View Full Version : A River Runs Through Them

May 22nd, 2004, 06:52 AM
May 21, 2004


A River Runs Through Them


Rodica Prato

ONE RIVER, TWO WORLDS Looking east from Newburgh, N.Y., across the Hudson to Beacon. While the east bank has been flourishing, the west bank is just starting to turn around.

ON a recent Saturday morning, as spring announced its arrival, an air of desperation seemed to hang over Broadway, the double-wide boulevard that runs through the center of Newburgh, N.Y. Broken windows were commonplace. The Ritz Theater, where Lucille Ball performed in the 1940's, was dark and forbidding, the ticket booth idle. At the corner of Johnston Street, four men were sitting on a bench rigged from cinder blocks, in the middle of a weedy lot riddled with broken bottles and small piles of burned trash.

"I hope you're not going to focus on that," said Keith Nieto, a collage artist who moved to this faded city on the west bank of the Hudson five years ago, and who was conducting a driving tour of his new hometown, 65 miles north of Manhattan. "A lot of old-timers are sick of hearing that Newburgh is coming back. But things do seem to be turning around."

To prove it, Mr. Nieto turned toward the East End section of the city, which hugs the waterfront. Somewhere past Downing Park — the 35-acre green designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects of Central Park — the streetscape changed from cracked sidewalks to cropped lawns. Rising along Montgomery, Grand and Liberty Streets, the East End is a repository of historic structures, a neighborhood of 4,000 buildings that is a showcase of American architecture. Some of the grandest houses date back to the early 19th century, designed by luminaries like Stanford White and Frederick Clark Withers. As any local preservationist will tell you, the area has the largest concentration of historic buildings in New York.

But in 1996 the East End Historic District was also named one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Among the buildings that were nearly demolished was the Dutch Reformed Church, an 1835 Greek Revival landmark that is still in tatters, despite the attention it received after a visit in 1998 by Hillary Rodham Clinton. "Newburgh can still be a little scary," said Diane Shamash, director of Minetta Brook, a public arts group in Manhattan that has worked in the Hudson Valley. "It has a long way to go."

Over the last five years, an arts boom has transformed the valley, from Beacon, where the Dia Foundation's 240,000-square-foot temple to Minimalism has turned the diminutive city into a major day-trip destination, to Annadale-on-Hudson, where a dazzling concert hall designed by the architect Frank Gehry opened last year at Bard College. They have created what some are calling a "mini-Bilbao effect," referring to the Spanish city that has been put on the tourist map by the Guggenheim Museum — also designed by Mr. Gehry. In the city of Hudson, new museums, theaters and performance halls are rising along with real estate values. The arts, some say, is the new I.B.M. of the region, as old manufacturing towns turn into cultural hubs.

But the rediscovered Hudson is creating a rift of its own. Of the $140 million invested in cultural institutions in the region in the last five years, almost every dollar was spent on the east side of the river, according to Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, a regional conservation and arts group. And that money has rippled through the riverfront communities, resulting not only in chic cafes and pricey boutiques, but an influx of second homeowners to the east bank.

In Beacon, the boom's epicenter, the average price of a single-family house has doubled in the last three years, to $250,000. Similarly, in Hudson, where antiques dealers and artists have pried open Warren Street to reveal a Cinderella of charming row houses, three-bedroom homes sold last year for an average of $200,000, double what they went for five years ago. And in the quaint town of Rhinebeck, an influx of weekenders fleeing the Hamptons have raised average house prices to about $360,000, compared with $208,000 five years ago.

All of which has residents of the west bank asking, what about us? So far, though signs of renewal are clear in the East End, where the buzz of electric drills echoes through the tree-lined streets, the average price of a single-family house remains under $160,000. Properties in the East End tend to be higher, with the largest historic houses exceeding $600,000. But bargains remain. Last week, a five-bedroom Victorian in the East End was listed at $165,000.

It's a gap that continues up the river and, in fact, amplifies the farther north you go. In Kingston, across the river from Rhinebeck, houses bring an average of $146,000. Prices in the west bank town of Catskill, not far down river from the city of Hudson, are below $125,000 for a three-bedroom house; swaths of Main Street are boarded up.

