Olana State Historic Site

Frederic E. Church, b 1826- d 1900
5720 State Route 9G , Hudson, NY 12534 - view on Google Maps
518-828-0135
“I am appalled when I look at the magnificent scenery which encircles my clumsy studio, and then glance at the painted oil-cloth on my easel.”
—Frederic Church, 1867
Olana is a 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit, embracing unrivaled panoramic views of the vast Hudson River Valley. The eminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church designed Olana, his family home, studio, and estate as an integrated environment embracing architecture, art, landscape, and conservation ideals.

ABOUT

Frederic Edwin Church was one of the premier landscape painters of the nineteenth century, accomplishing international fame, critical acclaim, and great financial success in his own lifetime. Church studied with Thomas Cole in Catskill, NY, then established a studio in New York City, from which he traveled widely on sketching expeditions. His resulting monumental canvases linked American identity to the landscape of the new world.

In 1860, Church established his family home on a farm in the Hudson River Valley, which he and wife Isabel would later name Olana. He spent forty years perfecting his vision for Olana, considered his greatest artistic masterpiece.

Church was intimately involved in designing all aspects of the 250-acre naturalistic landscape, which exists today as one of the most intact artist-designed properties in the United States. His large-scale composition included more than five miles of carriage roads that pass through woodlands, fields and a farm complex, so that visitors could travel through and experience Olana’s crafted foreground against a backdrop of sublime and far-reaching views.

In 1870, the Churches, inspired by a recent trip to the Middle East, began building a house on a high point of their property, working with architect Calvert Vaux to design a building that incorporated features from dwellings they admired during their journey. Church was involved in all aspects of the building’s design and ornamentation; he made hundred of sketches for interior and exterior stenciling, and mixed the color scheme for the building on his palette. Completed in 1872, the building was enlarged in 1889 with the addition of a studio wing.

The house contains many canvases by Church, as well as works by friends, a collection of old master paintings, and furniture and decorative arts that Frederic and Isabel Church collected over the course of their lives. Today the experience of visiting the house remains remarkably unchanged, for the rooms look much as they did in the 1890s. From these intricately-decorated interiors visitors can look out on panoramic views of the Taconic Hills, the Hudson River, and the Catskill Mountains, vistas that are also much like those that Frederic Church enjoyed.

Did you know...?

In the 1970s, a Church painting in Olana’s collection, View of the Hudson River Valley in Winter from Olana, served as evidence in hearings held to determine if a nuclear power plant should be built downriver of Olana. The views from Olana and the art it had inspired caused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to recommended denial of a construction license for the proposed nuclear power plant. Visitors can see this painting on view in the main house at Olana, and of course, enjoy the views it helped secure.

SPECIAL RESOURCES

Olana has an extensive research collection of primary and secondary source materials. This is open to graduate students and scholars, by appointment. Researchers should email a formal request, stating the topic and purpose of your research and items that you hope to consult at Olana. Please email the curator, Evelyn Trebilcock at evelyn.trebilcock@parks.ny.gov.

Much of Olana’s original artwork and primary source material is not kept at the site. This includes the artwork by Frederic Church not on view in the main house; 19th-¬century photographs; prints after Church’s paintings and other prints; drawings by other artists; bills, receipts and other financial records; the records of David C. Huntington and other Church scholars. A Finding Aid for this material is available at Olana, and under special circumstances these materials can be accessed. Please inquire with the curatorial staff at Olana stating specifically the material you seek, and the purpose of your research.

Olana staff and consultants have produced in-depth reports on various aspects of Olana. These unpublished reports are also available for consultation.

WHAT TO DO HERE

  • Explore the five miles of historic carriage drives.
  • Let a Hudson River valley sunset take your breath away.
  • Take a guided tour of the Churches' Persian-inspired home.
  • Stop in at Church’s first home, Cosy Cottage and say hello to the staff of The Olana Partnership, the non-profit partner of Olana State Historic Site, which supports the conservation, preservation, and improvement of this National Historic Landmark.
  • Look for frogs, turtles and fish in the ten-acre lake that Church created as a major landscape design feature.
  • Borrow an "Olana on the Move" backpack from the Wagon House Education Center or Museum Shop for some family fun.
  • Find your muse – take an art class.
  • Watch a storm roll in from the Catskills.
  • Get up close to great art – visit the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery or Coachman’s House Gallery and view the annual exhibitions on display.
  • Attend a program at the Wagon House Education Center.
  • Take gorgeous photographs and post them on our Flikr site

YOU CAN ALSO SEE THE ART HERE:

  • Albany Institute of History & Art: Morning, Looking East Over the Hudson Valley from the Catskill Mountains, 1848
  • Amon Carter Museum: New England Landscape, 1849
  • Cleveland Museum of Art: Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860
  • Corcoran Gallery of Art: Niagara, 1857
  • Dallas Museum of Art: The Icebergs, 1861
  • Detroit Institute of Art: Cotopaxi, 1862
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1866
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heart of the Andes, 1859; The Parthenon, 1871; The Aegean Sea, 1877
  • The Nelson-Atkins Art Museum: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, 1870
  • New Britain Museum of American Art: West Rock, New Haven, 1849
  • Portland Museum of Art, ME: Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp, 1895
  • Reynolda House: Andes of Ecuador, 1855
  • Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh: Niagara Falls from the American Side, 1867
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum: Aurora Borealis, 1865
  • The Art Institute of Chicago: View of Cotopaxi, 1857
  • University of Virginia Art Museum: Natural Bridge, Virginia,1852
  • Wadsworth Atheneum: The Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica, 1867; Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness in 1636 from Plymouth to Hartford, 1846
  • Yale University Art Gallery: Mount Ktaadn, 1853