Pollopel Island

6.75 acres


Located in the Hudson River close to its eastern shore and north of Storm King Mountain.  To see Bannerman Island, take a Pride of the Hudson cruise.

It is said that the Indians would not set foot on the island because they believed it haunted.  (Lawlor)

The Dutch named the island "Potlepel Eylant" for Potladle Island. Dutch sailing captains would sailors would force drunken sailors onto the island where they stayed until they sobered up.  

The Dutch had many legends considering Pollopel Island and the famous American author Washington Irving popularized these and other Dutch tales.  The Dutch believed that there were goblin like creatures causing trouble around Pollopel Island and that the new sailors had to be dunked in the water in order to make them immune to such mischievous creatures.  Instead of using garlic as a monster repellent, the Dutch believed a horse's shoe nailed to the mast would save their ships from the goblins.

The first owner of the island was William Van Wyck of Fishkill.  (Lawlor)

American Revolutionary War  --  the continentals stretched their chevaux-de-frize (106 upright logs topped with iron points) between Pollopel Island and Plum Point on the west side of the Hudson River. They erected a light battery on the rocks of the island to guard the river obstruction.

Writer and avid Highlands hiker William Thomas Howell (1982:133) grew up in Newburgh, New York and would often canoe to Pollopel Island and have a picnic and a swim off the island's western shore.  He relates that someone had built a house down in a sheltered break in the rock on the southern shore of the island.  Later an old fisherman occupied the place for a considerable time.  But by the time Howell encountered the island, the old house was deserted and falling to ruin. 

Howell (1982:134) mentioned that a man named Thomas Taft of Cornwall bought the place supposedly to end the drinking on the island.

1900  --  Mr. Taft later sold the island to Francis Bannerman.  Howell wrote that he had heard that Bannerman got it for a mere song, as little as $500. Needless to say, Howell was not at all pleased with the "improvements" that Bannerman made to the island.

1854  --  the Bannerman family immigrated to America when Frank was three, and settled in Brooklyn.

1900  --  Francis Bannerman, originally from Dundee, Scotland, purchased the island, changed its name to Bannerman's Island, and built a castle on the island to serve as a summer retreat  The castle retreat also served as a storage place for his arm's business.  His father had started the business of buying and selling second-hand military equipment. His primary place of business was on Broadway, New York City.

It took 18 years to complete the Scottish castle.  In addition, there were seven other building including a residence for workmen and a private family residence (also in the castle style). (Lawlor)

On the east end of the small island one can see the castle's crennelations, turrets, and battlements. On the south side of the castle remains one sees the message:  BANNERMAN'S ISLAND ARSENAL.

1909 (July 4)  --  William Thomas Howell (1982:136-137) needed some photographs of Pollopel Island for a book and he decided to take a boat from Cornwall to the island. The boatman told him "Oh, Lord! You can't go there; Bannerman won't let anybody land."  Howell replied: "We'll go to the island just the same, and we will also land, and take pictures from it." They took great care to land quietly on the island without being discovered.  Once they had landed, from behind a protective tree, they could see Mr. and Mrs. Bannerman sitting in the summer house, "none the wiser."  Howell got his pictures and his only regret was that he did not poke his camera through the foliage and get a picture of the Bannermans in their summer house.

1918  -- Francis Bannerman died.

1920  --  a black powder explosion blew out the windows of homes as far away as Cold Spring.  The explosion also destroyed one of the island's buildings.  (Lawlor)

1938  --  Evelyn Owen Palen lived with her brother, Wayne Owen and his family, on the island when he was assistant superintendent of the property.  She said "It was wonderful living there with those great summer breezes and spectacular views of the mountains."  She also said that it was such a thrill for her to walk over the castle's drawbridge.  (Lawlor)

1967 --  the Bannermans sold the island to the State of New York and removed all the military items. (Some articles were donated to the Smithsonian.)

1969 (August 8) -- a fire destroyed the buildings on the island, but one cans still see the remaining ruins.

The island is now part of the Hudson Highlands State Park.

Today the Bannerman Castle Trust is trying to stabilize the ruins of Bannerman Castle and open it to the public.

Bannerman Island Castle Cruise Tours. Depart from Newburgh Landing, NY, 1 p.m. Reservations are suggested.  For more information and directions, call Lynn Kirschoffer at (845) 220-2120 or visit frontiernet.net/.

(Sources: William Wade. http://hhr.highlands.com/polopel.htm) and  (http://www.hudsonriver.com/bannerman.htm)

(Vera Lawlor. October 2, 2003.  "Medieval Times on the Hudson: Mysterious Bannerman Castle attracts the curious." The Record. Pp. 8-9.)