Putting the “Con” In Zavikon Island Smallest International Bridge Story
There’s a saying that may apply to Zavikon Island: if you repeat a lie enough, people think it’s true. Such is the basis of the illusory truth effect. Though unknown when the misinformation first began, the touting of the bridge between the two islands, which comprises Zavikon Island as the shortest international bridge in the world, is, unfortunately, not too far from the truth. It’s roughly 530 feet from it. Yet, it’s been told as truth on many boat tours back to the early 1900s.
The earliest mention of Zavikon Island in the local newspapers was in 1903 when Judge James Robb of Simcoe, Ontario, visited his brother Alexander Robb on the island. There are only a few small blurbs of Alexander Robb’s coming and going on the island over the next two decades, along with his acquiring a boat until it was mentioned again in a September 3, 1926 article in the Watertown Daily Times.
Sometime between 1922 and 1926, Zavikon Island transferred ownership to Andrew McLean, who had one of the longest family lineage ownership of a business in the United States. The bulk of the article was actually reprinted from an issue of Illustrated Milliner, all of which is below–
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McLean, III, and daughters, the Misses Belle and Virginia McLean, who have been passing the summer at their cottage on Zavikon Island, are among the most popular members of the summer colony.
Zavikon Island is one of the show places of this resort, and it is on the international boundary line.The house itself is in Canadian Waters, whereas the smaller island, which is connected by a bridge, is located in the waters of the United States.
Mr. McLean is in the manufacturing business, in Passaic, N.J., and in a recent issue of the Illustrated Milliner, some interesting facts about his business were brought to light.
The article is as follows:
There are only 87 business organizations in the United States that have been in existence for 100 years or more. Of these only a few are still controlled by descendants of the founders.
By far the most remarkable of this group is the Andrew McLean company, which this month celebrates its 100th anniversary. Three generations of Andrew McLeans have successively been in active control of the concern since its establishment in 1826, and the history of the company is really a history of its executives.
Andrew McLean, the founder of the company, was born near Glasgow, Scotland, on July 29, 1802. He came to America in 1824, settling in New York City. Two years later, 1826, at Charles Street, he began the manufacture of buckrams and other cotton goods, using hand looms for weaving. He dyed and finished the goods by hand.
On his death in 1852 his son Andrew McLean II, who had been rigorously trained in the requirements of the business then took over control of it. He added the manufacture of hoop skirts when these came into vogue during the great crimoline craze which began in the latter 50s and continued into the early 70s.
In 1888, when Andrew McLean II passed away his elder son, Andrew McLean III readily assumed the duties of his father, having been reared in the organization. For many years the company had been moving from one mill to another, finding that their ever increasing business necessitated larger quarters. So one of the first things the new president did was to purchase a large tract of land in Passaic, N.J., on which he erected mills for the company that would be adequate for their facilities.
In 1890, when George, the brother of the third Andrew McLean, joined him, the firm name was changed from Andrew McLean to Andrew McLean & Co., continuing thus until incorporated in 1879 as Andrew McLean Company (the dates don’t add up; George reportedly died in 1873, so perhaps 1890 is meant to be 1870.)
The company in its 100 years of existence has lost only three hours through labor trouble, and in this single case the employees went out on a sympathy strike and not because of disagreement with their employers. This demonstrates forcibly the perfect amicability that exists between the owners and the employees.
Andrew McLean III insisted that his sons be thoroughly schooled to assume responsible positions in the management of the business. Thus today, Andrew McLean IV, as treasurer, his brother, George E. McLean, as secretary and general manager, are running the business, although their father is still actively at the head of the firm.
The other officers are George McLean, vice-president, and Thomas A. Willians, agent.
Above: Google Earth map zoom-in to Zavikon Island showing the international border’s location.
In May of 1931, Zavikon Island was sold by the Andrew McLean estate to Philip A. Castner, of Philadelphia, Pa., who would become Commodore of the Thousand Islands Country Club. Not to be outdone on the social scene, his wife was elected as president of the Welcome Island Club, an organization of women members of the Thousand Islands Yacht club.
Philip passed away in May of 1943, his obituary provides some additional information on his background and life—
Alexandria Bay, May 28.—Philip A. Castner, summer resident at the Thousand Islands for the past 14 years and associated with the Philadelphia Fidelity Insurance company, died at his home in Wynnwood, Pa., after an illness of several months, according to word received here.
He was a member of the Thousand Islands Yacht Club, and the Thousand Islands Club and was an enthusiastic fisherman on the river. He purchased Zavikon Island, known as the island with the shortest international bridge in the world, 14 years ago and has since been spending summers there with his family.
The property was sold in an estate sale to Leon L. Lewis of Rochester in 1944, who in turn sold it six years later. When the Watertown Daily Times printed the sale on November 4, 1950, they acknowledged the international bridge misinformation—
“Zavikon” Island, a summer estate located about a mile and a half from Alexandria Bay and for many years erroneously declared by Thousand Islands tour-boat announcers to have the shortest international bridge in the world, has just been purchased by Congressman Robert F. Rich of Woolrich, Pa., who will occupy it as his summer home.
A year later, a photo of the island and bridge was printed, stating it was “reputed to be the shortest international bridge in the world.” But wait, there’s more! The following year, an aerial photo was printed, further perpetuating the claim of the international border running under the bridge. In 1957, another article was published stating it was erroneous.
After leaving Congress, Robert F. Rich was president of Woolrich Woolen Mills and chairman of the board (1964-66) before passing away in 1968. The Rich family maintained the property through 1970 or so. Unfortunately, like many of the smaller properties in the Thousand Islands, very little has been published since with regards to the ownership, but an occasional article touting (and refuting) its bridge as being the shortest international one in the world has continued to be printed.