that the castle be built after Woodstock Castle in Sir Walter Raleigh's book, "Woodstock". It was. We saw many secret passages and architectural details copied from the book by beaux artes architect, Ernest Flagg.
One of the many secret passages used by the serving staff  so they would not be visible ot the guests. The passages were also built as they were in the book "Woodstock" by Sir Walter Raleigh. 

There is a gorgeous boat house and five story clock tower. The castle is currently owned by a group of investors in Europe who buy these types of properties and turn them into tourist attractions. The grounds are lovely but I really think would be much nice if owned by a not for profit that would plow the profit back into the estate. There is another nearby castle where this is done, Boldt Castle, and the difference is amazing. I will say that everything in the Singer Castle is of the period and much original to the Bourne family.


The cornice and drapery that you see on the left above were silk velvet and original to the Bourne ownership. They were navy blue when first installed and time has faded them to this mustard shade. In between the folds they are still navy blue!


There were nooks and crannies throughout the castle where you could curl up with a book or just look out at the incredible view of the neighboring islands and the St. Lawrence. 



Now for some textiles! This tapestry above was hung in the library. 


These two were a silk matelasse bedspread and coordinating pillow original to the owner. I just wanted to fix every undone thread I saw. This fabric was exquisite.

This is a beautifully machine quilted spread and sham, one of a pair. I am thinking this was maybe done on a Singer machine? It was really lovely. I love the different shades of thread used. It gives the quilting a lot more dimension.

 Above is the beautiful ceiling on the fourth floor of the female staff's dormitory. The men had their own quarters in the boathouse, of course connected through passageways. I can just imagine the clandestine meetings in those secret stone passages! The higher you slept in the castle the less important you were socially. This dormitory was on the fourth floor. The Bournes had their rooms on the first floor, guests went to the second and third and staff was on the fourth floor or out in the boathouse. 


Women of high society would never want to have the slightest tan as it meant you might be someone who actually did work. So when the ladies wanted to take some air that went out on the "veranda" that you see here and stayed in its shade.
This is the side of the castle facing Canada and the arched windows are the dining room. Gorgeous!

If you look close you can see an osprey's nest on the top of the chimney near the wethervane. We saw many osprey and great blue herons while up here.  We also saw what felt like twenty pound biting gnats at the Cape Vincent Lighthouse! Ouch! There were literally heavy clouds of the little buggers. 


Another day is over as we sit on our deck of our cottage and admire the sunset over Carrolton Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway. I hope you enjoyed this bit of needlework history. 

Now, back to some sewing.....!!!.....Bunny

ETA: In answer to Michelle's request:



22 comments:

  1. Lovely photos of what looks like a perfect day. The castle is very intriguing, with all of those secret passageways and the many nooks and crannies. A perfect place to visit on a late spring day!

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  2. This is just awesome! Thank you for sharing these pics and the history of the castle with us!

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  3. My goodness id never heard of this ,what a wonderful trip.Now where are the photos of the machines :)

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    1. I have a few but they were always placed in windows in the dark paneled nooks so were almost in shadow. I will see if I can find one that is better than most and put it ups for you,Michelle.

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  4. How wonderful, Bunny. The entire tour was wonderful, I would have had to carry my bath sheet to catch all the drool...I love old textiles, buildings, etc. a blog you must do sometime is an abbreviated tourists guide of the great Northeast. This is an area we have never traveled to. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You may have to settle for just the North End of Boston, my favorite place. The whole Northeast is a bit daunting! LOL!

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  5. Even more lovely than the metaphorical Downton Abbey!!

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  6. Beautiful photos, looks like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. bellas foto y reportaje. me encanta la maquina de coser antigua. son mi debilidad. gracias por mostrarnos tan bello lugar

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  8. If I thought I was impressed with Gillette Castle in my state of CT, I was sorely mistaken. Singer Castle rocks. Oh that sewing machine!

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  9. Oh my word...what a magical place to visit, Bunny & how special for you...and US, since I feel like you took us along.
    My heart skipped a beat when I saw that GORGEOUS quilting...*sigh* Just exquisite!
    Thanks so much for sharing your vacation with us.

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    1. I knew you would jump right on that, Rett! Isn't it gorgeous how it is done in different colored threads? It gives the quilting design such dimension.

      Rett has just purchased a long arm quilting machine, friends, and is a wonderful quilter and sewist.

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  10. Wow! You were in my backyard! Glad you enjoyed your tour and got to see our magnificent landscapes. (Hope you caught some of the flea markets & antique stores--great area to find vintage fabrics.)

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    1. Another sewist in this neck of the woods? We are few and far between!

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  11. Hi there Bunny,

    Welcome Home!
    Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful location with us all; what a treat.
    Looking forward to seeing what you are currently working on. May we have an up-date on the jacket you started with Claire??
    Hugs from over the pond, Marysia.

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  12. Ah yes, a rustic cottage retreat to escape to in the summer! The simple life, free of unnecessary materialism...

    Or not :) Looks like a fabulous place to visit, regardless. We'll definitely have to add that to lists of wanna visits.

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  13. A new destination on my bucket list!!! At this point I am going to have to live to be 150 years old to get it all in ;)

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  14. Excellent post! What a grand estate. For all of us who own Vintage Singer Sewing Machines it's nice to no a little history of one of the owners of the company and how he lived. What an excellent trip.

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  15. I am sorry to tell you, but the red, gold, and green machine quilted sham and spread you have shown above is exactly like the one on the bed in our master bedroom here at our home in Llano County, Texas and I purchased it at our local Walmart. I believe it is a Better Homes brand and probably no longer available, but I assure you it is from WalMart. I love it, but it really is not that old. I guess whoever decided to use it on a bed at the Singer castle has as good a taste as I do. I would be happy to share pictures if you would like proof.

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    1. That is hilarious! It still is a beautifully quilted spread, but probably done in China! We were told that nearly everything in the castle was of the period. I guess now you can say your spread is "castle worthy".

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  16. Hilarious! That is too funny. We were told that "most" of what was in the castle was of the period. I guess this is "of China". It still is a lovely spread and it looked great in the castle. Now you can say your lovely spread is "castle worthy".

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