By SUSAN GALLEYMORE
A historic home built on an 1.8-acre islet near Millionaires Row in Victorian Alexandria Bay, one of more than 1,800 islands that dot Lake Ontario’s eastern boundary with the St. Lawrence River in Upper New York State, is on the market, with an asking price of about $1.5 million.
The name and recipe for the popular salad topping, Thousand Island dressing, is reportedly owed to this region.
The home, which features murals painted by a recognized impressionist, was built for Alson E. Clark, a successful paint manufacturer who was lured by the area’s reputation as summer watering hole for the country’s wealthiest families and purchased the island in 1882. Alson Skinner Clark, whose works adorn the home’s interior, was a California plein air impressionist painter whose murals can also be found in Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif.
Mike Franklin, a real estate agent at Sotheby’s International Realty who is the listing agent for the property, said the home rests upon what was once "two islands … the 2-acre property is the result of filling the narrow channel dividing two islets."
A year after his purchase, Clark moved his family and household help into the 4,680-square-foot, eight-bedroom Victorian cottage, graced with a tall cupola. Lightning later damaged the cupola and it was removed.
Franklin noted that the island’s sandy beach, rare for an area replete with granite outcroppings, looks out to Boldt Castle and Cherry and Wellsley islands.
Alson Skinner Clark, one of Clark’s three enterprising sons, decorated the walls of the summer home with murals and paintings of villages, nymphs, waterfowl, even geishas. Decor artists and designer Richard MacKenzie-Childs will consult on restoring the murals and the cupola.
After the mid-1930s, the family home was occupied sporadically for 25 years. Then, a resurgence of interest by family members resulted in a new roof, new wood on the house, a new boathouse, and upgraded docks.
Great-grandson Tad Clark remembers "six generations of Clark ‘River Rats’ who share a lasting kinship with the River owned Comfort Island for 127 years … (perhaps) the longest continuous ownership by the same family on the River."
The family’s original wooden boats, named "Buzz," "Bobby" and "MT," remain on the property.
A spacious front porch, screened-in dining porch and pump house are among the home’s amenities, and the home is outfitted with much of its original furniture, fixtures and railings.
Franklin says the home is "a particular kind of unique."
Alson E. Clark is pictured with his family in Comfort Island’s living room in this 1883 photo. Photo courtesy of Clark family collection.
Celebrating 100 years at Comfort Island in 1983. Photo courtesy of Clark family collection.
View of the living room from the stairwell. Alson Skinner Clark created the art adorning the walls. Photo courtesy of Mike Franklin.
Detail of Alson Skinner Clark’s Japanese-themed series in a stairwell. He was a recognized plein air impressionist painter whose murals can also be found in Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif. Photo courtesy of Mike Franklin.
This view from the front porch overlooks the channel. Photo courtesy of Mike Franklin.
Susan Galleymore is a freelance writer in California.