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Singer Castle seeks port of entry on St. Lawrence River

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The elaborate castle built on the St. Lawrence River by sewing machine magnate Frederick Bourne is a relative newcomer to the Thousand Islands tourism scene. Singer Castle on Dark Island was only opened to the public ten years ago, and is accessible only by water from the United States. A Canadian lawmaker is pushing the U.S. to open a port of entry there to increase visitor traffic.

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In many ways, Singer Castle is as attractive a destination as Boldt Castle, the crown jewel of tourism in the Thousand Islands. Singer Castle also has a colorful history. It’s fully furnished. It has secret staircases, hidden windows for spying, and gleaming suits of armor in the entryway.

The castle is nine miles downriver from the most bustling U.S. section of the Thousand Islands, making it a tougher sell for American tourists. It is very close to big crowds on the Canadian side, but unlike Boldt, Singer Castle doesn’t have its own port of entry, so Canadian boaters can’t stop there without first checking in. Tom Weldon manages Singer Castle, and he says private boaters who arrive at the castle from Brockville are often frustrated when they find out a relatively simple trip is complicated by the fact that they have to clear customs—and can’t do it at the castle.

Weldon says a tour boat operator in Brockville is already interested in stopping at the castle, and he’s enlisted the help of a Canadian lawmaker to lobby Washington on the issue. Senator Robert Runciman of Brockville recently wrote a letter to New York Senator Chuck Schumer urging help in getting a seasonal port of entry on Dark Island.

Weldon says it could be an office staffed a couple days a week, or a videophone check-in similar to those in Alexandria Bay, Clayton and other spots along the river. He says the island has the high-speed communications infrastructure in place, in the form of “five webcams on the island that people access all the time and are very dependable. So we’ve already proven that you can see people on the island and what they’re doing and you can actually communicate with them.”

Weldon says some 20,000 tourists currently visit Singer Castle every year. With any kind of seasonal port of entry, he says that number could double.

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