But there are signs of change. Dick Polich, who helped start the Tallix Foundry, a fine-art fabricator in Beacon before starting his own foundry outside Newburgh, is planning to open the city's first gallery in recent memory later this year. It will occupy the first two floors of an old furniture warehouse on the waterfront, with rental lofts as large as 2,000 square feet on the top three floors. And next month, a major real estate office is migrating up river to Newburgh, when Prudential Rand Realty, based in New City opens a branch. "You have communities full of architectural gems that have fallen into disuse," said Joe Rand, the owner. "You can't find that on the east side anymore. The gaze now falls on Newburgh."

FOR a long time, I didn't know that people lived on the west side of the river," joked David Ross, a former director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, who divides his time between New York City and a 1892 Queen Anne-style home in Beacon. Mr. Ross first visited in 2001 and was instantly struck by Beacon's potential. The next year, he bought his small three-bedroom house for less than $200,000.

Across the river, Jennifer Warren-Staiger, 33, a photography agent, and her husband, Karsten Staiger, 32, a commercial photographer, paid about the same amount last year, for their weekend home, a 17-room Victorian manor on Grand Street in Newburgh that was built in the 1830's.

It wasn't exactly move-in ready; for starters, the gray-shingled house had been condemned. A fire left a huge gash in the roof. There was no electricity or running water.

The Staigers said they had considered Beacon, also because of its proximity to Manhattan (the drive to both towns is usually under an hour and a half). But they were drawn to Newburgh's architecture, as well as its urban and ethnic mix. The population of 28,000 includes nearly equal segments of Latinos, blacks and whites. "The other side lacked grit, it lacked energy," Ms. Staiger said. "We didn't want to live in a white-bread vanilla town. And we were looking for something we could afford."

Some brokers, however, aren't convinced that cheaper prices alone will lure second- home owners to the west bank. "From my perspective, there's not a lot that would attract second-home owners," said Richard Shulkin, owner of Easy Lifestyle Real Estate in Newburgh. "Newburgh is not very rustic." And: "There's no art. There's no theater."

Cheerleaders of Newburgh's revival, however, remain confident, even though the biggest art installation on the horizon involves painting a mural along the newly designed waterfront park. To them, it's only a matter of time before the revival crosses the Hudson, not only to Newburgh, but also farther north, into Kingston and Catskill. After all, they say, it was only five years ago that Beacon was similarly uninviting. And now, instead of drug dealers, that city's Main Street is filled with smartly dressed gallery hoppers, clutching shopping bags from Dia's bookstore.

But more than perception divides the two sides of the Hudson. The river towns along the west side tend to be bigger, and more industrial than their counterparts on the east. And the east side is easier to get to: Metro-North trains link the towns to New York City, whereas west siders must drive up the New York State Thruway, or hop over one of the four bridges that traverse the mid-Hudson Valley. (Starting in June, a long-awaited ferry service between Beacon and Newburgh is expected to begin.) "The thing that works for the Hudson Valley is Metro-North," Mr. Ross added.

Some say that it may have worked too well, that the pioneering spirit that led to the revival of the east-bank towns no longer applies. In Beacon, gentrification has traveled a familiar arc. A cafe with an unpronounceable name serves chai lattes along with poetry. A ratty blanket factory is being carved into 135 SoHo-style lofts, not by handy artists but by a deep-pocketed developer. Every empty storefront seems to be a gallery or is about to become one. Some artists are being priced out.

"The other side has gotten too chichi," said Barbara Green, 61, a painter from Catskill, who crossed the river for an opening of her still lifes at Deborah Davis Fine Art in Hudson. "I remember when Hudson was still very seedy. Now it's a showplace. It's gentrified and genteel. For people with weekend homes, this is what they want — for it to look pretty and feel safe. Compared to this, we're the Wild West."

Indeed, Newburgh is very much a frontier. The number of weekenders may be tiny, but locals say that the investment potential is huge. That was a selling point for Judy Johnson, 62, a mortgage banker who lives in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Three years ago, she and her partner bought a 21-room Victorian house designed by Vaux on Grand Street for $425,000. Brokers estimate that the property, which has two rental units, is worth about $600,000 today. Not that Ms. Johnson plans to sell.

"I plan to retire here," Ms. Johnson said. "I go to Beacon a lot; it's a lovely place to walk. But it's far more exciting here. I guess I have a bit of a gambling instinct. But honey, it's only a matter of time before Newburgh goes the way of Beacon. "

ART OF REVIVAL Keith Nieto, top, an artist, lives in Newburgh. Train service has helped the east bank, as have its many galleries like one, bottom, in Beacon owned by Carl Van Brunt.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 24th, 2005, 12:50 AM
March 23, 2005


New vs. Old, This Time With a River

By PETER APPLEBOME (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=PETER APPLEBOME&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=PETER APPLEBOME&inline=nyt-per)

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/c.gifOLD SPRING, N.Y.

