Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bannerman's Island

There is a crime writing and crime scene aspect to this island's story, but let me start with my visit.

Last Sunday, I took the train to Beacon, NY and visited for the first time a Hudson River Island that has been on my imaginative radar for a few decades.  My excuse for going that day was to see the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival's production of a one-man play--An Iliad, starring Kurt Rhoades.  Here is a teaser from YouTube of what I saw:

And here is what the critic from NYT said about it.

HVSF's first solo show stars Kurt Rhoads as the ageless Poet who unleashes the fury of an ancient story he has told for centuries - creating heroes and battles before our eyes, challenging us to contemplate both the heroism and horror of war. This OBIE Award-winning play is " age-old story that resonates with tragic meaning today." - The New York Times

I concur and them some.

The Henry Hudson Bridge from the train.

How one gets to the island

Part of the draw for me was a chance to visit the island, which is about 50 miles north of New York City and about a thousand feet from the east shore of the majestic Hudson River.  Dutch colonists called it Pollipel, presumably because it resembled an upturned ladle.  Right after the American Civil War, a Scots immigrant who pretty much invented war surplus as a business, bought island.  He needed a place to store his inventory, which was explosive and unwanted in Brooklyn, where he lived, or on Broadway in Manhattan where he had his showroom.  He built a fanciful warehouse and an even more fanciful home.

The view as one approaches

Eventually, after his death, the decaying stores exploded.  The island was abandoned and declared off limits for people.  In 1967, the Rockefeller family donated the funds for New York State to buy it and turn it into a state park, which it is today.  The unstable building storehouse suffered another disaster when a winter storm took down about 50% of what was left in December of 2009.

Historic placards are part of the tour

Island view of what is left of the warehouse

The remains of Bannerman's mansion, which he tried make Scottish

The Bannerman's Island Trust has raised money to shore up what is left of the buildings and to restore some of the gardens.  They conduct tours which include stories of the island's fascinating history.

View of the River looking north

View of the Hudson Highlands looking south

The sloop Clearwater at sunset

In crime fiction, Bannerman's Island is featured in Linda Fairstein's Killer Heat and in Jill Churchill's Anything Goes.

True crime:   In April of 2015, Angelika Graswald and her fiancee Vincent Viafore started out for the island on a kayak trip.  When Vincent did not return, Graswald was charged with murder.

To end on a high note, the island is home for the next two hers to a beautiful art installation called Constellation by Melissa McGill.  Seventeen LED lights mounted on metal poles at various heights form a gorgeous constellation of stars over the island.  Look:

Annamaria Alfieri


  1. It's amazing how long it takes to see something you've always wanted to see and it's very near where you live. Yesterday I went to see "La madonna del parto" by Piero della Francesca in Monterchi near Arezzo where I've wanted to go for the past 25 years at least! Wonderful! Nicoletta

    1. I'll take you to see Bannerman's Island next time you are in the States, if you will take me to see La Madonna del Parto next time I am in Italy!!!

  2. This was a lovely piece on many levels. I treasure my many past trips along the Hudson with an old friend, whose car had to be abandoned after Alz. took over her brain and ability to drive. t. j. Straw

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Thelma. I love our river so much. Just seeing how the water turns to burnished silver at sunset just knocks me out.