Bannerman’s Castle

Location: Beacon NY

Nestled north of the busy New York City, in the middle of the Hudson River you come across a small island called Pollepel, and the historic Bannerman’s Castle. Frances Bannerman was an ammunition and artillery dealer who’s business was located right in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1900, Mr. Bannerman purchased the island from the Taft family to use as a storage site for all of his ammunition and equipment. In 1901, he began to build this facility and also included a residence to stay on.

The designs for the elaborately decorated buildings were drafted by Bannerman himself, but the constructors were allowed to interpret these designs on their own. Nearly all of the construction was completed without professional help from architects, engineers, or contractors. Although most of the buildings served as storage for the business’ inventory, a smaller castle on the top of the island was built as the family’s summer home. While Mr. Bannerman took to decorating the home with items from his surplus collection, Mrs. Bannerman beautified the paths and terraces with flowers and other plants, some of which can still be seen today. With the words “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” cast in large type on the castle’s side, the building was also a giant advertisement for the business, and is still visible to train passengers on the Metro-North Hudson line.

Construction halted with Bannerman’s death in 1918, and the island has experienced a turbulent history since then. Just two years later, 200 pounds of shells and powder exploded, destroying a portion of the complex. Nevertheless, the family continued to use the residence through the 1930s. Disaster struck again in 1950 when a squall caused the sinking of the ferryboat Pollepel, which serviced the island.
In 1957, the property’s last superintendent retired and the island was left vacant for the next three decades, despite being sold to the state in 1967. A devastating and suspicious fire burned for three days in the summer of 1969, leaving much of the structures in ruins. Vandals, trespassers, and negligence have all contributed to the island’s current state of decay.

Since the early 1990s, however, the Bannerman Castle Trust has worked for the preservation of the island so that the public may appreciate it for its cultural and historical value. The organization aims to stabilize the remaining structures, all of which have lost their internal floors and non-structural walls. Today, hard hat walking tours are given by Castle Trust historians from May through October.

*some of the history adopted from Atlas Obscura*