Photo Credit: Thom Johnson

By Claudia McNulty

Picture yourself in a boat on a river!

The BANNERMAN CASTLE TRUST now offers a restorative post Covid-19
lockdown adventure. With standard Covid requirements observed ,(masks,
distancing) the mystifying, 6 3/4 acre Bannerman Island is now open to the public and the 2 1/2 hour guided tours and cruise have resumed.

Photo Credit: Thom Johnson

Stir your imagination and your emancipation! Cruise on the Hudson River, enjoy fresh air and the magic of strolling through the lush island sanctuary spotted with one-hundred year old native plantings, maintained lovingly by Bannerman Trust volunteers.

The tour includes the dark infamous history of Pollepel Island, a glimpse of the Bannerman family’s past, and explore the remains of their seasonal island home, now under extensive renovation and includes a small visitors center and gift shop.

Considered by some to be haunted, craggy Pollepel island (Dutch for pot ladle), harbors the brooding remains of the Bannerman Castle Arsenal sited just off the coast of Beacon, New York. In the late1800s the tiny island was desolate and abandoned, but rich with history and lure. Soon it would be the home of Scotsman Francis Bannerman VI’s eccentric vision; a massive grey and tera cotta colored Scottish Castle, reimagined, as if by Disney; encrusted with masses of embellishments, finished with fanciful crenelations, moat and six story tower.

In 1900 Bannerman purchased the tiny island. He was in need of a suitable
location to store the vast and varied military surplus goods he collected and
lucratively traded. Two locations in downtown Manhattan and multiple warehouses in Brooklyn, housed what was the world’s largest existing collection of antique firearms and munitions, including 90% of all surplus military equipment from the Spanish American and Civil Wars.

Historic items were on display at his MUSEUM of LOST ARTS on 2 floors of his 501 Broadway store, in now trendy SOHO. Incidentally, his inventory included enormous amounts of highly explosive materials, including over 30 million live cartridges and black gunpowder. In 1900 the City of New York had come to view Bannerman’s arsenal of explosives as a potential hazard. Considered now to be a risk to the city’s public safety, Francis was given orders to vacate — and rightly so!

With the purchase of Pollepel Island, construction soon began on the grand
BANNERMAN’S ISLAND ARSENAL and adjacent baronial buildings. In 1920
concerns for the city’s safety came to fruition. A series of explosions and mishaps occurred on the island and a blast of 20 tons of shells and gunpowder took place, destroying large portions of the arsenal and its tall castle walls.The explosions were heard and felt as far south as Peekskill. In 1969 a massive fire ravaged the island, gutting much of its seven remaining structures, and devastated the family summer residence.

Today, only ghostly portions of the magnificent castle walls survive. The
surrounding river and mountain views are spectacular and some island paths are open if one has time or inclination to explore them. Once again, the uninhabited island is quiet and still, only interrupted by the sound of bird song and an occasional passing train whistle.

The Bannerman Castle Trust is a not for profit organization established in 1990 by Beacon resident Neil Caplan and the support of others, including historian and photographer Thom Johnson. The Trust has been working since 1993 to protect and preserve Bannerman Castle as a cultural and recreational site, promoting heritage tourism in the Hudson Valley and working with the New York State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation.

For information tours and events contact
Or call : 855-256-4007

The island is accessible by the ESTUARY FERRY, or private water vessels by

Francis Bannerman would want it to be known that despite his livelihood and his passion for fire arms, he prayed for the day that the Bannerman’s Military Museum would truly become “The Museum of Lost Arts.”


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