by Katherine Boynton & Ward Morehouse III
The Wellesley Hotel is a welcomed family retreat from all things modern and technological. Built in 1903 in Thousand Islands Park, New York on Wellesley Island the hotel commands glorious views of the St. Lawrence River. We docked our boat at the Thousand Island Park Marina. The hotel supplied us with an official permit. Stepping into the hotel is like stepping into George M. Cohan’s play The Tavern of the early 1900’s: a front desk with a brass bell, an ultra-wide wooden staircase graciously leading to the suites and antique shops. Even more gracious was the married couple running it. David Gilberg the chef, went the extra mile carrying our bags to our room. We stayed with our golden-doodle puppy, Matisse for or two nights in early August.
The corridors leading to the suites are wide as those of New York City’s Plaza Hotel when it was first built in 1907.Each suite has two simple bedrooms joined by a full bathroom. Our large queen size bed was very comfortable. Suites have ceiling fans, which help create a breeze on hot summer nights. Those sensitive to the heat will enjoy visiting in the cooler months of early summer or fall, as the hotel does not have air conditioning. The porches off the second floor are magnificent and provide plenty of refreshing breezes from the great river.
The wrap-around porch, on the first floor is where lunch and dinner are served. Guests can also choose to dine inside. The food is what makes the Wellesley Hotel memorable. It is for those who have an adventurous palate and desire to try a creative take on a well-known dish. We recommend the shrimp cocktail and the New York style strip sirloin steak fit for a king. Henry the VIII, would most likely be pleased at it was thick and juicy. Their pasta is house made and also delicious. Vegetarian options are available. The spectacular dining views, down the emerald lawn to the sparkling American channel of the St. Lawrence are magical. Be sure to visit the flower filled gardens behind the hotel and shops at the end of the porch. A favorite purchase was fine jewelry designed by The Golden Cleat, with a nautical inspiration. Also special is The River Dog Gallery which celebrates all things Thousand Islands, including beautiful photos by artist Bob Cook. River Dog Gallery is run by a friendly husband and wife team Bob and Debi Cook.
The highly respected chef, David Gilberg and hotel manager Carla Goncalves are a married couple team. David also manages the newly rebuilt restaurant across the street called The Guzzel, a casual restaurant and ice cream parlor. The Guzzle serves the best hamburgers east of Kansas, generous fresh Caesar salads were a favorite. And their morning muffins literally melt in your mouth. All the food we had there was excellent.
The Wellesley is a retreat from the 20th century as well as from our own life on a nearby small island and life in New York City. Still, it offers wifi to guests and luggage service by golf cart back to your boat. Those who drive to the hotel have the convenience of parking right in front. Originally, Thousand Islands Park was a Methodist family summer camp. You will still feel a purity and peace in this place. The loudest noise was a child riding a bike or laughing. As we walked down Coast Avenue West lined with historic Victorian homes, it felt like we stepped into L.M. Montgomery’s, Anne of Green Gables. Perhaps Anne’s just left the TI Park Library and can be found reading in the gazebo. No, it’s not Nova Scotia but it has such a feeling of history that it could be if you closed your eyes to the beauty of the St. Lawrence and dreamed.