The Castles of New York
“The house of every man is to him, his own castle.”
When I hear “Castle” I think of Europe. I imagine the beautiful architecture and centuries-old stone buildings. I think of Kings and Queens. What I don’t immediately think of is the United States. However, the USA is home to hundreds of Castles. Each with its own rich history and hidden secrets. One of the states with the most castles is New York. Let’s take a look at the top 5 castles of New York state.
Belvedere Castle- Central Park in New York City
Built in 1869 as an open-air structure with a lookout tower the Belvedere (Italian for “beautiful view”) Castle is currently undergoing a 300-million-dollar renovation. In 1919 the structure underwent another renovation turning it from a lookout station to an enclosed structure serving as a station for the US Weather Bureau. The weather station moved out in the 1960s and in 1983 the castle re-opened as a visitor center and gift shop. Once renovations are complete the structure will serve as the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. Visitors can discover all types of natural history artifacts. For bird watchers, the castle is a great location to catch a glimpse of several local birds and visitors can even check-out a field pack that contains binoculars, reference materials, maps, and a notepad.
Bannerman Castle- Beacon, New York
Located about 60 miles north of Manhattan on the Hudson River you will find Pollepel Island, otherwise known as Bannerman Island. Purchased in 1900 by Francis Bannerman VI , a Scottish-born arms dealer and Brooklyn resident who bought it to house his vast arsenal of munitions. Inspired by the castles in his home country of Scotland Francis set about building a castle of his own on the island.
In 1920 an explosion happened in the main powerhouse. Frances had already passed away by then, but his widow survived the explosion. The family sold the island and most of the historical relics went to the Smithsonian Institution. In 1969, an extensive fire, believed to be arson, left the castle a shell. In 1992 Neil Caplan, a Beacon resident, started the Bannerman Castle Trust. The Trust has raised over a million dollars and has worked to stabilize the castle and clear the overgrowth out. Today, about 30 volunteers are involved in landscaping and leading tours, the tours last two and a half hours, including the boat ride, and run from May through October.
For more information on the history of Bannerman Castle, you may want to read this fascinating article.
Lyndhurst Castle- Tarrytown, New York
Built in 1838 this mansion was once a private residence. Lyndhurst Castle is located in Tarrytown New York, overlooking the Hudson River. After the death of the last owner in 1961, the property was donated to the National Trust for Historical Preservation.
One of Americas finest Gothic Revival mansions the residence has been maintained with the original artwork and most of the original furnishings. The rooms have been kept to reflect the lives of those that would have lived here in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The 67-acre grounds surrounding the property have also been maintained as an example of 19th-century landscaping design. Touring the grounds is free, but parking is $5.00. Tours of the mansion are offered at a fee. If you are planning a tour, try to do it during the holiday season. It has been described as one of the ten best historical holiday tours. For more information on tours click here
Boldt Castle- Alexandria, New York
Located on Heart Island, and only accessible by boat, Boldt Castle was built in the early 1900’s by the owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, George C. Bolt. This castle was to be a gift to his wife Louise. Unfortunately, his wife died before the castle was completed. George was so distraught over the sudden loss of his wife that he ordered the work on the castle be stopped immediately and he never returned to the island.
The castle fell into ruin over the next 73 years until it was purchased by the Thousand Island Bridge Authority in 1977. Through the use of funds gained through tours and castle operations, the structure has been repaired and preserved.
Tours are now offered of this magnificent property. For more information click here.
Singer Castle on Dark Island, New York
Located on the St. Lawrence River sits Singer Castle on Dark Island. Built during the same time period as Boldt castle (above) workers from Boldt castle were saved from layoff by gaining work building “The Towers” as Singer Castle was originally called. The castle was originally named by the architect, Ernest Flagg, after reading the book “Woodstock” by Sir Walter Scott.
The name was later changed to Singer Castle because the owner, Fredrick Bourne, was the president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The property was owned by the Bourne family from 1905 until the mid-1960s. This is one of the few New York castles that was completed and lived in by the original owner.
This 28 room, 4 story, castle originally cost just $500,000. It was constructed after over 2,000 loads of topsoil was brought over from Canada to cover the 87 acres of rock. Today the Castle is available for weddings, meetings, and you can even stay over in the Royal Suite. Tours are also available. For more information click here.
If you have ever visited one of these, or any other, New York castle I would love to hear about it in the comments below. For more great vacation ideas check out The Top 8 All-inclusive Dude ranch Vacations or 20 of The Best Winter Travel Destinations and for more information on castles, you might enjoy Castles of New York be Scott Barry or The Last Castle, a history of the Biltmore Estate.