Monday, September 5, 2011

Ghosts In The Isles

By : Dennis Stein

  At the mouth of the St.Lawrence river near Kingston, on the edge of Lake Ontario lies a large Island known as Carleton Island. It was the site of a shipyard and of the British Fort Haldimand in 1778, built to protect the entrance to the St.Lawrence during the American Revolution. The trenches and structures of old are still apparent on the island, as is a massive mansion, now abandoned and fenced off at the south end of Carleton Island. The mansion is Carleton Villa, built over a century ago, and now a mere shell of its once grand halls.
  William O. Wyckoff set out to build a fantastic mansion on the island, having amassed a fortune as the marketing guru behind a new invention at that time, the Remington typewriter. The owner of Remington chose a cottage in nearby Thousand Island Park, while William constructed a massive estate, with the centerpiece being Carleton Villa. He hired architect William Miller, known for his work on the Cornell University buildings, and began the construction of a grand mansion, a house built for entertaining, which predates both Singer and Bold castles. The mansion consists of many rooms, a Library and Drawing room flank the center hall on the main level, the Great Hall is two stories tall and ringed on the second level gallery by columns at one end. A full basement extends under Carleton Villa, and this is where the Gun room, and Wine Cellar were located, along with a boiler room for the heating of the massive structure. The Villa also had a semi-detached tower, connected to the main entry via a 'bridge'. Outside, there were tennis courts, and a small hobby farm. Several boathouses also graced the property.
  Tragedy struck the Wyckoff's as the construction of Carleton Villa was completed. One month before they were to move in, William's wife died of cancer. Mr. Wyckoff then moved in by himself in July of 1895, to enjoy his lavish island home, passing away on the first evening there at the age of 60 from a heart attack...
  A large portion of the island, including the mansion, was later bought in the 1920's by General Electric, with the plans for a large corporate retreat. Carleton Villa was now in a state of disrepair, and GE actually considered the demolition of the mansion. The Great Depression came along, killing General Electric's plans on the island, and saving the Villa. It was sold after WWII, and has been vacant now for more than 70 years.
  Its tower now gone, toppled after being deemed a hazard, Carleton Villa is in need of an expensive rescue. It was recently listed for sale by the current owners at just under a half million dollars. Restoration of the mansion would cost millions, but its structure and foundations are solid due to being built directly on bed rock. Maybe there is still hope for this once grand building, until then it stands vacant and quiet, a ghost from a far gone age...

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