Castle Francis, The 1000 Islands Summer Home With A Turret
Castle Francis was another summer home in the 1000 Islands region erected by Seth G. Pope of Ogdensburg sometime during the mid 1880s for Rev. M. W. Chase, also of Ogdensburg. Situated on what was once referred to as Long Tree Island, it was less than a quarter mile south of Thousand Island Park and slightly over half a mile to the Pullman House off Grenell Island – at least for the time when the two co-existed.
One of the earliest pieces of news recorded of Castle Francis was recorded in the St. Lawrence Herald in 1890 noting that Rev. Chase “has a very uncommon dog, who swims between the island and park, the distance of half a mile (sic), several times a day. As a general thing the dog carries the mail to the island.”
The following year saw saw the Castle Francis Nine take on the Thousand Island Park Nine in a game of Base Ball in what most assuredly was a home game for T. I. (left field at Castle Francis remains just a bit washed-out.) T. I. won the game, 6-4, at least according to the box score in the Watertown Daily Times whose narrative noted Castle Francis won by the same score. Regardless, it was noted “a good sized crowd was in attendance and the plays were loudly applauded.
That fall, Rev. Chase sold the island, apparently to parties from New Jersey. In late August, On the St. Lawrence and Clayton Independent reported–
Every evening Castle Francis is gay with colored lights which form a most beautiful picture when reflected on the crystal water. Every evening crowds of young people congregate on the seats of Thousand Islands Park to gaze at the Castle (and to flirt).
At some point afterward, Castle Francis on Long Tree island was conveyed to William I. Serrell of Utica. No further information was found over the course of the next three decades until February 17, 1922 when the Watertown Daily Times posted the obituary for William I. Serrell (note: some newspaper referred to the middle initial as J and used only one R in the last name)–
William I. Serrell, owner of Castle Francis on Long Tree Island opposite Thousand Island park, died Thursday night at 10, following an illness since last October. Death occurred at the home of his son, Ernest Serrell, who lives a short distance up the river from this village.
Mr. Serrell, who was 78 years of age, had been a summer resident at the Thousand Islands for the past 40 years, making his home for many seasons at Castle Francis, a beautiful summer residence which he built (sic). During the past 12 winters, with the inception of this one, he spent his time in Florida.
His home was in Brooklyn, and internment will be made there in the spring, the body to be placed in the vault here in the meantime. The funeral services will be held privately from his son’s home on Saturday at 2 or 3:30, the time having yet been exactly determined as yet.
Castle Francis would at some point become the property of Paul Quackenbush of Herkimer. Also, the name of the island, at some unknown point, would be changed from Long Tree Island to Castle Francis Island. Although unknown when Quackenbush acquired the property, he sold it in July of 1934 to Howard Jamieson of Syracuse. Jamieson would operate Castle Francis as a tea-room for two years before the island was abandoned for a number of years though still owned by him. In the early hours of August 31, 1953, it would be destroyed by fire.
The Thousand Islands fire boat responded to the blaze, but by the time it arrived the two-story wooden structure, reportedly in a state of disrepair, was confused in flames that could be seen for miles. Spectators gathered along the Thousand Island Park shore and neighboring islands to watch the conflagration which lasted for an hour and a half.
After an exhaustive investigation was conducted, it was reported a few weeks later that Castle Francis was lost due to a fire set by four 17-year-olds, one from Watertown and three from New Jersey. Two suspects initially identified and implicated two others leading to all four being charged with arson.
A new summer home was built on Castle Francis Island in 1963-64 by James S. Dickson and wife Ann L. Richter Dickson of Watertown. James was part owner of Bonney and Dickson Corporation and his wife taught math at Watertown High School in the 1960s and later was a substitute teacher in the Watertown City School District in the 1970s.
Mr. Dickson would pass away at the Edward John Noble Hospital-Samaritan in early August of 1996 at the age of 69. Ann would pass the following year in October at the age of 66. The property has remained in the Dickson-Petrie family since.