Photos of the Moment: Abandoned Bannerman’s Island

I admit to a strange fascination with abandoned places – pools, theme parks and what have you. These once great social gathering centers that time has long forgotten exude an eerie tranquility.

New York’s Bannerman’s Island is no exception.

Bannerman’s Island

American Heritage notes: “… this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world’s largest arms dealer.” A man by the name of Frank Bannerman who:

… bought up ninety per cent of all captured guns, ammunition, and other equipment auctioned off after the Spanish-American War. He also bought weapons directly from the Spanish government before it evacuated Cuba. These purchases vastly exceeded the firm’s capacity at its store in Manhattan and filled three huge Brooklyn warehouses with munitions, including thirty million cartridges.

Not exactly the kind of cache you keep locked in your backyard tool shed. So Bannerman bought a private island.

Bannerman’s Island

The castle was Bannerman’s vision and his execution. It was creviced and encrusted with battlements, towers, turrets, crenellations, parapets, embrasures, casements, and corbelling. Huge iron baskets suspended from the castle corners held gas-fed lamps that burned in the night like ancient torches. By day Bannerman’s castle gave the river a fairyland aspect. By night it threw a brooding silhouette against the Hudson skyline.

Bannerman’s Island

Bannerman died immediately after World War I and the island continued to slip into serious decay until the mid-twentieth century. The remains photographed here were caused by, among other things, arsonists.

Thanks to photographer Shaun O’Boyle for capturing these photos in such stark, fascinating detail and for allowing us to reprint them.

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