VIRAL

Once abandoned and only reachable by boat, this New York island is now a popular tourist destination

Pollepel, often called Bannerman Island, is a little gem tucked away in the Hudson Highlands, not far from New York City. Once upon a time, it was an abandoned site accessible only by water. It was said to be haunted by certain Native American tribes, therefore, anyone trying to escape them found refuge there. These and other beliefs that were subsequently popularized by Dutch seamen have served as the basis for several inventive tales.

The story of a little girl called Polly Pell, who was rescued from the river ice melting and landed on the island shore, is what gave origin to the name Pollepel. She immediately got married to her true love, who also helped to rescue her and her friend. The island was thereafter named Pollepel.

History reveals a connection to the American Revolution when the Highlands tried to defend against the British fleet in 1777 by using the well-known “chevaux de frise” (a defensive barrier). These contraptions, which were created by prisoners from the nearby jail, were constructed from wooden cribs buried in the river and loaded with sharp logs with metal tips to pierce the hulls of ships trying to pass upriver. The effort could have been more ineffective, however, since the British switched to flat-bottom boats and avoided the chevaux de frise. Currently on display at Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, New York, is one of the “points.”

This island was selected around 1900 for a specific function. David Bannerman, an arms merchant, had selected this location to stockpile weapons and cannons. He not only constructed a fort here but also a palace in the center, which is still standing today. While paddling the Hudson, David Bannerman just so happened to see the island. The Bannermans purchased it from the Taft family in 1900 to use as a safe storage facility. Mr. Bannerman began construction on a modest house and a makeshift Scottish castle in 1901. There, all types of ammunition and equipment were transported to be kept until they were sold.

However, part of this fort was destroyed in 1920 due to explosives. Restrictions on admission and exit were then implemented. Bannerman, however, identified as a peace campaigner and said that his island would become the Museum of Lost Art in the future. This island is becoming a popular tourist destination offering a variety of activities. With support from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, it is managed by the Bannerman Castle Trust. The upkeep of this island is funded in part by visitor revenue.

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