WHEN Scenic Hudson needed to develop a plan for restoring the West Point Foundry, one of the nation's most significant early industrial sites, it imported four noted industrial archaeologists to come up with ideas for the site, where steam engines, cannons, iron ships and machines for sugar production were made from 1817 to 1911.

But there are really two amazing historical artifacts in this lovely Hudson River village, 55 miles up the river from Manhattan. The first is the foundry, which got its start when President James Madison recognized the need for heavy artillery after the War of 1812 and, at its peak, employed more than 1,000 workers. The second is the village the foundry once defined, a rickety, compact jewel with a Main Street from central casting, a cheek-to-jowl jumble of architectural styles and a neo-Hudson Valley population mix of longtime river families and a new breed of artists, urban refugees and weekenders.

It's harder, however, to import experts to come up with a plan for a living entity than a defunct one. Hence the degree of tumult in this village of 2,000 people where a big political controversy used to be whether or not to allow selling hot dogs down by the riverfront.

Over the last few months residents have filed a challenge to a zoning change that would allow a condominium development on an abandoned riverfront lumberyard. Dissenters have mounted a rare political challenge to the group of lifelong Springers who control the government, only to have two of three challengers ruled off the ballot because of technical errors on their petitions.

They then ran write-in campaigns in which one was victorious and a second, after three vote counts, ended up tied with an incumbent. The candidates are scheduled to meet today with Justice Andrew P. O'Rourke of State Supreme Court to come up with a way to determine the winner.

It's not entirely clear why things have become so muddled all of a sudden, but it may just be an inevitable result of navigating change in a place where people want to preserve elements of the past, but not necessarily the same ones.

"This is a little bit of a time warp," said Karn Dunn, who has lived here for 24 years, which still makes her a relative newcomer to some eyes. "And I think everyone wants to keep it a little time warpy. They just don't agree on how to do it."

The most conspicuous cause of discord was a proposal by Paul Guillaro, a politically connected developer, to build 11 high-end condos on the old waterfront lumberyard, vacant since the early 1980's. Critics say the zoning change approved for the project opens the whole waterfront to high-density residential development that the town doesn't need and can't afford at the expense of development that could do more for the waterfront. Mayor Anthony Phillips, recently re-elected to a seventh two-year term, said that the zoning is appropriate and that there's no possibility of the kind of overbuilding critics fear.

Mr. Phillips, a lifelong Springer, viewed even by critics as savvy and relentlessly focused on administering town services, in many ways exemplifies the basic divide in Cold Spring between lifers and newcomers - e.g., anyone not born in town.

BUT the fact is there are fewer and fewer Springers left. The mayor estimates that they make up 40 to 45 percent of the town. Ed Cretelli, who went to high school with Mr. Phillips and now runs C & E Paint Supply, thinks it's more like 15 to 20 percent.

To Mr. Cretelli, the change is fine, a reminder that the place has always evolved from industrial town to the one that adapted after the foundry closed, from the prosperous village of the early 50's, to one of boarded-up storefronts in the early 60's, to one filled with weekend tourists that is now part SoHo, part Wobegon. "I think you have to let the market decide, like an invisible hand," he said.

That seems to be the main divide between old and new - not on change versus stasis, but on how change comes about, whether to get ahead of it, develop a vision for the waterfront, enhance a new tourism-based economy or let the market decide much as it has in the past.

In that sense, Cold Spring's story is one of many towns along the Hudson, once forgotten, now courted, once left for dead, now facing a menace that was unthinkable two decades ago - sky-high real estate prices, runaway development, the downside of being places where dead foundries get a post-industrial life and there's no such thing as a Hudson River Brigadoon.

E-mail: peappl@nytimes.com

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)</H5>

May 5th, 2007, 07:36 AM
ONE RIVER, TWO WORLDS Looking east from Newburgh, N.Y., across the Hudson to Beacon. While the east bank has been flourishing, the west bank is just starting to turn around..............

