Bannerman Castle preservation depends on visitors
Amtrak and Metro-North riders passing the Hudson Valley catch a glimpse of a castle. And this summer, Bannerman Island, sitting just off the Fishkill shore, is open to all curious onlookers. YNN's John Wagner has the story.
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DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- "Thousands and thousands of people see it every day and they wonder what is that place," said Bannerman Castle Trust founder and executive director Neil Caplan.
Built between 1901 and 1918 as a summer home and warehouse for a Manhattan based military surplus business run by Francis Bannerman VI, Bannerman Island later sat empty for decades, decaying with time and weather.
"The [NYS] Parks Department basically left it as a scenic anchor and it was off limits to the public for good reasons," explained Thom Johnson, a historian of the Bannerman Island Arsenal. "It really was hazardous. It burned in 1969 so it was really like a freestanding sculpture."
"If we don't work on this and save this, we will lose these structures," said Caplan. "We can build them back, yes, but they won't be the same."
Almost 20 years ago, the Bannerman Castle Trust formed, working with New York State Parks to preserve the buildings and history. The trust has raised a million dollars through donors and grants and with special events and public tours. More visitors means more money for more renovations, like last year's summer home restoration.
"This was a structure that had no floors, no roof, poison ivy and trees growing through it and now there's floors in it and you could actually go inside and take a look," said Caplan.
Within ten years of stabilizing Bannerman Castle with cables and bands, the trust estimates it will surpass 100,0000 visitors annually. And those visitors will bring in the funding to preserve the island for generations to come.
"I think this is an extraordinary piece of architecture at an extraordinary location and I would like to see more Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other groups be able to come out here and experience it," said Thom Johnson.
The trust hopes to one day be able to take visitors inside the summer home and Scottish-style castle, adding exhibits explaining Bannerman's life.
"He wanted us to study war and warfare and the machinery of it and hopefully learn to eventually no longer need it," said Johnson.
Preserving that history could very well depend on curiosity into the castle.
For more information on how to visit Bannerman Island, to learn about special events or to donate toward preservation efforts, visit www.bannermancastle.org or call (845) 831-6346.
Tour Boat Excursions:
Hudson River Adventure Tours through October 28th, departing from the Newburgh Landing each Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. and from the Beacon ferry dock at 1:30 p.m. For reservations call (845) 220-2120.
Kayak Fundraising Tours:
- Hudson Valley Outfitters in Cold Spring, N.Y. at (845) 265-0221
- Storm King Adventure Tours in Cornwall-on-Hudson at (845) 534-7800
- Mountain Tops in Beacon at (845) 831-1997
For specific times of kayak tours and all musical events, visit www.bannermancastle.org.