If You Have Ever Boarded Metro North Railroad Hudson Line, There Is a Slightly High Possibility That You’ve Noticed Some Kind of Building On An Island.

Bannerman’s Castle sits abandoned on Pollopel Island, 50 miles north of New York City. The island, also known as Bannerman’s Island, is about 1000 feet from the Hudson River’s eastern bank. The castle was built a year after Francis Bannerman VI purchased the island in 1901.

Francis Bannerman’s military surplus business began as a simple store in New York in 1958 and quickly expanded. The expanding business reached a climax in 1900, when Bannerman’s supply storeroom in New York City was unable to accommodate all of the military surplus. Francis Bannerman purchased Pollopel Island in order to find a larger and safer location to store the supply. He started building the Bannerman’s Castle a year later. Bannerman chose the arsenal and delegated design interpretation to the constructors.

Bannerman Castle, Pollepel Island, New York. Photo by Garrett Ziegler. Used under a Creative Commons non-commercial license

However, construction was put on hold 17 years later, in 1918, when Francis Bannerman died. Almost two years later, 200 pounds of gunpowder and shells exploded, destroying the building. Due to federal legislation, the company also began to fail in the early twentieth century. After removing the military supplies, New York State purchased the island in 1967 and began organizing tours to the island. Unfortunately, a fire engulfed the castle in 1968, destroying the majority of the Arsenal.

The Bannerman Castle Trust, which has raised nearly a million dollars to regulate the island, now offers tours of the castle. Tours vary in terms of type and cost, with prices starting at $35. There are also kayak tours that cost $100. There are also numerous events on the island, such as horror movie nights, weddings, and so on. Bannerman’s Castle is a must-see if you live in New York or plan to visit the city.

War Department aerial photo of Bannerman’s ca. 1941-1947, via the National Archives 
Photo by H.L.I.T via Flickr cc

When Bannerman purchased the island in 1900, he set about designing his arsenal and storehouse in the style of the Scottish Baronial castles he had seen on his trips. The elaborate design included an arsenal, storerooms, and even a summer house complete with docks, turrets, and a moat. Bannerman took charge of the landscaping.

Photo by Nick Harris, via Flickr cc

The castle that bears Bannerman’s name served as a major advertisement for his company, which thrived. He had so much inventory that he sold cannons, uniforms, and blankets to the United States government during World War I.

The castle’s construction continued throughout the war, and it was still not completed when Bannerman died in 1918. The powder house blew up in 1920, demonstrating why the complex required a home on an abandoned island. The castle’s edifice was damaged by the explosion, which was caused by 200 tons of shells and powder. Bannerman’s family remained on the island until around 1930, when the castle began to fall into disrepair and neglect.Another fire, now suspected of being arson, reduced the castle to ruins in 1969.

A Bannerman Island tour, photo by T. Carrigan via Flickr cc

Bannerman remained one of New York’s most intriguing abandoned sites for decades, frequently visited and photographed illegally by urban explorers and ruin-porn seekers. However, the island has been open to the public for tours since 1992. That year, Neil Caplan of Beacon, New York, established the Bannerman Castle Trust and raised over a million dollars to stabilize the structure and maintain the island.

While the island remains “abandoned,” with the exception of a black rat snake named Frank, the Trust offers tours of the castle from May to October. Adults pay $40 and children pay $35 for tours that depart from either Newburgh or Beacon. Bannerman is also accessible via a variety of kayak tours and a special Metro North package departing from Grand Central. In addition to tours, the Trust hosts movie nights, lectures, special dinners, and theatrical performances in the castle’s shadow.

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