Francis Bannerman's business became famously known as "Bannerman's, which was established in Brooklyn in 1865. As the business acquired more materials, it changed locations sevmany times due to the need for more space. The business eventually found its home in Manhattan at 501 Broadway in 1897. The store outfitted volunteers for the Spanish-American War.
After the Spanish War, Bannerman's bought more than ninety percent of the Spanish equipment, guns, and ammunition that was captured by the U.S. military and then auctioned off by the government. So much ammunition and equipment was acquired that the business had to seek out storage outside of the city limits due to New York City's laws. The storeroom at the business didn't have enough space to safely store 30 million surplus munitions cartridges.
David Bannerman, Frank's son, happened to note Pollepel Island while canoeing along the Hudson River. The Bannerman family bought the island in 1900 from the Taft family to be used as a site for safe storage. Frank Bannerman started construction in 1901 on a simple residence and Scottish-style castle. Every kind of equipment and ammunition were sent to the island to be stored in the arsenal until sold. The majority of the building was used to store army surplus, however, Bannerman constructed an additional smaller castle as a residence near the main structure on the island. He often used items from his surplus supply for decorative touches in his residence.
Bannerman's Castle is clearly visible from the river's shore and acted as a massive advertisement for the Bannerman's business. Frank Bannerman cast the words "Bannerman's Island Arsenal" into the wall of the castle facing the Hudson River's western bank. Construction stopped in 1918 after his death. A portion Bannerman Castle was destroyed when 200 tons of powder and shells in an ancillary structure exploded in 1920.
Pollepel Island and the Arsenal were left basically vacant after the ferryboat that had served the island, Pollepel, sank. After the military merchandise was removed, the State of New York bought the island and buildings in 1967, and tours of the island began in 1968. Photo: Bannerman Castle
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