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Lights fantastic transform crumbling castle on a Hudson River island

Lights fantastic transform crumbling castle on a Hudson River island
Photograph: Courtesy Rob Penner

Friday represents the start of the first weekend of fall, and if you’re considering an autumn getaway (especially an art day trip) to the Hudson Valley, you might want to head up to Pollepel Island, a speck of land just south of Dia Beacon near the town of Fishkill. It’s central—in fact only—attraction is Bannerman’s Castle, so named for Frank Bannerman, a dealer in munitions and Civil-War military surplus from New York who had initially bought the island in 1900 as safe storage for his potentially explosive wares (the keeping of which was frowned upon in Brooklyn, where his business was headquartered). In 1901, he constructed a residence there in the form of a copy of a Scottish castle, one of several such Gilded Age domiciles built by various robber barons along the Hudson.

 

 

 

 

Now in ruins, the structure serves as the setting for a site-specific installation by artist Melissa McGill. The piece, called Constellation, consists of 17 towering poles, ranging from 40 to 80 feet high, surmounted by glass globes that light up at night like twinkling stars—hence, McGill’s title. According to the artist, the lights demarcate the castles missing architectural elements and also reference a celestial phenomenon that the Lenapi Indians called “the white road”—or as we know it, the Milky Way. If you want to check it out, sunset boat tours are available for the star-struck. You can also buy a book on the project (also called Constellation) by the artist.

 

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