Garrett Wardell, guide at Singer Castle. Student at Alexandria Central School.
Photo by by Jean Papke
Singer castle; a structure of medieval architecture dating back to 1905; the year that commodore Fredrick G. Bourne (president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company) completed construction on his medieval style “hunting lodge” which is now known as Singer Castle. The castle contains 29 rooms furnished with original furniture, books, a network of underground tunnels, and secret passageways. Spanning over four floors, and providing covert access to our castles 29 rooms measuring in excess of 28,000 square feet, our passageway system allowed the 30 servants who lived on the island to go about their work without being noticed by the Bourne family, or their guests. To open these passageways, you may have to push a coat hook, or slide a latch behind a photo. For the first time in decades, you can open a passageway electronically. Our library, outfitted with over 2700 books, ranging from a 1st edition of the Old Man In the Sea by Hemingway, to a 2nd edition of the Raven by Poe, to a 1st volume of Ripleys’s Believe It or Not; but to some, the most interesting feature of our library may be the secret passageway entrance. Hidden behind a panel that is contiguous to the library’s marble fireplace, the passageway connects the user to almost every room in the castle. For years to access the passageway through the library, one would have to remove a false light switch mounted on a bookshelf neighboring the passageway entrance, reach in the hole that the light switch left and pull on a ring which would release the latch holding the door shut. Back in action for the first time in years, there is another way to open the passageway; through electricity. Inspired by the yearnings of hundreds of the castles guests to see the original mechanism in the passageway work in it’s original fashion; by placing a penny on two screws located under the adjacent fireplace’s mantle, which in turn completes a circuit powered by batteries which triggers a mechanism created in 1872 to release the passageway door’s latch, thus allowing it to open, I began work on the passageway entrance. Preventing the function of this electric mechanism was only a tangle of wires, insulated by cloth, and dating back to the early 20th century. The process of restoring the functionality of this mechanism simply consisted of replacing outdated wiring, and a liberal amount of WD-40, but it is my hope that this small, yet clever system will serve as a reminder that the early 1900s, an age of prosperity for the 1000 Islands region, was more advanced than what most perceive.