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Irving Berlin’s ‘Always’ Cottage

Written by on November 8, 2017 in The Thousand Islands

I’ll be loving you always. With a love that’s true always.

Composer Irving Berlin was introduced to the 1000 Islands by Max Winslow, the president of Columbia Pictures. He owned the cottage known as Always.

These lyrics penned by the famous American composer Irving Berlin for the romantic ballad Always have a special connection to the 1000 Islands.

A cottage named Always in St. Lawrence Park west of Alexandria Bay overlooking the U.S. shipping channel is linked to the internationally renowned lyricist and his headline-grabbing marriage to an heiress in the 1920s. There are varying accounts of Berlin’s visits to the 1000 Islands and river lore has it he wrote the lyrics to “Always” during vacations here. Berlin was a guest of his friend and business associate Max Winslow, whose family owned the green and white cottage for seven decades. The composer most notably visited here after his honeymoon in Europe with his bride with news reporters tailing the newlyweds to the 1000 Islands.

The cottage named Always. A statue of the RCA dog and phonograph remains at the cottage west of Alexandria Bay N.Y.. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine.

The Russian-born composer’s songs topped the charts in the early 1900s and were included in Broadway shows and Hollywood films, and were nominated eight times for Academy Awards. He wrote hundreds of songs, including “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “God Bless America,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas” and “Always.” His songs have been recorded by some of the world’s most renowned singers, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

In the 1920’s, he fell in love with Ellin Mackay, the daughter of Clarence Mackay, the affluent and socially prominent head of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. Their romance was front page news. Her father opposed the marriage because Berlin was Jewish and she was Irish Catholic. Her father even sent her off to Europe to find another suitor. But Berlin wooed her back with the romantic ballad “Always.”

Irving Berlin and Ellin spent time at the cottage Always, named after the romantic ballad he wrote for his heiress bride.

After her return from Europe to New York City they were engaged and press followed them everywhere. They eloped and the marriage made the front page of the New York Times. It was reported the bride’s father disowned his daughter because of the marriage. As a result, Berlin assigned all rights to a number of popular songs including the “Always” to his wife.

Irving’s business partner Max Winslow, the president of Columbia Pictures, introduced the composer to the 1000 Islands. In the 1920s, he invited Berlin and his bride to be a guest at his summer cottage at St. Lawrence Park with his wife, Tillie. The newlyweds spent some time here upon returning from their honeymoon after a European trip. The Watertown Daily News recounted the visit in an article on his 80th birthday in 1968, stating Berlin “played golf on the Alexandria Bay municipal links” while “Mrs. Berlin and her hostess journeyed into Alexandria Bay on a Saturday afternoon and shopped in Zoller’s drugstore.” The newspaper reported the couple had visited the Always cottage three times, once leaving the village aboard a launch boat called Always to catch a train in Clayton to New York City and third time in 1928 they were with their daughter, Ellen enjoying a vacation of fishing, boating and golf. 

The 1000 Islands is known for it historic cottages and castles. Always is located near the American span of the Thousand Islands Bridge. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine.

The statue of the RCA dog with its head cocked, listening intently to a phonograph on the front lawn of Always is a whimsical nod to Winslow and the music of Berlin.

By all accounts, it has been nearly nine decades since Berlin and his bride visited the 1000 Islands but their legacy remains here on the shores of the St. Lawrence at the cottage Always. Their love was true and everlasting. The couple remained inseparable until Ellin died in July 1988 at the age of 85 after 63 years of marriage. They had four children. Irving Berlin died in New York City at the age of 101 in 1989. His songs endure, forever and always, like the lyrics of the song for which this charming cottage is named.

Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine.