“a place of mystery, legacy & lore”
A tiny jewel in the setting of the Hudson Highlands is called Pollepel, now familiarly known as Bannerman Island. Once an uninhabited place, accessible only by boat, it was considered haunted by some Indian tribes and thus became a refuge for those trying to escape them. These superstitions and others promoted by later Dutch sailors make for many fanciful tales. Even the name Pollepel (Polopel) originated with a legend about a young girl named (Polly) Pell who was romantically rescued from the breaking river ice and landed on the island shore, where she was promptly married to her sweetheart, who rescued her and her companion. The island was thereafter called Pollepel. History reveals a connection to the American Revolution in attempted defense of the Highlands against the British fleet in 1777 using the famous “chevaux de frise”. These were devices constructed of wooden cribs sunken in the river, filled with metal-tipped, pointed logs to obstruct the passage of ships up the river by damaging their hulls, built by men commandeered from the local prison. The attempt was however, unsuccessful, as the British took to flat bottom boats and avoided the chevaux de frise. One of the “points” is now on display at Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, New York. Francis Bannerman purchased the island in November 1900, for use as a storage facility for his growing surplus business. Because his storeroom in New York City was not large enough to provide a safe location to store thirty million surplus munitions cartridges, in the spring of 1901 he began to build an arsenal on Pollepel. Bannerman designed the buildings himself and let the constructors interpret the designs on their own. Most of the building was devoted to the stores of army surplus but Bannerman built another castle in a smaller scale on top of the island near the main structure as a residence, often using items from his surplus collection for decorative touches. The castle, clearly visible from the shore of the river, served as a giant advertisement for his business. On the side of the castle facing the western bank of the Hudson, Bannerman cast the legend "Bannerman's Island Arsenal" into the wall. Construction ceased at Bannerman's death in 1918. On August 1920, 200 tons of shells and powder exploded in an ancillary structure, destroying a portion of the complex. Bannerman's sales of military weapons to civilians declined during the early 20th century as a result of state and federal legislation. After the sinking of the ferryboat Pollepel, which had served the island, in a storm in 1950, the Arsenal and island were essentially left vacant. The island and buildings were bought by New York State in 1967, after the old military merchandise had been removed, and tours of the island were given in 1968. However, on August 8, 1969, fire devastated the Arsenal, and the roofs and floors were destroyed. The island was placed off-limits to the public.. Today, the castle is property of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and is mostly in ruins. While the exterior walls still stand, all the internal floors and non-structural walls have since burned down. The island has been the victim of vandalism, trespass, neglect and decay. Several old bulkheads and causeways that submerge at high tide present a serious navigational hazard. On-island guided hard hat tours were recently made available through the Bannerman's Castle Trust. The castle is easily visible to the riders of the Metro-North Railroad's Hudson line and Amtrak. The sign is easily visible to southbound riders.
I'm not sure where this map is supposed to lead you, but the castle is literally on an island in the middle of river. Unless your car can drive through the Hudson, you have to kayak.
We went there and found out that this castle is on an island that you can't get to unless you got a boat.
This is now open to the public, with tours.
I wonder whether the name "pollepel" stems from the name of a girl. "Pollepel" is an old Dutch word, (pictured in many famous paintings by old masters, such as Jan Steen), still in use and refers to a spoon, ladle or pot ladle. Pim Gillissen, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
If you want to go to the island, you need yo go with a tour. The boat ride is about 30 minutes down the Hudson. The island is beautiful. Along with the large castle ruins there is a small castle near the top of the island where the Banermans lived when they visited the island. It is partially restored and the lower floor turned into a museum.
This island is also in one of the transformer movies!
This place looks straight out of a Ye Old England book. I imagine on my visit I'd be doing a lot of terrible impersonations of Monty Python jokes.
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Not Wheelchair Accessible