I was born in Newburgh 72 years ago, left town 57 years ago, and my last family link there passed away 5 years ago. My Newburgh roots go back to the 1830's, when my first known ancestor arrived from Northern Ireland. Until 1992, I visited town almost twice a year on the average, and since 1998 until today (May 2007), at least once a year. I've seen it all. Newburgh's heyday was from 1860 to 1960. One hundred short years. The opening of the Thruway, the building of I-84 and the bridge across the river in the early 1960's signalled the precipitous decline of the economic base of city itself as a viable place for the middle class to live. Urban "Renewal" ruined the waterfront and forced the terribly poor. mostly newly-arrived underclasses from the South and from Latin America into new 'ghettoes' that were formerly nice middle class neighborhoods between Downing Park and Broadway, and centering around Liberty and South Streets, on the North Side...and around William Street and Benkard Avenue on the South Side. The remains of the economy became dominated by the illegal drug trade with its attendant and terrible violence.
The waterfront area was finally revived and redeveloped in the 1990's, but is an 'island' concentrated only in the 3-block-wide strip of land rising up the riverbank from the Hudson to Grand Street. Carpetbagging exploiters arrived in town to skim off the profits from any publically-financed state and federal projects designed to help the urban poor. I weep for my City. But now there is another glimmer or two of hope. The area between Broadway and Grand will now be redeveloped and will center around a new 'campus' for the Newburgh branch of Orange County Community College. The former Stewart Field is being redeveloped as a key metropolitan air travel facility just west of town, and limited ferry service has been reestablished between Newburgh and Beacon. The question remains as to how to solve the problem of the desperate poor who are dependent on the drug trade as either dealers or users or both.
My solution, in over-simplified terms...legalize now illegal drugs, under a program similar to what was done with alcohol in much of the country after Prohibition. That separates the drug trade from the crime business, and frees up the beleaguered local law enforcement to fight crime, not drugs. Pay local people only to totally remove or rehabilitate the old neighborhoods and build affordable low-rise subsidized housing, as has been done in the Bronx area of NY City. This plan has the potential for working anywhere in the country where small cities have been in desperate shape for the past 40 years. Go for it!

August 1st, 2008, 12:08 AM
The Hudson’s New Wave

The castle on Bannerman’s Island.

Published: August 1, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/arts/01expl.html)

ON a hot, bright July afternoon I found myself standing at the tip of Croton Point Park, a peninsula in Westchester County that hooks far out into the Hudson River from its eastern shore near the town of Croton-on-Hudson. For me it was less than an hour’s scenic ride on Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal. My guide for this excursion, Matthew Coolidge, had come in a small outboard powerboat.

Mr. Coolidge is a soft-spoken student of geomorphology and the director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation, a nonprofit group founded in 1994 to document the myriad ways humans interact with the landscape. A few years ago the organization opened an office on the Hudson in Troy, N.Y. Mr. Coolidge began to fly over this landscape in helicopters and small planes, taking aerial photos for a book, “Up River: Man-Made Sites of Interest on the Hudson From the Battery to Troy,” published this summer (Blast Books), which graphically illustrates the impact of civilization on the river.

The tip of Croton Point is a good spot to view that impact as well. Down river we could see Yonkers, the silhouetted tracery of the Tappan Zee Bridge and Hook Mountain, permanently scarred by a quarry. Up river on the western bank rose the green hump of High Tor, a hill often painted by the Hudson River School artists of the 1800s. We could also see four electrical power stations, including the domes of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and steel towers carrying power lines across the river and into the distance like giant robots. Mr. Coolidge pointed at a couple of pretty green hills directly across the way.

The western faces of those hills have been entirely hollowed out by the huge Haverstraw quarry, which sends crushed rock down to New York City, including some that has been used for the new Yankee Stadium. But you don’t see the quarry from the water. That view is a facade that preserves the illusion of untrammeled nature — what conservationists and planners refer to as “the viewshed” — for river tourists and landowners.

The Haverstraw limestone quarry on the Hudson River.

The park where we stood is in its way a similar illusion. It was partly laid on top of a huge Westchester County garbage dump.

“The Hudson’s been both a pastoral landscape and an industrialized one,” Mr. Coolidge said. “It’s that interaction that makes it such a rich, chaotic and interesting place. It’s a microcosm of the entire history of American environmentalism, landscape romanticism and industrialization, played out more intensely here than anywhere I can think of.”

Two centuries ago the natural grandeur of the Hudson drew writers like Washington Irving, who eulogized “the lordly Hudson,” “moving on its silent but majestic course,” and artists like the English-born painter Thomas Cole, who called the landscape Eden and depicted it as God’s own wilderness.

