Michelle Young of Untapped Cities came out with us on our expedition to the ruins of Bannerman Castle on the Hudson, and wrote a terrific recap of the day’s adventures. Here’s a peek:
Bannerman Island is one of those elusive places that New Yorkers have yet to become jaded about or claim it was “so two years ago.” Partially because it’s in that seemingly distant place called Dutchess County NORTH of Westchester. But I think it’s more so because the story of the island is so fascinating and the architecture so unique. And unlike other ruins in the New York area, this one is truly in danger of disappearing. When I saw that Atlas Obscura, the online guide dedicated to “keeping the world weird,” was giving a tour of Bannerman’s Island for one of their Obscura Society Events, I jumped at the chance to finally see this mythical place.
Pages from Bannerman’s catalog of war surplus (top left), Francis Bannerman sketch of #3 warehouse (top right), aerial view of island and breakwater system (bottom right), photograph of warehouse entrance (bottom left)
The decaying castle structures were built near the town of Beacon, New York by Scottish-American entrepreneur Francis Bannerman as warehouses for his business “Bannerman’s,” a catalog business for war surplus (including munitions and large artillery). Originally based in Brooklyn and later Manhattan, Bannerman’s was forced to relocate when it procured a large stash from the Spanish American War, much of which was too dangerous to have within city limits.
The Bannermans discovered the island by accident while canoeing on the Hudson and purchased it from an eccentric husband and wife duo named Mary and Anthony Taft for $600 (plus $1000 in notes that were paid off over two years). The Bannermans had to promise in writing that the island would not go back to its past use as a haven for illegal alcohol and prostitution. [Incidentally, one of the occupants of the island before the Tafts enjoyed dressing and acting as Queen Victoria, pretending that her husband was Prince Albert]…
This exploration was part of the Obscura Society New York chapter - The real world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura seeks out the secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. JOIN US