Bannerman Castle (all photographs by the author)
Many a Metro North traveler has pressed their face to the train when while passing through Beacon, New York, wondering what strangely medieval castle ruins are doing in the Hudson River. Yet while Bannerman Castle isn’t as old as it looks, the 1901 structure is already looking as worn as the European relics it was modeled after, and needs help to preserve its skeletal walls.
According to the Wall Street Journal, stabilization of the remains of the buildings that make up the “castle” on Pollepel Island was started in November is planned for completion this February. However, that’s just the first step in what the Bannerman Castle Trust, which has overseen the island since 1993, plans to do for the island. While there are already tours that travel by boat to the island, they want to have a visitor center, more music events, and even overnight activities. But all of that requires extensive preservation work, for which they are raising funds online.
Atlas Obscura made a trip to Bannerman Castle in 2012, exploring the impressive remains of the castle on the small island north of New York City. Prior to it becoming a little outpost of the medieval, the island had a debaucherous past of drinking, prostitution, and general lawlessness. That all changed when Francis Bannerman IV purchased the island to hold his arsenal, the munitions of which were no longer welcome in Brooklyn where they made neighbors uneasy. Rather than build a boring old warehouse, the Scottish-born New Yorker decided to bring a bit of the old world with his own fortress. Unfortunately, after Bannerman’s death, it was deteriorated by an explosion in the arsenal (which perhaps confirmed Brooklyn’s fears), fires, vandalism, and whole collapses of its walls after harsh weather in 2009 and 2010. Now although it’s not its once formidable self, with a little help from its admirers hopefully this anomaly will be protected to keep its strange silhouette on the Hudson.
Help preserve Bannerman Castle and find out about upcoming tours at the Bannerman Castle Trust.