Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alexandria Bay, New York: Thousand Islands

More than 100 years ago, some of the rich and famous wanted to get away from summer's big city heat. The Thousand Islands area was a good spot for that. So millionaires headed north and started to construct unique summer homes on the islands there.

Many of those buildings are still there, and you can still see them. However, you'll have to get on a boat. There are tours up and down the St. Lawrence that allow a relatively close look at such homes. Just be sure to avoid some of the cargo ships that go through the St. Lawrence - they do make for quite a sight on the river.

You probably can think of all of the problems involved in building a house like the one shown above. How does it get power? Telephone lines? Where does sewage go? How do you bring in building materials? The general answer is, if you have to ask about cost for such a structure, you can't afford it.

Millionaire's Row is the best part of the cruise. Some of the names of the original owners are still well-known today, such as the original executives behind Macy's department stores (Abraham and Straus) and George Pullman of railroad car fame. Down the river a bit is the Singer Castle, built by Frederick Bourne of sewing machine fame.

There are 1,864 islands in the Thousand Islands. Anything that stays above water year-round and has a tree is considered an island. In other words, the picture on the right is an island, although probably the housing is a bit cozy for most people.

For those who know something about history, this was a rather popular spot during Prohibition. It was rather easy to transport certain beverages across international lines up here, particularly at night. And if the authorities turned up en route, the bottles of evidence were dumped into the river. In fact, divers say bottles are still on the river bed., 

The Thousand Islands are quite pretty in season. A local told me they roll up the sidewalks once fall arrives, since the temperature can be as low as 35 below at times in winter. It should be mentioned that the area right around the river is by far the best part of the region; there's not much to see or do if you get a mile away from the water - which I blurted out is "a river of pretty."

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