Our Story

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

“Someday I’ll build a house where we both will live. A place where you can bring your friends and create special memories… Someday Jason, I will build you a castle." 

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

It would be another 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 these majestic vistas had been waiting to be unveiled.  How was it, that I would be the one to settle here?  It was not simply luck, rather something much greater. He heard the promise I spoke to my son and would lead me to this specific spot.  

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. I was finally able to graduate from my tent to a mattress on the floor… And I was quite happy to be sleeping in my own home.

Yvonne with Max & ChelseaIn 1986, I met Yvonne, the woman who 'turned a pile of rocks into a home'.  We were married here in 1992, and my parents who were both Methodist pastors officiated our ceremony.  My parents performed two more family ceremonies over the years, as my sister Carol was married here, and my son Jason was also married at Highlands Castle.

"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 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 not only an impressive stonemason, but he also went on to earn an Architectural Engineering Degree, and achieve anything he put his mind to).

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 39 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 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...

Often times, good things come out of bad experiences. In 2010 we began sharing our home with others. This was the good that came out of 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 life is.  It was time to reinvent myself and start a new chapter... One that I was grateful to have been 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 they did come!  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 very heartwarming, while others were even heartbreaking. Countless visitors would find exactly what they were searching for... sharing precious time and laughter with their loved ones. Many would find peace and relaxation here, others would take time to rejuvenate or heal.  And I would find something we all need, 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.  It just wasn't 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 which knows its weakness 
and depends not on itself, but awakens to understand that all things are possible to those who believe.

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

“It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.
You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”  Jane 'Nightbirde' Marczewski

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.)  

Great Hall