Those were already romantic and nostalgic views. In 1825, when Cole arrived, steamboats were already taking tourists to hotels in the mountains, and the Erie Canal was completed, opening the river as a thoroughfare for commerce and industry. Stone quarries were gutting the hills, and Cole himself was soon complaining about the tanneries that fouled streams and denuded many acres of hemlock forest, so that “the most noble scenes are made desolate.”

As New York City grew through the 1800s, it reached far up the Hudson for its very life. The river was lined with railroad tracks, sawmills, paper mills, ice houses, brick yards, iron foundries and other industrial sites, all feeding the metropolis.

Most vitally the Hudson Valley was a source of running water for a city plagued by fires and epidemics. (Washington Irving first went up the river from Manhattan, where he was born, to escape a yellow fever outbreak.) Just outside Croton, you can walk along the top of the magnificent New Croton Dam, built at the turn of the 20th century to replace an earlier one. From here the Old Croton Aqueduct, which began operating in the 1840s, carried millions of gallons of fresh water a day 41 miles to two reservoirs in Manhattan, one where the Great Lawn in Central Park is now and the other where the New York Public Library and Bryant Park are today. The city has reached out in many directions for water since, but that old aqueduct continued to supply some of its water for more than a century.

In the town of Ossining, just down river from Croton, the mayor, William R. Hanauer, led us down into the 19th-century Weir Chamber, where a large sluice gate controlled the gravity-fed flow of water on its way to New York City. We stood in a damp, brick-lined tunnel more than 8 feet high and 7 feet wide. Just a trickle of water passed beneath our feet, where millions of gallons once flowed.

Outside the Weir Chamber we strolled a path that runs along the old aqueduct. Hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers can follow this trail all the way to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.

New York City has long reached out to this area in other ways. As the Metro-North train pulls into Ossining, it passes right under the stone walls and guard towers of Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where the city has been sending its worst criminals “up the river” since 1825. Over the years the prison’s guests have included the gangster Lucky Luciano, the cannibal Albert Fish, the convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and the bank-robbing folk hero Willie Sutton.

The prison discourages press and curious visitors. But the nearby Caputo Community Center houses a small exhibit, where Mayor Hanauer showed us a replica of the infamous electric chair in which more than 600 people, including the Rosenbergs, were executed from the 1890s into the 1960s.

At Ossining’s waterfront we climbed into Mr. Coolidge’s boat and bounced up the choppy expanse of the Tappan Zee, then on into the Hudson Highlands. We passed under the walls of West Point, which rise like a well-fortified medieval castle. There are many imitation castles along the Hudson, products of romantic notions of the river as “the American Rhine” that persisted even as it was increasingly industrialized. There’s the stern-looking Lyndhurst in Tarrytown; Dick’s Castle, gleaming among the trees across the river from West Point; and the witchy tower of nearby Castle Rock, sometimes compared to Oz. Just north of West Point we pulled up to a dock at Cornwall-on-Hudson and picked up Neil Caplan of the Bannerman Castle Trust. Then we motored the short distance across to Pollepel Island, home of Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, probably the best known and loved “castle” on the river.


As we circled the island, Mr. Caplan explained that Francis Bannerman VI was the Scottish-born owner of a large military surplus store situated first in Brooklyn, then in Lower Manhattan. In 1900, seeking a safe place to store a huge cache of surplus from the Spanish-American War, he bought the tiny island. There he built a three-bedroom home and an arsenal that looks straight out of an Edwardian fairy tale: a fantasia of towers, turrets and even a moat of sorts.

“It was his folly,” Mr. Caplan said. “In those days a lot of people did things just because they could. He loved the idea of it.”

An explosion in 1920 and a fire in 1969 only enhanced the castle’s mystique as a romantic ruin. Transferred to the state parks department in the 1960s, the island was long off limits because of concerns about safety, but Mr. Caplan and the Trust began to conduct tours a few years ago. Tours had been suspended for maintenance and safety inspections when we visited in early July, but Mr. Caplan hoped to resume them soon.
Between West Point and Cornwall rises Storm King Mountain, a giant green lump that looms up from the western bank of the river. Since Thomas Cole’s day it has been a mecca for artists and photographers. It was also a target for artillery fire from nearby West Point and from an iron foundry across the river at Cold Spring. In 1999 it was closed to hikers so it could be cleared of old ordnance in the ground. There is also a two-lane scenic road slashed like a dueling scar across the mountain’s river face.

