Episode 6: Ready, Set, Blow!

Bannerman Castle Trust Beacon Brooklyn Dia:Beacon Janet Samuels Photographs

We kicked off Memorial Day hangin’ with photographer Janet and super chauffeur Steve, so it seemed apropos to spend the most anti-climactic weekend of the year together.  Put away your whites, People. Zip up your pools. Buy a full price sweater.  Summer is over.  Kaput.

Not literally, of course.  It’s a state of mind.  Perhaps because I'm an empty nester I don't necessarily feel the end of summer as acutely as others. I’m no longer making school lunches at 7 AM while an intravenous coffee drip keeps me vertical.  

Still dedicated to one last summer fling, we headed out to Beacon, New York.  In the 1800's Beacon was a thriving town with nearly 500 hat factories. By the 1970’s all the sombreros flew the coop. The economic downturn lasted through the ’90's, during which almost 80% of the city's commercial spaces and factories were vacant. On the West Coast they would exploit this as a Ghost Town.

Old Factory Buildings, Beacon
Don't be sad.  Beacon is on a serious upturn, with 19th century buildings turning into hotels, restaurants and event spaces.  Much of this is due to the arrival in 2003 of Dia:Beacon.  Located in a former Nabisco box factory, Dia sits on the banks of the Hudson River.  The NY Times declared it "a must see spot in the contemporary art circuit."

I don’t know how to explain this but we didn’t go to Dia.  I had something else in mind.

Having a thing for creepy and ooky, my curiosity was centered around Bannerman Castle, an abandoned arsenal on an island in the Hudson.  In 1900, Scotsman Frank Bannerman owned so much black powder and ammunition that he almost blew up Brooklyn.  They kicked him the f**k outta there so he bought himself an island.  Take that, Brooklyn!  

On the island he built replicas of Scottish castles. In those castles he stashed his arsenal. Huh.

In 1920, 200 lbs. of shells and powder exploded. Whoopsie!  By the '50's the island was completely abandoned.  Slowly the castles started to crumble into the Hudson.
Bannerman Arsenal, Before it Collapsed

Enter The Bannerman Castle Trust “Dedicated to the Preservation of Bannerman Castle.”  Our 2.5 hour tour began on a boat. With thoughts of Gilligan’s Island running through our heads, we were happily entertained by Vinnie, a charming, tattooed staff member of Bannerman tours.  He offered to put his tongue in my ear for a photo op.  Always having my back, Janet said nah.


Checking out Vinnie's tattoos
The Trust is doing their darndest to keep the crumbling arsenal standing. The house where the Bannerman’s spent their summer vacays is being restored, inside and out.  The tour guides are lovely, dedicated people looking to preserve history.  It’s kinda kooky and crazy.  I once made Hubby take me to the London Dungeon, a re-enactment of the Great Fire of London.  I know, I'm a blast.

 Heads up! Summer Residence, Bannerman Castle



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  • Janet Samuels on

    Love it. Can’t wait for our next adventure!!!

  • sylvia landau on

    Loved this article. Need to get a ride to Beacon. You make it sound so inviting. Love the history of the castle

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