While its reputation may not be as bad as Ranch's, there's a belief in some circles that Thousand Island dressing is unsophisticated. While we can't speak for everyone's taste buds, how a dressing that's essentially ketchup, relish and mayo came to be associated with a chain of islands that were primarily a vacaction destination for the super wealthy is actually somewhat of a mystery. There are two predominate legends, but the truth likely falls in the middle - like Thousand Island dressing in a good Reuben.
No matter what dressing legend you believe, they both start in the beloved vacation spot of the Gilded Age elite - upstate New York's Thousand Islands. Today, we may not think of places like Clayton or Alexandria Bay as particularly exotic, but at the turn of the 20th century, millionaire industrialists like George Pullman, the Kellogg family, Henry Marcus Quackenbush and George Boldt all owned homes in the Thousand Islands region. At a time when there were no airplanes and automobiles were in their infancy, traveling far distances for a vacation was out of the question. Located 370 miles from New York City, the 1,864 islands in the St. Lawrence River that sit between New York and Canada and make up the so-called "Thousand Islands" were a perfect, idyllic summer destination. To this day, many still remain privately owned by the wealthy families who bought them over a century ago.
The first tale begins exactly at the turn of the century. In 1900 George Boldt, the man who had recently opened New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel, planned a surprise for his love Louisa. Escorting her onto his private yacht, they sailed down the St. Lawrence River. Through the mist, an island came into view. On it, an enormous castle in mid-construction intended as a gift for her. What's more, through the building of docks and moving of soil, the island was in the shape of a heart. Later, Boldt he would add dozens of hearts to the castles' interior and exterior.