Wednesday, January 19, 2022

George Pullman’s Castle Rest

After President Ulysses S. Grant visited the Thousand Islands in 1872, George Pullman replaced their modest cottage with a landmark castle. Built in 1888, it was the first of several castles that dotted the region during the Gilded Age. Though only a small part of the castle still remains, Pullman Island remains a landmark of historical significance. Every year, tens of thousands pass by Pullman Island and hear the story of the President’s visit, the Pullman family, and, by extension, my novel about this island, Katelyn’s Choice.

With the visit of President Grant and the Presidential Gala held on Pullman Island, national attention was drawn to the Thousand Islands, a group of 1864 islands in the St. Lawrence River, half of which are owned by Ontario, Canada, and the remaining half owned by New York State. The rich and famous began scooping up islands and shoreline, building castles, mansions, and elegant summer homes.

Pullman loved being the first—the first to host a President in the islands, the first to create a luxurious Pullman sleeping car, the first to build a castle in the Thousand Islands. But the castle wasn’t just for himself. His mother had spent many summers at Ingleside just across the St. Lawrence River shipping channel on Cherry Island. But as she aged, it became harder and harder for her to maintain her cottage. So Pullman built Castle Rest for her to enjoy her final summers there with her family and friends.

Indeed, besides Mrs. Pullman’s cottage, all three of her sons owned property in the islands. Reverend James Pullman built a cottage on Summerland Island, and Reverend Royal Pullman lived in a tent called Camp Royal on Wellesley Island where Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, visited often. And George Pullman owned Castle Rest on Pullman Island.

Castle Rest was a six story beauty with four stone fireplaces, multiple bedrooms, parlors, dining room, kitchen, library, and more. Unfortunately, in the 1950s, the Pullman descendants razed the castle to avoid the exorbitant New York State taxes, thus destroying the historical landmark.

Still, in 1972, one hundred years after President Grant’s historic visit, the new owners bought the property and have worked to restore much of the island to its former beauty where a three-story tower stands in place of the castle. The former servants’ quarters is now their main home where they enjoy living in the midst of this wonderful history.

Would you like to live in a castle? Leave your answer or comments on the post below and join me on February 19th for my next post.

About Katelyn’s Choice

Katelyn Kavanagh’s mother dreamed her daughter would one day escape the oppressive environment of their Upstate New York farm for service in the enchanting Thousand Islands, home to Gilded Age millionaires. But when her wish comes true, Katelyn finds herself in the service of none other than the famous George Pullman, and the transition proves anything but easy.

Thomas O’Neill, brother of her best friend, is all grown up and also working on Pullman Island. Despite Thomas’ efforts to help the irresistible Katelyn adjust to the intricacies of her new world, she just can’t seem to tame her gossiping tongue—even when the information she’s privy to could endanger her job, the 1872 re-election of Pullman guest President Ulysses S. Grant, and the love of the man of her dreams.

About Susan G Mathis: 

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has seven in her fiction line including, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, Katelyn’s Choice, Devyn’s Dilemma, Sara’s Surprise, Reagan’s Reward, and her newest, Colleen’s Confession, with Peyton’s Promise and Rachel’s Reunion coming soon. She is also a published author of two premarital books, two children's picture books, seven stories in compilation books, and hundreds of published articles. Find out more at



  1. Thanks for posting! What a shame for that beautiful architecture to be torn down. I don't know if I'd like to live in a castle, but I'd visit one for sure!

  2. I enjoyed reading this wonderful New York State history. Had to chuckle and nod my head about the “exorbitant New York State taxes” you mention. Even castle owners struggle to pay Albany. True story! Thank you for the glimpse into this beautiful part of the world.

  3. I think a castle would be an eerie place to live. However, some are very pleasing to the eye. Thanks for posting.