In the 1960s Consolidated Edison proposed gouging out a large section of the mountain to build a huge power and pumping station. For protesters, led by an environmental group called Scenic Hudson, it was the last straw. The Hudson in those days was a giant open sewer; cities and towns along its length dumped raw waste into it. PCBs, industrial solvents, waste diesel and many other pollutants fouled it. Tarrytown residents used to say they could look at the river and tell what color the big General Motors plant was painting the vehicles that day.

Almost two decades of legal battles killed Con Edison’s plan for Storm King. Since then the Hudson has been in a new phase of what might be called post-industrial repastoralization. As the river is cleaned up, old smokestack sites like that G.M. plant are being demolished and replaced with new housing and recreational facilities. Large tracts of the waterfront and surrounding land are now public parks or held by conservationist trusts, preserving the viewshed.

Modern art has followed the Hudson River School into the area. To the west of Storm King Mountain is the Storm King Art Center, 500 acres of sculpture garden featuring work by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, David Smith, Mark di Suvero and many others.

Up the river from Storm King, on the opposite shore, we pulled into Beacon, where some teenagers were fishing and diving off a handsome new pier of sculpted-steel waves and wooden decking. Just inland is Dia:Beacon, a museum of modern art with work by the likes of Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois and Sol Lewitt, in a former Nabisco box-printing facility.

Scenic Hudson has bought more than 2,000 acres of the waterfront here and plans a model “green” redevelopment to include a hotel and conference center. The new pier, completed last fall, is the start. It’s called Beacon Point and was created by the environmental artist George Trakas on a long-abandoned rail landing.

“When I got here it was totally overgrown,” he said. “There were just mounds of weeds, poison ivy, locusts. There were little trails that led out to this point, but the point at high tide was full of water. At low tide it was the exposed stumps of pilings and a lot of industrial refuse.”

Mr. Trakas, who also created an installation on Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, grew up on the St. Lawrence Seaway in Quebec. In 1963, he jumped ship from an oil tanker in New York Harbor, and, he said, “I’m still here.”

He designed his pier “to play with the existing environment.” He made a welded-steel channel through which the river flows at high tide. Muskrats, crabs and fish seem to enjoy the spot as much as people do.

Beacon Point is a prime example of the transformation of the riverfront. “The deindustrialization of the Hudson River has been for aesthetic purposes as well as environmental ones,” Mr. Coolidge said. As factories are turned into museums, and environmental advocates become hotel developers, he said, tourism, recreation and real estate are “the dominant industries on the river now.”

Up a Busy River

The Web site hudsonriver.com (http://hudsonriver.com/) lists boat tours. Metro-North’s Hudson line (mta.info) from Grand Central stops at towns along the eastern bank up to Poughkeepsie. Amtrak trains run from Penn Station to Albany.

BANNERMAN CASTLE (bannermancastle.org (http://bannermancastle.org/)). Visits to Bannerman’s Island have been suspended temporarily because of construction. Boat tours are available from the Newburgh landing by Hudson River Adventures, 26 Front Street, Newburgh, (845) 220-2120. Kayak tours with views of the castle are offered by Hudson Valley Outfitters, 63 Main Street, Cold Spring, (845) 265-0221; hudsonvalleyoutfitters.com (http://hudsonvalleyoutfitters.com/).

DIA:BEACON (diabeacon.org (http://diabeacon.org/)), 3 Beekman Street, (845) 440-0100. Featuring the Riggio Galleries with works from the 1960s to the present. Through Oct. 13, open Thursdays through Mondays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission, $10, $7 for students and 65+, free for members and children under 12.

SING SING PRISON MUSEUM, Caputo Community Center, 95 Broadway, off Route 9, Ossining, (914) 941-3189. Open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays. Free.

STORM KING ART CENTER (stormking.org (http://stormking.org/)); Old Pleasant Hill Road, Mountainville (check Web site for updates on road closings and detours), (845) 534-3115. Through Nov. 1, open Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission, $10, $9 for 65+ and students, $7 for children, free for members and children under 5.


‘Bannerman Castle’ (Arcadia Publishing, 2006), a brief history of the island, with vintage photographs.

’THE HUDSON: A HISTORY’ (Yale University Press, 2005), an elegant historical overview by Tom Lewis.

‘NEWJACK: GUARDING SING SING’ (Random House, 2000), the journalist Ted Conover’s account of his time as a prison guard.

