The best part of NYC is the ability to have all at your fingertips. This includes the close proximity to towns with history, charm, and character. Day Trippin’ is a series which explores day trips from NYC to give you options to escape the city, and come right back.
Who would have thought that there was a castle a few hours away from NYC? Bannerman’s Castle built on Pollepel Island, familiarly known as Bannerman Island, is 50 miles north of New York City, and 1,000 feet from the eastern shore of the Hudson. Accessible only by boat, the island has a unique history. Due to the work of the Bannerman Castle Trust, and their work stabilizing the ruins of Bannerman Castle, the island is opened to the public.
Once an uninhabited place considered haunted by some Indian tribes, the island was used as a stop for Dutch sailors. The name Pollepel is believed to have originated with a legend of a young girl named Polly Pell who had many suitors, including a farmhand and a minister. After Polly voyaged out in the Hudson with the minister, they encountered breaking river ice, and was rescued romantically by the farmhand. Once rescued, the minister realized Polly’s love for the farmhand and married them on the spot.
The island was used during the Revolutionary War during the British resistance, and later was designated as a military prison by General George Washington. Since the time of the revolution there have been only five owners, including William Van Wyck of Fishkill, Mary G. Taft of Cornwall, Francis Bannerman of Brooklyn, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the State of New York. Francis Bannerman, the castle’s eponym, was born in Scotland and emigrated to the United States to live in Brooklyn. His father sold goods at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Francis, with an entrepreneurial spirit himself, began to collect scraps from the harbor and formed a successful business. At the end of the Civil War, Bannerman bought surplus stock at government auctions. After the Spanish War, so much equipment and ammunition was bought that the laws of the city forced them to look for storage elsewhere.
After purchasing the island from the Taft family in 1900, Bannerman Island was primarily used as a warehouse, storing war weapons and explosives. In 1901, Bannerman began construction of a castle and residence, drawing from his Scottish roots. Although the Island and Castle held ammunition, Bannerman described himself as a man of peace and eventually wanted to create “The Museum of the Lost Arts”, which he hoped would discourage others from war.
After Francis Bannerman died in 1918, the family business operated out of a warehouse in Blue Point Long Island. In 1967, the family sold Bannerman Castle to New York State. New York State had plans to open Bannerman Island as a park, and ran tours of the island in 1968. In August of 1969, a raging fire of unknown origin destroyed the island’s buildings.
HOW TO GET THERE
Bannerman Island is only accessible by boat. The Bannerman Castle Trust has arranged history tours of Bannerman Island. Read more information here from the Trust.
- Arrive in your own boat
- Guided Bannerman Island Walking Tour departing from Beacon, NY
- Guided Bannerman Island Walking Tour departing from Newburgh, NY
- Guided Walking Tour & Mini Hike to the Summit
To meet the boat, drive to Beacon, NYC. If you do not have a car or do not want to drive, take the Metro-North on the Hudson Line to Beacon Station. After arriving, look for signage directing you to the departure dock.
There is no food on the island, so bring your own! There is a small concession stand with beverages. Check out Day Trippin’: Beacon, NY for your guide to everything Beacon.
The best way to see the island is through the organized tours. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and walk you through the history of the island.
Explore! Take a tour, walk around, and see all that the island has to offer. The island also hosts movie nights, dinners, and more fun events for you to join.
Please feel free to leave questions or comments below! Check out Uncover More on Instagram for more pictures and videos of Bannerman’s Island. Looking for more Day Trips from NYC? Check out more from the Day Trippin’ series here.