Bannerman Castle was originally put together as a ride for my motorcycle group. I was looking for something a little different to do and found this. I had no idea how the day would go as this was not one of the types of rides we normally did. It turned out to be a great day. Bannerman Castle was a very interesting place.
Bannerman Castle is located on Pollepel or Bannerman Island (the name depends on who you talk to) on the Hudson River. According to Wikipedia, it is located 50 miles north of New York City and it sits 1000 feet from the eastern bank of the Hudson River.
During the American revolution wooden cribs filled with metal-tipped pointed logs were sunk into the river. These devices which were known as”chevaux de frise” were intended to obstruct the passage of British ships up the river by damaging the hulls. These devices were built by men from the local prisons. The plan did not work as the British wound up using ships built with flat bottoms.
Francis Bannerman originally started his business by collecting scrap from the harbor and selling it at navy auctions. At the end of the civil war, he began buying surplus stock at government auctions. His business, appropriately named “Bannerman’s”, was founded in 1865 in Brooklyn New York.
Too Much Ammo
As the business grew he needed to move to larger locations several times. After the Spanish-American war he had obtained so much equipment and ammunition the city asked him to find a storage location outside of the city limits. The Bannermans purchased the island in 1900 and began construction on the castle in 1901. Bannerman passed away in 1918 and any construction that was still going on had stopped. In 1920 200 pounds of ammunition exploded destroying a section of the castle.
As a result of state and federal legislation, sales of these military weapons declined during the early 20th century. A ferry boat that served the island called the “Pollepel” sank in 1950 during a storm. After that, the island became more or less vacant.
New York State purchased the Island and buildings in 1967 after the old military merchandise had been removed. Tours of the Island started to be given in 1968. In August of 1969, there was a fire that destroyed much of the roof and floors and the island was declared “off-limits.”
There are several ways to get over and take a tour of the island. We chose to book our tour right from the Bannerman website. Since we were riding with a group, we spoke to an employee at The Blu Pointe restaurant that was located next to the ferry dock in Newburgh. They allowed us to park our bikes in their parking lot with the promise we would eat at the restaurant when we returned. There is also a small parking lot near the ferry itself. We chose the restaurant for the bigger parking lot which guaranteed us spots and hey, we have to eat right?…lol.
Today you can take a boat over to the island and walk around to view what is left of the castle. You can book a ferry ride over to the island online. They also offer guided or self-guided tours. They run different events all summer long so check their schedule. If you want to check out the different tours, events, and ferry departure locations, check out their website. **Bannerman Castle**
The ferry ride over was relaxing and provided some great views of the river and surrounding seaside towns. It also provided some great photo-ops of the island as you were approaching it. Once over on the island, you will see the remains of the castle. A lot of it has collapsed and the part that hasn’t is being held up by braces. There are pictures and signs throughout the island as well as your guide who will give you the history of the island as you go along the trail.
The tour around the island was both relaxing and informative. The island was set up nicely with wide paths and scenic overlooks. There are areas of the island that are off-limits due to the collapsing section of the castle. In addition to our tour guide, each section had pictures as well as signs explaining the history of the island.
We spent about 4 hours from start to finish and returned back to the restaurant to eat before hopping back on the bikes to head back. We did also spend some time walking along the waterfront.
This is a great way to spend the day with family and/or friends. We found it both fun and interesting. There are numerous photo ops so make sure you bring along the camera. We would definitely recommend planning and spending the day touring Bannerman Castle and the surrounding seaside.
Date of Visit: July 2014