Pollepel Island (Island week 2)
Friday, 31st August 2007 by James Turnbull
(It’s Island Week 2 here at GSS, which means we’ll mostly be posting about Islands. For about a week.)
Pollepel Island is located in the Hudson River, New York. A characterless lump of rock, it would have been completely uninteresting had Francis Bannerman not decided to build a castle on the island, and then fill it with weapons…
This was in the late 1800s and Bannerman, a Scottish immigrant, and the world’s largest buyer of surplus military equipment was doing a roaring trade in munitions. When he purchased most of the captured goods from the Spanish American war he needed somewhere to store it all, preferably somewhere where large amounts of gunpowder would be safe.
So he purchased Pollepel Island and set about building an imitation Scottish castle of his own design, complete with lookout turrets and a moat. The buildings took 17 years to complete and feature giant concrete text across the side which reads “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal”.
Years later, the family sold the island back to New York State who for a short time operated tours around the castle. Although all the munitions had been removed, in 1969 a fire of “unknown origin” destroyed the building’s interiors, making it too dangerous to visit. Today, a trust group hope to stabilise the castle and re-open it for tours.
Thanks to Marc Cohen and Bill Parco.