‘UP RIVER’ (Blast Books, 2008), the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s survey of the Hudson in aerial photos and text, with a fold-out map. More information about the center’s programs and projects can be found at clui.org (http://clui.org/).


‘THE BIG HOUSE’ (1930), Wallace Beery stars in this hoary saga of Sing Sing.

‘NORTH BY NORTHWEST’ (1959), Cary Grant meets Eva Marie Saint on a train traveling up the Hudson in this Hitchcock thriller.

‘ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW’ (1959), a grim bank heist tale starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan, with the old Hudson smokestack as backdrop for beautifully shot scenes.

‘THE PRODUCERS’ (1968), Mel Brooks’s comedy ends with Max and Leo (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) rehearsing their fellow Sing Sing prisoners in a rousing rendition of “Prisoners of Love.” JOHN STRAUSBAUGH

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

August 1st, 2008, 12:11 AM
That Bannerman’s Island castel is very striking. Never expected to see something like that there.

Should be a protected landmark, if it is not already.

December 30th, 2009, 12:05 PM
River Castle, Ever More an Apparition, Further Crumbles

By LIZ ROBBINS (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/liz_robbins/index.html?inline=nyt-per)

Published: December 29, 2009

Bannerman’s Castle was already an enigmatic ruin in the middle of the Hudson River, a dreamy landmark for passing train travelers and a passionate cause for preservationists.

But then in the silence of last Saturday night, a large chunk of history suddenly disappeared when the castle’s stone, brick and cement sighed under a century’s weight of weather. Overnight, two-thirds of the eastern tower was gone, as well as one-third of the adjacent southern wall, leaving a gaping hole and concern over how to stop the crumbling.

Fifty miles south, one Manhattan resident was not surprised.

“I knew it was going to happen, because it looked so frail,” Jane Bannerman said from her Park Avenue apartment. “Over the years, I have painted various stages of its decay.”

Mrs. Bannerman, at 99, is far heartier than her family’s castle. She married Charles S. Bannerman, the grandson of Francis Bannerman VI, an eccentric Scottish-born entrepreneur who owned a military surplus supply company. In 1901, Frank Bannerman began building the seven-story Scottish- and Moorish-style castle (as well as six other buildings on Pollepel Island) to store his company’s cannons, munitions, steel beams and other items. He used bed frames to reinforce the walkways, bayonets to bolster interior walls.

Mrs. Bannerman recalled weekend family trips to the island in which she explored the dimly lighted castle. The towers and turrets added a romantic charm.

The family closed the island in the 1950s, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation took over its administration in 1967. Two years later, a fire destroyed the interior of the castle.

The Bannerman Castle Trust (http://www.bannermancastle.org), founded in 1993, raised money for a vigorous preservation of the grounds. With the parks office, it reopened the island in 2004 for guided tours. Tourists, who arrive by boat (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/nyregion/westchester/15islandwe.html?scp=1&sq=Bannerman%27s%20Castle&st=cse), wear hard hats and must stay at a safe distance from the ruins. That distance could soon increase.

“We know that the structures had been precarious, no matter what, and they could have gone at any time,” said Neil Caplan, who founded the trust, adding that he and his fellow board members were still shocked.

Stabilizing the castle’s shell had been too costly to consider, Mr. Caplan said, and money collected through grants and fund-raising had been directed to restore the island’s residence in 2010. “This is the only castle of its kind, and we’re losing it,” Mr. Caplan said. “This is such an important piece of the Hudson Valley. We want to save what’s there.”

Jayne McLaughlin, the director of the Taconic region for the state parks office, said that dangerous river conditions would prevent a visit to the island until next week, at the earliest, to assess the damage.

Whatever happens to the castle, archival images and Mrs. Bannerman’s paintings will preserve memories of it.

The castle was shown in the film “North by Northwest,” and in November the castle was the backdrop for a fashion spread in Esquire (http://www.porhomme.com/2009/10/esquire-falls-best-overcoats/) magazine.
Once visible on the approach to the eastern wall of the castle were the words “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal.” Much of the right section had fallen by 1970, leaving just the letters “nal.”

And then, sometime early Sunday, “Banner” dropped off, leaving one complete word — “man’s” — as if to remember the castle’s creator.


Copyright 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 30th, 2009, 12:12 PM




January 5th, 2010, 12:08 PM
Never realized there was a limestone quarry there. They certainly did a good job of hiding it.

