Bannerman's Castle

From Academic Kids

Bannerman's Castle is an abandoned military surplus warehouse located on Pollepel Island in the Hudson River near Beacon, New York. It was built in the style of a castle by businessman Francis Bannerman VI. It remains one of a very small number of structures in the United States which can properly be called a castle. Pollepel Island is sometimes referred to as Bannerman's Island. The castle carries a text Bannerman's Island Arsenal.

Image:Bannerman small.jpg


Pollepel Island was discovered during the first navigation of the Hudson River by early Dutch settlers in New York. There are accounts Native Americans believed the island was haunted and European settlers also told tales about it, including the legend of Polly Pell. It is also said that sailors making their first journey up the Hudson River were left stationed at the island until the ship returned as a rite of passage. During the American Revolution, the island was used as part of a chain of naval obstructions intended to thwart British warships.

Francis Bannerman VI purchased the island in 1900 for use as a storage facility for his growing surplus business. After the Spanish-American War Bannerman bought 90% of the US army surplus, including estimated 30 million rounds of ammunition. Because his storeroom in New York City was not large enough, in December 1901 he begun to build an arsenal on Pollepel. Bannerman designed the buildings himself and let the constructors interpret the designs on their own. The Arsenal was finished 1908.

Bannerman built warehouses and a residence in the style of a large complex of castles, often using items from his surplus collection for decorative touches. The castle, clearly visible from the shore of the river, served as a giant advertisement for his business. On the side facing the eastern bank of the Hudson, Bannerman constructed a large sign reading "Bannerman's Island Arsenal" easily visible to the riders of the New York Central railroad. The sign may still be seen by riding on Metro-North Railroad's Hudson line. Both Metro-North and Amtrak trains run on this line.

Most of the building were devoted to the stores of army surplus but Bannerman built another castle in a smaller scale on top of the island near the main structure as a residence.

Arsenal and the island were left vacant in the 1960's. In August 8 1969 fire devastated the Arsenal and most of the roofs collapsed.

The Castle Today

Today, the castle is property of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and is mostly in ruins. While the exterior walls still stand, all the internal floors and non-structural walls have since burned down. The island has been the victim of vandalism, trespass, neglect and decay. Rather than rough currents in the water around the island it is actually several old bulkheads and causeways that submerge at high tide that present a serious navigational hazard. The castle is not open for regular tours. However, guided hard hat tours have recently been made available by Bannerman's Castle Trust (see below.)

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