Visiting Bannerman Island
By: Kacie Ging
If you’ve ever taken Metro-North from New York City to Beacon, then you’ve probably noticed a castle sitting atop a small island in the Hudson River, just off the coast of Hudson Highlands. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve passed this castle countless times and always thought how neat it was, but never understood its history and meaning to Dutchess County. When an opportunity recently presented itself to me to take a tour of Bannerman Island, I jumped at it! I now consider it one of the area’s most precious gems. From the island’s beautiful landscape, to the historic castle, to the breathtaking views of the Hudson River, this place is definitely worth a visit.
Although more commonly referred to as Bannerman Island, the property on which Bannerman Castle resides is actually named Pollepel Island and is operated by The Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc., an official New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Tours of the island run from May to October and are offered though the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. The island can be accessed by one of two ways – by boat or by kayak. I participated in a tour on a passenger boat that departed from the Beacon launch dock. The boat ride took about 30 minutes, and provided a nice view of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and surrounding coastlines of the Hudson River.
The story behind the island is an interesting one, as it was purchased in 1900 by the Bannerman family as a safe storage site for the family’s business in military surplus. Shortly after purchasing the island, the Bannerman’s began construction of the castle and a residence where they would live. Although still very visible from shore, the castle did experience two significant structural devastations over the years – the first being a fire in 1969, which roofs and floors were destroyed, and the second just in 2009 when parts of the castle collapsed. Today, support beams clearly help hold up the remains of the Bannerman Castle.
Not only is the history of the island interesting, but the island's lanscape is also beautiful. I was lucky enough to visit Bannerman Castle on a gorgeous spring day, and thoroughly enjoyed the vibrant blooming flowers and breathtaking views of the Hudson River. I felt as though I could have sat on the island and basked in the sun enjoying the views all afternoon long.
In addition to walking tours, I learned about the numerous events that take place on the island, including art installations, fundraising events, live music, and theater. For more information on upcoming events, click here.
If you are planning a visit to Dutchess County, I highly recommending adding Bannerman Castle to your agenda. The launch dock for boat tours is walking distance from Dia:Beacon, Long Dock Park and Main Street in Beacon, making this a perfect destination. For more information about Bannerman Castle, including tour information, history and more, please visit www.bannermancastle.org.