A Historical Gem in the Hudson Valley
Fifty miles north of New York City, on a small island in the Hudson River, you will find the decaying ruins of a once-impressive castle amongst the brush and trees. Bannerman’s Castle is one of the Hudson Valley’s most intriguing historical sites. Both beautiful and treacherous, it attracts the curious and the adventurous to visit each year.
Bannerman’s Island, officially known as Pollope Island, is a 6.5 acre, island located about 1,000 ft from the eastern shore of the Hudson River. The island was first noted by early Dutch settlers in the late 1600s, and was also a strategic site during the Revolutionary War. Construction on the castle was not begun until 1901, a year after Scottish immigrant and businessman Francis Bannerman IV purchased the island. Bannerman was in need of a place to safely store large quantities of munitions for a military surplus business, and his densely-populated hometown of New York City was a poor location to house such explosive goods. Bannerman’s Castle was therefore built to be a glorified warehouse – an unusual choice of architecture, but one that reflected Bannerman’s eccentricity and advertising flair. Boat and train travelers will note the massive BANNERMAN’S ISLAND ARSENAL inscription on the north and east sides of the warehouse.
Bannerman’s Island has been the site of numerous tales of ghosts and evil spirits, dating back to before the arrival of European settlers. Supposedly, the settlers were able to use the island as a hideout from Native Americans during periods of conflict, as the Natives feared the spirits they believed to reside there. Most famously, author Washington Irving told the tale of a tribe of goblins who lived on the island, controlling the winds and treacherous waters of the Highlands.
The castle itself seems to have endured one disaster after another, beginning with a gunpowder explosion in 1920, which was powerful enough to blow a wall clear over to the mainland, injuring three people and causing $50,000 in damage. Another, more devastating fire gutted all seven of the island’s buildings in 1969, leaving the arsenal in ruins. The cause of the fire has not been determined, but some speculate that vengeful ghosts might have played a role in this disaster. Further damage to the ruins occurred in 2009-2010, as large sections of the castle collapsed.
But my personal favorite mystery? The still-unexplained 1999 appearance of a shrine to the late, great King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley.
Visiting Bannerman’s Island
The best time to visit Bannerman’s Island is from May-October, when visitors can take part in a guided hard-hat tour of the ruins. The island is accessible via guided kayak excursion, or passenger boat, and depart from Beacon, Cornwall, Cold Spring, and Newburgh. Every third Sunday, visitors can participate in a special, self-guided tour, with historians on site to answer questions. Local musicians perform a mini-concert, which park-goers can enjoy over a picnic lunch. Bannerman’s Castle is also available for weddings and other events!
All visitors to Bannerman’s Castle must participate in a tour; due to significant safety hazards, individuals are not permitted on the island independently.
Bannerman’s Island Video
published by: Janis Borgueta Key Properties of the Hudson Valley in Newburgh NY. Her blog is about living, working and Real Estate in The Hudson Valley. Information here is a community service to the public. Please subscribe to this blog. When you are looking to buy a new home, Search the MLS for New Homes in Newburgh NY. You can contact Janis at (845)-527-7115 or find her on Google+