Along the east shore of the Hudson River just south of Beacon is a fascinating place worth exploring called Bannerman’s Island. The small island is well known for its mysterious castle ruins that dominate the island itself. It can be easily seen by boaters on the Hudson, train travelers along the east shore tracks and motorists on Route 9D. While the abandoned island and its fanciful structures were off limits to visitors for years, now you can take advantage of guided tours of the island provided by the Bannerman Island Trust. You must reach the island by boat or by guided kayak tours.
The island has had several owners over the years but its most famous owner was Francis Bannerman, a Scottish immigrant who lived in New York City. In the years following the Civil War and the Spanish American war, Bannerman built a successful business of buying surplus war materials from the U.S. Government and reselling them. He eventually had to move his warehouse of munitions out of New York City, and he found the island (known as Pollepel Island) the perfect spot. There he had built an arsenal warehouse and smaller summer house that resembled a Scottish castle.
The tour we took started by boat from the Beacon waterfront and it was a short scenic ride to the island. On reaching the island, the tour guide led us to the arsenal ruins itself which has seen some of its walls collapse in the past decade. Efforts are ongoing to stabilize the structure. Here we learned more about Francis Bannerman, his business, and the development of the island.
Next we visited the smaller but no less impressive Bannerman family residence that was used as a summer home. With its location at the north end of the scenic Hudson Highlands, this must have been a wonderful place to spend a summer. We were able to tour the downstairs of the home and study its rooms. The guide had a binder of documents and photos to share with the tour group.
The tour also provided a story telling session by Jonathan Kruk, a Hudson valley story teller, who entertained us with tales while dressed in a purple vest and bright orange top hat. Perfect tales for all ages.
The Island also hosts other events during the season (May-October) including such as plays, outdoor movie screenings, live music and more. So put this on your calendar for next spring. Exploring this beautiful and fascinating island made us proud to be a resident of the Hudson River Valley.
Bannerman Castle Trust Inc.
photo credit: Renee Wallace
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