Bannerman’s Castle has been a Hudson River landmark since it was constructed in the early 20th century, but lack of funding and rapid deterioration mean that this local gem may have to close its doors.
Rising up from one of the most picturesque passages on the Hudson, the haunting ruins of the once-steadfast Bannerman’s Castle make for the most ethereal scenery in the Hudson Valley. With soaring towers and crumbling archways, the brick-and-concrete structure still has stories to tell — but without proper funding, Bannerman’s Castle may soon become just a memory.
This past winter, harsh conditions took down a large portion of one of the castle’s outer walls along with some of the more integral structural elements that it needs to remain stable. It has been a rapid deterioration for the castle over the past few years, and it is now in desperate need of repair. The Bannerman Castle Trust, a local not-for-profit organization working with New York State Parks and Recreation, has been working tirelessly to save the historic site through independent grants and funding.
“This particular site is an incredible piece of architecture,” says Neil Caplan, Executive Director and Founder of the Bannerman Castle Trust. “It’s something that we don’t have here, and it’s an important part of Hudson Valley history. I think that too many times in the United States we say ‘Let’s just tear the building down and put up another building’ and then what do we get? Cardboard buildings.”
The Bannerman Castle Trust has secured $420,000 for the stabilization of the island’s summer residence building, a small but stately home at the top of the island where the Bannerman family spent most of their summers. Though the funding helps, it’s still not enough to keep both buildings maintained during the next couple of years. With continued deterioration it’s very possible that both structures may not be standing for very long — and so will the opportunity for revenues from local tourism to the site.
“It provides a recreational day out for local families and tourists alike to see one of the area’s great historic structures,” says Caplan. “It could be a great source of revenue for us here. An example of that is the Walkway Over the Hudson, which brought in a rise in tax revenue from 40 percent to 400 percent in a 10 block radius around the attraction. Bannerman’s Island doesn’t have to be any different.”
The organization has been making progress to raise funds for the site, but much more needs to happen if full renovation is to occur. Senator Charles Schumer just put in an appropriation for a Save America’s Treasures Grant for one million dollars for this year. The proposal will be voted on this fall.
Despite the historic site’s crumbling conditions, Bannerman’s Island is still open for hard hat tours to families this summer. Tickets are $30, and $25 for children 11 years and under. Group rates on regular tour dates are $25 per person (Saturdays and Sundays). Tours depart from Torches Landing at the Newburgh waterfront at 12 noon, and from the Beacon ferry dock at 1:30pm.
There will also be a special event this Saturday, May 15th to honor Jane Campbell Bannerman’s 100th birthday. The three course luncheon will take place at the Hudson House Inn in Cold Spring. Jane, who is the great granddaughter-in-law of Bannerman’s Island builder Frank Bannerman IV, spent many summers at the small summer residence on the island and works closely with the Bannerman Castle Trust toward the goal of restoring the local landmark.
The HV Echo Bannerman’s Island Photo Gallery
For more information on the history of Bannerman’s Island, please visit the organization’s website at www.bannermancastle.org. Tax-deductible donations can be made through a PayPal application on the website or by contacting Neil Caplan at (845) 234-3204.
BONUS FOOTAGE: Neil Caplan discusses the local importance of Bannerman’s Island
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