Stabilization Versus Restoration: A Dilemma at Bannerman’s Island
Generazio, Susan Turnbull
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In 2004, Bannerman’s Island opened to the public for the first time since its castle-like arsenals were built in the early 1900’s. The remains of the arsenals, built by military surplus arms dealer Francis Bannerman, rise up as a majestic ruin, drawing the interest of those passing by on the river and its shores. In 1967, ownership of the Hudson River island was transferred from the Bannerman family to New York State, who designated it as a ruin. Currently, the Friends of Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. are pursuing a $350,000 matching grant to restore one of the complex’s buildings into offices and exhibit space. This paper will examine the current plan in terms of its focus on the restoration of the residence, one of the island’s non-iconic buildings. This paper will argue that stabilization of the tower and arsenals, which have begun to crumble in the past months, should instead be the primary preservation focus, as these castle-like structures serve a unique place in the history and landscape of the Hudson Valley. This paper will explore the issues surrounding the preservation of this site, particularly its significance to local and national history, its status as an iconic ruin, and appropriate approaches to its long-term preservation. The recent collapse of a portion of the tower highlights an urgent need for stabilization to prevent the total loss of these iconic Hudson Valley ruins.