The Irish American Heritage Museum will host “Behind the Butler’s Pantry – Olana and the Lives of Irish Servants in the Hudson Valley,” a virtual conversation about the lives of Irish immigrants and their families who worked as servants at Frederic Church’s Olana on November 18th. [Read more…] about Butler’s Pantry: Irish Servants in the Hudson Valley
Olana State Historic Site
The Hudson River Skywalk Arts Festival is set for Sunday, September 30th, free events will be held at the Thomas Cole State Historic Site Site, Olana and the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. [Read more…] about Historic Sites Featured In Hudson Skywalk Arts Festival
David McAlpin, a principal at Fradkin & McAlpin Architects, is among a group of 21 noted architects and landscape architects, including Steven Holl, Laurie D. Olin, Peter Pennoyer and Diana Balmori, who have been invited to solve a mystery that is more than 130 years old.
Each was asked to submit a design for “the Summer House” at Olana, the Hudson, New York, estate of the great American landscape artist Frederic Church. [Read more…] about Exhibit: Frederic Church’s Summer House at Olana
How many historic sites does the NYSOPRHP maintain? That is not a trick question. At the NY Statewide Preservation Conference, May 5-7, in Albany and Troy, the question was an unintended running joke among several sessions. Generally the number was between 35 and 40 with a variation due to how to classify a site given a site can be recreational and historic. But this is not a post about the combination of recreation and historic sites in one bureaucracy (it wasn’t always that way). Rather it is a discussion about what it means to be a state historic site. [Read more…] about Friends With Benefits: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and The Olana Partnership/Olana State Historic Site will co-host an exhibition of contemporary art to highlight the pivotal role that the two historic properties – and the artists who lived and worked there – played in shaping America’s culture of contemporary art.
The exhibition “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home” will open on May 3rd and run through November 1, 2015. [Read more…] about Contemporary Exhibit Set For Thomas Cole, Olana Sites
Craig Thompson, director of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, will host an outdoor foray to search for bluebirds, robin redbreast, white trillium and other colorful signs of spring on Sunday, April 1. An Olana educator will join the group to discuss the history of the landscape and carriage drives designed by Frederic Church.
Craig Thompson has been an environmental educator in NYS DEC’s Division of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Five Rivers, one of the state’s environmental education facilities, is a 445-acre “living museum” offering a comprehensive program of interpretive, education and information services year ‘round.
The Spring Walk will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and is free and open to all ages. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center and dress for casual trail walking. Binoculars are helpful but not necessary. Space is limited, so please register by calling (518) 828-1872 ext. 109. In the event of inclement weather, the program may be canceled. (If in doubt, call (518) 828-1872 x 109 to confirm.) A vehicle use fee will be charged at the entrance to the site.
In 1979, a nuclear power plant was nearly built on the Hudson River in plain view of Olana State Historic Site. The Olana Partnership is presenting a panel discussion on Saturday, February 25, about this little-known incident in Hudson Valley history.
For the first time ever, three key players in this debate will unite and recount this game-changing episode, and how each played an important role. The panelists, Carl Petrich, J. Winthrop Aldrich, and Richard Benas, will discuss the unprecedented and nationally significant approach of considering the visual impact of a nuclear power plant in a region. Dorothy Heyl, a member of Olana’s Landscape/Viewshed Committee, will moderate.
In 1977, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Power Authority of the State of New York held hearings on siting a nuclear power plant just south of Catskill in Cementon. The cooling tower, at a height of 450 feet, would have been visible for many miles. Thirty-five stories tall, it would have been 250 feet in diameter at its highest point and discharged a prominent plume. On some days, the plume would have obscured views of the Catskill Mountains from many locations, including Olana.
In the late 1970s, Carl Petrich, one of the panelists, worked as a landscape architect on the research staff of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Through an agreement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Oak Ridge produced an Environmental Impact Statement for this project. Petrich immersed himself in Hudson River School history and the designed landscape of Frederic Church’s Olana. His conclusion—that the viewshed from Olana was of national importance and warranted protection—changed history. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement caused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to recommended denial of a construction license for the proposed nuclear power plant. This was the first and only time that such a recommendation had been made on any grounds—let alone environmental or aesthetic.