January 15th, 2010, 05:56 PM
Anyone seen pics of Bannerman's Castle post-crumble? I've always wanted to go there and hope it's still sufficiently intact (unlike the "Old Man of the Mountain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Man_of_the_Mountain)"...).

September 4th, 2010, 02:11 AM
Bannerman Castle

Pollepel Island, now known as Bannerman's Island, between Beacon and Newburgh,
on the Hudson River.


Entrance to the Arsenal. Tour groups must now wear hard hats, and are not
allowed close to the arsenal, as it is very unstable

The walls between the black lines totally collapsed in 2009, after years of
weather damage, neglect, and shoddy building practices in the first place
The ruins of Bannerman's Arsenal after the wall collapse in 2009.
The bold name of the building has collapsed into the ground.

Bannerman's summer home, which lies at the center of the island.
Bannerman Island experts think this building, and several other
smaller buildings could be saved.

For many of us, staycations are this year's vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York's fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we'll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don't patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you've been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Bannerman Castle/ Bannerman Island Arsenal
Location: Pollepel Island, between Beacon and Newburgh, NY
Address: Hudson Highlands State Park, Route 9D, Beacon, NY 10512
Hours: May to October, call for reservations
Admission: $30 adult, includes boat ride and guided tour
Children: $25, 11 years and younger
Website: bannermancastle.org (http://bannermancastle.org/)
Directions: See website

Details: Every summer staycation should include a ruined castle, and this one is close enough for jaded New Yorkers to take in. The tale of the castles' origin, and its fate today, are all tied up appropriately, by the success of a Brooklyn entrepreneur.

Francis Bannerman was born in Scotland in 1851 and emigrated to the US in 1854 with his parents. They moved to Brooklyn and opened a military surplus business in 1865, purchasing surplus military equipment after the end of the Civil War. Their business started at the Navy Yard, and then moved to an old rope factory on Atlantic Avenue. In 1897, Bannerman's opened a store on Broadway in Manhattan to outfit volunteers in the Spanish-American War. By the end of the War, they had purchased over 90% of the Spanish arms captured during the conflict. By 1900, he had tons of live ammunition shells in Brooklyn, and needed to find a place to store them, away from populated areas. He bought Pollepel Island, and in 1901 started to build his arsenal/warehouse. He designed it himself, and let his contractors interpret his designs as they saw fit.

The result was a huge castle dedicated to storage, with several outbuildings, with a smaller castle in the center of the island for use as a family residence and summer home. The enormous castle, which could be seen from the river, was a huge advertisement, and he had “Bannerman's Island Arsenal” carved into the wall facing the mainland. During World War I, Bannerman sold cannons, uniforms and blankets to the US government. His wife was an avid gardener, and planted trees, flowers and shrubs along the paths and on the grounds, and the family spent many summers here. Bannerman died in 1918, and in 1920, 200 tons of shells and gunpowder exploded in an arms depot, destroying part of the complex, and spelling the beginning of the end of the Bannerman empire. In 1950, a storm sunk the ferryboat Pollepel, and from that time on, the island and the castle were more or less abandoned.

The state of NY bought the island in 1967 and began giving tours of the castle in 1968, after making sure there was no live ammo laying around. But a fire in 1969 burned out the roof and floors, and the tours stopped and the castle was abandoned once again. Today the castle is the property of the NY State Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and lies in ruins. Vandals have done their mischief, as have the elements.

As the buildings have deteriorated, it was discovered that Bannerman and his builders used recycled bed frames, bayonets, old mattresses and other military salvage to bulk up the cement covered brick construction. It's no wonder it's falling down. In 2009, most of the front of the castle, with the Bannerman name, crumbled to the ground, reported by a motorist passing on the highway along the river. More of the walls have since collapsed, so that only the west and part of the south wall remain. The summer home and numbers 2 and 3 arsenals remain, as do the strange turrets in the water, and are in much better shape. A visit today must be arranged through the Bannerman Castle Trust, the non-profit that now oversees the island. All guided tours leave the mainland either by boat or kyack, and hard hats must be worn at all times. The Bannerman Trust is soliciting for donations for the stabilization of the ruins, as well as the restoration of buildings that can still be saved. The plan is to turn the Bannerman summer home into a visitor's center.

Tours leave from Beacon, Cold Spring, Cornwall and Newburgh, and all tours require walking on rough terrain, no strollers are allowed. Bannerman Castle should be seen before it is gone forever.