CAPE VINCENT — One of the most well-known monuments on the St. Lawrence River, the villa on Carleton Island, could soon have a new owner.
The long-abandoned mansion on the southwest tip of Carleton Island, a hammerhead known as Government Point, has been on the market for years because its owners are willing to sell to the right buyer.
Charles and William Millar, brothers whose family has summered on Carleton Island since 1900, purchased the historic villa in 1987. It has been vacant for over 70 years.
Charles Millar said he signed a purchase agreement with a buyer for the villa and its seven acres. Mr Millar said they had signed the offer documents on Friday afternoon and were undergoing legal review with a deadline of this Friday.
The buyer is Ronald Clapp, from Florida.
Mr Clapp is a real estate investor who said he has worked on projects as far away as Hawaii from his home in Florida. Last fall, he received an email from realtor.com that put him in touch with the villa.
“They had an article about haunted houses and spooky houses leading up to Halloween,” he said. “I saw the article and was really in love with the house.”
William O. Wyckoff purchased the head of Carleton Island known as Government Point on May 6, 1893, according to the book “Cape Vincent and Its History”. The property includes land between the North and South Bays and is near the ruins of Fort Haldimand, which is owned by the Thousand Islands Land Trust.
Mr. Wyckoff, who started out as a court reporter in Ithaca, made his fortune as president of Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict Co., New York City, early distributors of Remington typewriters. As was common for many wealthy Northerners at that time, he built a summer mansion in the Thousand Islands.
His Carleton Villa, as he called the lavish, 64-room, five-story stone and wood structure built to be a fishing camp, was completed in 1895.
Mr. Wyckoff died in 1895, the first night he slept in the villa. His sons Clarence F. and Edward inherited the rambling river estate.
Five to 10 families summered in the Government Point community that grew up around Villa Carleton: Crosses from Rome, Chases and Millars from Utica (William G. and Charles Millar purchased the land which included the remains of Villa Carleton in 1987).
The Shick family, related to Bethlehem Steel Co., maintained a summer residence on the island at this time. The Shick property, sold to a group of Watertown businessmen as a hunting camp, was struck by lightning and burned down on June 14, 1974.
The Watertown Daily Times archives note: “Together with Castle Rest and Greystone Villa, it formed the most pretentious of the early summer residences,… A bright gas lamp, long lit in the tower, became a beacon of distance for Mariners passing the American Channel before the government protected the shoal at the head of the island with a light buoy.
Castle Rest was the home of Pullman car promoter George Pullman on Pullman Island.
The prospectus drafted in the 1920s when the villa was auctioned off after the Wyckoff family fell on hard times described it as a “gabled structure built of marble and Gouverneur timber” with “a large central two-storey hall …library, music room and dining room with, large kitchen pantries and servants lounge in one wing.”
“There are four fireplaces, toilets, large closets and a children’s playroom on the ground floor. A wide porch spans the front of the building,” the listing reads. “On the upper floors there are 21 bedrooms and a billiard room. The house is equipped with water and gas plants.
In 1930, General Electric had purchased the island as a retreat for its executives.
A title card of the Chief of Carleton Island for General Electric Realty Corp. in August 1930 shows new routes planned as the company hoped to move its summer camp from Association Island in Henderson to the larger island after two years of disturbed and damaged high water. Henderson property. The map shows the cottage of Charles Millar, Millar’s grandfather, a few yards from the Wyckoff property line.
This map also shows the original Wyckoff Farmhouse near the water on North Bay, at the base of a cliff that leads to Fort Haldimand. Barnum and Bay streets are noted.
The Great Depression ultimately scuttled their plans, which called for the addition of 27 golf holes, nine of which would be lighted for night rounds, and an airstrip to the island.
In the 1940s, General Electric sold the island to the late Merle L. Youngs, owner of Zenda Farms in Clayton and president of Youngs Rubber Corp., maker of Trojan condoms. Mr. Youngs’ heir, John McFarlane, sold the island in 1986 to Patten Corp. Northeast for $823,000, which helped develop the island into a summer residence community.