J. Winthrop Aldrich, a Hudson Valley resident and long-time public servant, worked with counsel for local groups opposing the siting of the plant in Cementon. He was a proponent of assuring that the impact of the project on historic and scenic resources would be formally weighed in the decision making.
Richard Benas, then at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, testified in hearings on the proposed plant. Based on this experience, Benas later developed visual impact guidelines which are now used to insure compliance with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQRA.
Testimony at the hearings on the significance of the Olana Viewshed included some by David Huntington, who had earlier led the successful preservation effort that saved Olana in 1967. More than 30 years ago, Huntington testified, “Olana is a monument and site whose significance will be increasingly appreciated by the American people.”
The three panelists, Petrich, Aldrich and Benas, will share their memories of a crucial, but mostly forgotten chapter in the preservation of a national historic landmark and its spectacular viewshed. “It’s surprising how few people know about this episode in this region,” noted Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator for The Olana Partnership. “In some ways, it’s similar to the Storm King Mountain preservation effort, with far reaching effects.”
“This discussion, while it addresses the prospect of a nuclear power plant, is not about nuclear energy,” commented Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “It is the story of how the importance of the Olana Viewshed factored into the siting of a plant, and how this mattered on a national and regional level.”
“Olana is famous for its breath-taking panoramic views that draw thousands of visitors to this magnificent historic site every year,” said Kimberly Flook, Site Manager of Olana Historic Site. “It was Frederic Church’s vision that actively shaped his landscape to frame the Hudson Valley’s unique natural beauty.”
The panel discussion will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, February 25 in Hudson, NY, at Stair Galleries (549 Warren Street). A suggested donation of $10 can be paid at the door, and admission is free for all members of The Olana Partnership. A reception will follow. More information is available online at olana.org or by phoning The Olana Partnership at 518.828.1872. RSVPs appreciated.
Photo: View from Olana with Superimposed Simulated Nuclear Cooling Towers (detail), 1979, photograph #4363-77, Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy.
“We are delighted that Joseph has joined our board. He brings to the Partnership a keen visual sense and creative eye, along with a track record of commitment to historic preservation,” said Chairman Sharp. “Joseph continues the tradition of his family’s longstanding support of Olana.”
Pierson is president of Cypress Films, Inc., a successful, independent, New York-based film, theater and television production company. Most recently, he produced and directed EvenHand, an independent feature film shot on location in San Antonio, Texas. Currently in pre-production is a filmed adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s A Suspension of Mercy and an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man for the Broadway stage.
Pierson majored in Studio Art at Middlebury College, graduating with departmental honors. He has an avid interest in historic preservation, serving as a member of the Director’s Council of the Historic House Trust of New York City, the Trustees’ Council of the Preservation League of New York State, and as chair of the Fort Tryon Park Trust. In addition, Mr. Pierson serves on the board of the Greenrock Corporation and as president of Abeyton Lodge, Inc.
In 1994, Pierson was elected a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He is a member of the Fund’s Pocantico Center and nominating committees. He and his family have a local residence in Columbia County, New York.
“From the first time Joseph came for a visit to Olana, we could tell that he noticed and appreciated everything, and with his strong background in historic preservation, had insights that we knew would be of great value to us,” said Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “The fact that his grandfather Nelson Rockefeller had been responsible for saving Olana from the auction block in the early 1960s made it all the more fitting that Joseph might join the board.”
On Sunday, October 30, 2011, Olana State Historic Site ended its 43rd visitor season, and changed over to its winter schedule (Friday through Sunday). Over 132,000 guests visited Olana in the past year, one beset with an abundance of rain, gasoline prices that threatened to hit $5 during peak travel season, two hurricanes and an October nor’easter. In December of this year Olana will mark another milestone as Linda E. McLean closes her last year as director at Olana State Historic Site, ending an almost 40-year museum career with New York State.
McLean completed a master’s thesis on the photograph collection at Olana, working with then director Richard Slavin, and her abiding interest in Olana and American art developed from that point on. She joined the staff at Olana as Director of Education, stepping up to acting director when Slavin left to accept a post in Cooperstown. In 1980 McLean was offered and accepted a position of Director in her own right at the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Westchester County, and remained there until 2000, when she returned as Director at Olana State Historic Site, filling the position vacated by the late James Ryan.
