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Dark Island’s Singer Castle

Written by on January 18, 2018 in Island Life Magazine

Singer Castle was famously dubbed the Castle of Mysteries by the New York Times in 1905. Now 113 years later, it remains as mysterious as ever a landmark in the middle of the mighty St. Lawrence River. 

Singer Castle is a tourism attraction today near Chippewa Bay N.Y. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/

With its medieval knights in armour, secret passageways, tunnels and even a dungeon, this 28-room castle rising out of the St. Lawrence River is a monument to another era. I never tire of visiting Dark Island and discovering new tales about Singer Castle and its first owner, a self-made multimillionaire Frederick Bourne.

Commodore Frederick Bourne. Photo courtesy of Singer Castle.

Bourne epitomized all that was Golden about the Golden Age of the 1000 Islands. The fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, he bought Dark Island in 1902 for $5000 to build what he described as a hunting and fishing lodge. He first showed his wife and children this 28-room castle in 1904 just before it was completed. To be sure, it might have seemed like a rustic cottage to this wealthy American family. Their mansion in Long Island N.Y. had 110 rooms. The Commodore of the New York City Yacht Club, Bourne had a fleet of boats and steam yachts he kept at Dark Island. He enlisted the architect Ernest Flagg to design his lodge on the St. Lawrence. It was modelled after an English castle in the novel Woodstock. A hidden button in the library opens the door to one of its mazes of secret passageways. A 140-foot tunnel  links the castle to the boathouse on the island’s northern shores.

The Library has a hidden door by the fireplace to hidden tunnels and passages. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/

Singer Castle is notably the only lived-in castle in the 1000 Islands. Bourne’s daughter, Marjorie, inherited Dark Island

when her father died in 1919. She sold it to LaSalle Military Academy of Long Island for less than $100 in 1961. It was subsequently sold to Harold and Eloise Martin of Montreal in 1956 for use by the Harold Martin Evangelistic Society. They renamed the island Jorstadt and invited visitors to attend Sunday services. It was open to tourists after it was sold to several European businessman in 2002 including Farad Vladi of Vladi Private Islands, the largest broker of private islands in the world.

Dining room: Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/

Today it draws tens of thousands of visitors annually to the region and even rents a Royal Suite in the castle overnight for $775 US. The terrace has breathtaking views that take you back in time as ships pass in front of the five story clock tower. The island has pristine grounds and a heritage rose garden with a bridle path that leads you to its huge front door. The tourism attraction is also a popular wedding 1000 Islands wedding destination.

Singer Castle's Royal Suite.

Singer Castle’s Royal Suite: Photo courtesy of Singer Castle.

A book written for Marjorie Bourne to give to guests of the castle called Dark Island best describes the magic and the mystery of Singer Castle. “When in this fairyland one feels the fascination of its history and the lure of the rarest gems of this sparkling river – Dark Island.” I couldn’t agree more. For more information on Singer Castle check out

Author: Island Life Magazine owner/publisher Kim Lunman in Frederick Bourne’s turret office at Singer Castle. Lunman has written extensively about Singer Castle on Dark Island N.Y.

Photo by Kim Lunman

Dark Island’s Singer Castle: Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/