Charlie and Bill Millar had the property listed for $495,000 for over a decade. This list has made listings online and in newspapers such as the New York Post like a haunted house on the cheap. Well, for New York prices, of course. The list was recently reduced to $375,000. If you consider inflation from 1987, when the Millars bought Lot No. 1 from Patten Corp., which developed most of the 1,350-acre island, it’s still a bit more than what the brothers paid. The sale price has not yet been communicated. Tax records and earlier Watertown Daily Times reports show they paid $140,000. They were the only ones of Patten Corp’s first 19 land buyers. associated with the island. An inflation calculator shows that $140,000 in 1987 would equal $360,223 in 2022.
“The fun is gone,” Bill said. “The worst thing is people who come to the rocks and just want to walk around.”
“We’re just tired,” Charlie said. “It was fun for 30 years,” Bill added as he finished his sentence. “It was nice talking about it.”
The brothers said they never intended to do anything with the villa, but owning it has helped them keep in touch with descendants of Wyckoff who have visited their chalet over the years.
And for the past 35 years, the Millar brothers have enjoyed their nearby cottage as the villa continued to deteriorate as westerly gales blew across Lake Ontario, knocking off the shingles one by one.
The villa has been open to the elements longer than it has been enjoyed as a home, its roof is a patchwork of shingles through which it is easy to see blue skies. Tall stone chimneys splay out at the top, and each year more and more floors drop into the basement.
The Millars kept the lawn mowed and were good neighbors on the island, allowing descendants of the first owner William O. Wyckoff to visit, and others who took a keen interest in the property.
Elizabeth Wyckoff Balderson, who went by Betty, was born in the villa in 1905 and visited there often.
Charlie Millar said Betty was born early, while her father, Edward Wyckoff, and the family doctor were fishing. They had brought a doctor and a nurse to the island, and when her father and the doctor returned from a day on the water, she was born and warmed in a basket near the oven. During one of their visits, Betty Wyckoff told Charlie that because she was born on the island, she had never received a birth certificate, which she only learned by asking for one. passport as an adult.
If all goes according to plan, Ronald Clapp will own the property in a few weeks at the start of the next era.
He said he recently sold one of his properties and had money to invest.
“My plan is to bring it back to life,” he said. “I know he is in serious distress.”
Mr Clapp visited the property in May and crawled inside. “It will definitely be a challenge, but I’m looking for a challenge,” he said.
He does not intend to live there personally but could make it a kind of bed and breakfast.
Mr Clapp said he would like to start work before winter so that the roof, which is wide open to the elements, can be covered to prevent further deterioration.
“The plan is to clean the inside and see what structure is still good and see what we can reinforce to at least seal the roof area and then do some gangbusters next season,” he said, noting that he did not yet have a contractor. , but hopes to use local workers on the project.
“I would hate to see snow inside again,” he said.
Mr Clapp said he had been in the property business for 21 years and had done many renovations.
“I haven’t done anything of that magnitude, but I’m all about the unique properties,” he said.
“I plan to contact GE to see if they want to fix things in any way as they have led to the deterioration of this beautiful home,” he said. “I’m all about fundraising to get it renovated. If we could get some money from GE, that would be spectacular. It’s a shame what GE has done and we’ll see what happens from here.
Barry Kukowski of Howard Hanna Real Estate has represented the Millars for the past twelve years. Using Precision Marine in Peos Bay and other water taxis, he ferried many potential buyers to the island, which lies between Cape Vincent and Wolfe Island.
Mr. Kukowski said he had a good feeling for the buyer.
“This guy, I really like him a lot,” he said. “He has a vision. All in all, I don’t know all of his plans, but he won’t hurt anyone, that’s for sure.
Mr. Kukowski has brought in potential buyers in all types of weather from states as far apart as California and Texas.
“I met so many great people,” he said. “I never got discouraged with that.”
With a list spanning a dozen years, he said people often ask him why he’s bored, but with real estate his calling, he said you do your best for everyone. “You show it,” he said. “It’s your job, it’s what you do.”
Mr Kukowski said there have been several offers over the years, including one in 2020 from a group that restores churches in New York City that gave the building an hour-long inspection, from basement to third floor.
Wearing hard hats, they crawled on a cold April day.
“They claimed the base bones, the big beams, they said there was nothing wrong,” he said. “This is the most positive thing I have found from the villa so far.”
Mr Clapp said he was looking forward to getting to work.
“It’s not going to be about sitting back and waiting for something to happen,” he said. I’ll go all out.