When asked why she was retiring at this point she answered without hesitation. “We have completed all the major parts of the comprehensive plan that was adopted when I first arrived. We have restored the full exterior of the building from the brilliant stencils around the cornices to the bricks and stone of the walls; the roof will be completed this coming summer. We have opened the second floor for touring, restored wall papers, opened a very successful gallery space, restored carpets, textiles, making rooms come alive with the color and beauty that until now had only been known to Olana’s first residents. There are now six restored buildings in use on the property with plans for the restoration of the rest of the barn complex. Overall we have leveraged several millions of dollars in the restoration of the site, the WHOLE site; collections, buildings, and the landscape. And if the years and work at John Jay Homestead are included, the list gets richer, better and longer. It has been a wonderful journey and I have met and had the privilege of working with some amazing people. With the completion of the comprehensive plan, a new Commissioner in Albany and new plans for the whole system of parks and historic sites, it is time to turn the page and turn the site over to a new director, someone who can harness the technology of the 21st century to take Olana through its next round of planning and beyond.”
“And,” McLean added,“it is now time for me to explore the world much as Church did as he gathered ideas for his great works. This is my time to “follow the road less traveled” and see where this next journey takes me. I have been very lucky to have been part of two spectacular historic sites and worked with the people who made them what they are. I have been most fortunate to complete my career at Olana, working to restore it to the grandeur that it knew as the home of artist Frederic Edwin Church. But more important to do this work in the community where I grew up, for the people of a community that nurtured me in my youth and gave me the foundation that allowed me to experience a 40-year career in a field I have loved from the beginning. Now it is time to move on, Church once said, about an hour south of Albany is the center of the world, and I own it, well, I can say, about an hour south of Albany is the center of the world and, for a while, I too, could call it my own.”
Linda is the fourth director for Olana State Historic Site. A successor has yet to be named. At this time all efforts in her office and at the historic site are focused on wrapping up the 2011 season and preparing for what will be a new chapter at Olana State Historic Site. “On behalf of the board and staff of The Olana Partnership, I want to thank Linda for her dedicated service to Olana,” stated Sara Griffen, president of The Olana Partnership. “She has been a true partner these last several years, a trusted colleague and supportive collaborator. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
Photo: Main house at Olana. Courtesy Linda McLean.
The weekend of September 24 and 25 offers two unique opportunities to enjoy the landscape at Olana State Historic Site. On Saturday, September 24, author and geologist Bob Titus will lead a Hudson Valley Ramble Walk at Olana starting at 2 p.m. On Sunday, September 25, Lin Fagan will lead a walk starting at 9 a.m. Both groups will meet at the Olana Visitor Center at the top of the hill and continue their respective walks from that location. The tour on Saturday has a $5 vehicle fee per car as the cost of admission; the tour on Sunday is free of charge.
Professor Robert Titus has held several very popular Hudson Valley Ramble Walks at Olana. This year his walk entitled “Unplanned Views” will circle Olana looking at the dramatic views that artist Frederic Church took advantage of as he laid out his landscape. Titus will point out the views and then describe their geologic histories with a series of dramatic readings describing moments of time in the geological past that brought these views into being for Mr. Church. Reservations are required for this walk and it is limited to 20 persons; plan for two hours in the landscape with easy to moderate walking. Please wear clothing and shoes suitable for walking outside on shale paths and woodland areas.
On Sunday, Lin Fagan will conduct a tour with a focus on the landscape and the wildlife, particularly the bird populations. Fagan, an Olana volunteer for over 20 years, is a long-time member of the Audubon Society, an avid hiker and birder who has travelled all over the United States. She will bring to bear her particular expertise in looking at the landscape and enjoying all that surrounds you. When not travelling or volunteering at Olana, Lin can most often be found hiking and birding in the Shawangunks in Ulster County. Her tour will include the landscape, the gardens, and Ridge Road. A loop around the lake can be added to the walk for those who are interested. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for walking outside.
For both walks, bring cameras, binoculars, sketch pads, water, and a pure joy for the landscape of the Hudson Valley. Reservations are required for both tours; please call 518-828-0135 between 9 AM and 5 PM Tuesday – Sunday to reserve a spot on one or both of these walks in the landscape.