Our Story

A 'defining moment' is: A point in your life when you are urged to make a pivotal decision or experience something that fundamentally changes you. Not only do these moments define us, but they have a transformative effect on our perceptions and behaviors. 

My moment would stem following a divorce at the age of 23. Living in a townhouse rental (with five other guys) was not a good situation, especially when spending time with my son. "This is not our home... this is temporary"...

Highlands Castle was born from a father's promise to his young son...

..."Someday I’ll build a home for the two of us. Someday, Jason, I will build you a castle".    

Looking back to 1978, I knew my 3-year-old son would likely never remember these words. The promise had more to do with a desire to build a better life than an actual castle.  

It would be almost 5-years before the ideal property presented itself, a mountaintop in Bolton Landing, NY.  

While clearing the land for the foundation, a picture was being painted. Within a matter of weeks, the most spectacular view in the world was uncovered. It seemed as though this majestic vista had been waiting to be unveiled. Was it simply luck, or something much greater, that I would be the one to settle here? I believe that I was led to this specific spot.

Throughout my life, I have felt 'evidence of things not seen'. I hope you recognize each one of yours.     

Once the foundation was completed, the wood framing construction was to the roof in a few months, and the structure began to find its outward appearance. Finally, I was able to graduate from my tent to a mattress-on-the-floor of what was essentially a large plywood box at the time... but I was happy to be sleeping in my own house.    

Yvonne with Max & ChelseaOn July 19th, 1986, I met Yvonne, the woman who 'turned a pile of rocks into a home'. Six years later, on July 19th, 1992 my parents who were both pastors officiated our ceremony. Mom & Dad would perform other family ceremonies over the years, as my sister Carol was married here in 2002, and my son Jason was married here in 2008.

"Jason, I promised that I would build you a castle; I didn't say you wouldn't be helping me!"... So, when Jason was a teenager, he joined in the stonework. Naturally resourceful, he recruited his High School football teammates to lend some muscle over the summer months. Their daily mantra was "Let's rock!" and they took great pride in their accomplishments while working together again as a team. (Jason was an impressive stonemason who went on to earn an Architectural Engineering Degree at Penn State and is now raising two children with his wife, Mary).

The stonework was a slow, tedious process, and the labor of laying up more than 1,000 tons of local granite would take decades. Over the past 42 years, the property would evolve into what it is today... a series of three castles where families & friends from all over the world gather to create their own special memories.

We hope you'll share our story with your family & friends and that you'll have an opportunity to visit us one day!  

Kind Regards,
John A. Lavender II and Yvonne Lavender, 
owners of Highlands Castle in Bolton Landing, NY 


Stone Masons
Jason Lavender
'Shen' football guys
Tony Aurilio
Paul Wilson
Roque Aguero
Eugene Baker
Steve Baker
Bob Urtz
Custom Millwork Carpenters
Scott McClenahan
Scott Volk
Faux Painting
Cynthia Charles

'Our Story' continued...  'Ex Malo Bonum.' Out of bad comes good. 

Oftentimes, good things come out of bad experiences. In 2010, we began sharing our home with others. This was the good that came out of the bad. Two years earlier, a fall from the roof resulted in a shattered right ankle and 4-operations.  I would spend over 8 months in a wheelchair and on crutches before I could begin taking a few steps again.  What emerged from a serious accident was an awareness of how fragile, or how short, life can be. It was time to reinvent myself and start a new chapter... One I was grateful to be given.

"If you build it, they will come" was a significant line in one of my favorite movies 'Field of Dreams'. My son volunteered to build a website in 2010... And so they did! Although I never had any plan or intention to rent our home, doing so has given me an opportunity to meet some wonderful and interesting people from all over the world who would share personal stories of how and why they were drawn to travel here. Tales that would make you smile, stories that were so heartwarming, while some were actually heartbreaking. Countless visitors would find what they were searching for... Sharing time and creating memories with their loved ones. Many would find peace and relaxation here; others would take time to rejuvenate or heal.  And I would find something, too... A sense of purpose. 

When I think back to my words, "Someday I will build you a castle", there was always a plan and a purpose. I believe it wasn't just my plan 

When I was young, I thought I could face any situation which might arise.. all by myself. In 1979, I was shown what it means to replace confidence with humility and depends not on itself, but understands that all things are possible for those who believe and dream.

 "Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you dream it, you can make it so." Belva Davis
Belva Davis was a broadcast pioneer who paved the way for generations of journalists including 60 Minutes journalist Bill Whitaker who met Belva Davis in 1979 and changed his life. 

"When those dreams you're dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized...always stay humble and kind." Lori McKenna

Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise. (Be kind to everyone. Always.)

In a world where you can be anything you want, be kind. 

A great actor, Jeff Daniels, shared a touching story about his father, Bob Daniels, during an interview on 'Sunday Morning'. Bob Daniels was the moral inspiration for every great role Jeff Daniels would ever play. Jeff said "I knew Atticus before I played Atticus. I grew up with him. That knee deep in decency, and treating people with respect. All those basics... That was my Dad. I miss him". Sadly, his father never lived to see his son play the astonishing role of Atticus Finch in 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. "You get to the end of the show and you hope to see him in the back of the house, in some angelic light, and you don't, cause he's not there". But at the end of the Sunday matinee on Father's Day, Jeff was handed a letter by a woman in the audience who'd known his Dad. The letter read in part: 'I was always asking your Dad - Aren't you proud of him! Your Dad said - Of course I'm proud of him, but I'm proud of him for the person he is, not just what he's done in his career'. Jeff stated "Maybe he is here".  Jeff's story reinforces why his father was so proud of the 'person'. (We have something in common... I also grew up with Atticus Finch.) 

The Stag Deer is a symbol of wisdom, purity, growth, regeneration, virility, and solitude. Because its antlers resemble branches, the Stag has been associated with the 'Tree of Life' and because of the way it renews its antlers, it is used as a symbol of regeneration. Heraldic writers say of the Stag: "One who will not fight unless provoked, a lover of music and harmony who well foresees his times and opportunities".

F O R   S A L E :
Lake View Building Lot
$595,000 Call 518-796-9118
This private wooded building lot overlooking beautiful Lake George is located to the south of Highlands Castle.
The 1+ acre lake view lot borders a 150-acre 'never to be developed' parcel for added protection and privacy.

Great Hall