With this being the final wallpaper of the winter season, I thought I’d share with you a shot of Brockville’s waterfront to illustrate what has been happening up and down the River. The 1000 Islands is enjoying a Renaissance!
When I first stumbled across this area in 1992, I saw a River with amazing natural assets. The rugged granite and pine beauty of the Frontenac Arch, a Seaway presenting a parade of ships and boats of every size and description, and teeming with wildlife. But I also saw neglect and decay, a place that had once had grand mansions, yacht houses and castles, but many were then abandoned or in disrepair.
Along the way I had the privilege of meeting and becoming close friends with (professor, author, historian and preservationist) Paul Malo. Through Paul and his trilogy of books about the Gilded Age, I got a clearer understanding of all this place had once been and by contrast, how far it had slid since.
There were understandable reasons for the slide from grace. Much of the wealth which fed the region had vanished. World War I introduced taxation such that heirs couldn’t afford their parent’s dreams. The Depression followed, compounding the problem and then World War II took it a step further. Trains, which used to come by the dozen, no longer did and when cars proliferated, other destinations opened up closer than the long drive to the River. The place had become largely ignored and forgotten.
Paul explained his books were an attempt to remind people of all this place had once been while he saw mine as showing people what it still was. He suggested we hitch our horses to the same cart - “To help build a greater appreciation for the place.” While I’d like to think our books might have helped, Paul went further, founding ThousandIslandsLife.com magazine to showcase the region each and every month, its history, current events, lore, scenery, artists and more.
When Paul died, Susie Smith valiantly took over. It wasn’t and isn’t a minor undertaking, and being non profit, Susie has not just shouldered mountains of work, but significant costs. I’m getting slightly off track here, but there is a point. Today, the River has turned the corner and while it has not yet regained its full celebrity of the Gilded Age, it is in a far better place than at any time in the last century.
Thanks to the efforts of many groups on both sides, a strong Renaissance is underway. Boldt and Singer Castles have been reborn, attracting many. Clayton’s Antique Boat Museum has played a major role, as have other organizations like Thousand Islands Land Trust, Save the River, The Thousand Islands Boat Museum, The Arthur Child Museum, The Thousand Islands Association, all helping build a greater appreciation for the place.
And it has worked, spawning quality projects up and down both sides. Clayton is now home to the beautiful Harbor Hotel and several fine restaurants and shops. The Ivy Lea Club replaced a run down resort with two beautiful marinas and a fabulous waterfront restaurant while many other projects having sprung up elsewhere. The infrastructure, which was totally lacking in 1992, is returning with a vengeance.
Here in Brockville, an abandoned and badly contaminated site from its industrial era is now the proud home of Tall Ships Landing and its Aquatarium, a $25 million discovery centre focused entirely on the 1000 Islands. If you haven’t yet been, do yourself a favor. And bring your guests to give them a more complete understanding of why you love the River. The River Renaissance is up and running to welcome you back in style.
Enjoy your summer. We'll pick these up again in the fall.
P.S. We have a cozy cottage on a couple of acres at the mouth of Jones Creek (part of the 1000 Islands National Park) available as a summer vacation rental on the River, as well as an exquisite little getaway in Provence, France. If you'd like to explore it and that corner of France, (it's just as compelling as the River, but in a very different way), there are many images on the "What's Nearby" page. Keep clicking on "Show More" to see all. If you'd like to explore the Jones Creek area, click here.
Vacation rental on the river
Vacation rental in Provence