Buried on an island in the Hudson, beneath the brittle body of century old castle walls and thin hair of tangled vines, lie Civil War bayonet scabbards and the ashes of Irish linen bed sheets.
This is the remnant of a Scotsman's fortress called Bannerman Castle, built not as a home, but as an arsenal for his immense collection of weapons. Public access to this island has had a small window of opportunity, curtained by Native American and Dutch settler's fear of resident spirits and goblins, and then restricted since 1900 for more contemporary safety reasons. Frank Bannerman personally designed the island's buildings, docks, turrets, garden walls and moat in the style of old Scottish castles. Almost all of it was done without professional help from architects, engineers and contractors. And all of it was elaborately decorated, from biblical quotations cast into all fireplace mantles, to a shield between the towers with a coat of arms, and a wreath of thistle leaves and flowers.
On maps it is Pollopel Island: 6 3/4 acres of mostly rock; 1,000 feet from the eastern shore of the Hudson; 50 miles north of New York City. During the Revolutionary War, patriots unsuccessfully tried to stop the British from advancing north of the island by sinking 106 upright logs tipped in iron points in the Hudson. Later, General George Washington approved plans to use the island as a military prison.