Image by Teresa Golden

Olana, Home of Frederic Church

View from Olana
Image by Teresa Golden

View from Olana

Olana, Hudson, NY
Image by Teresa Golden

Olana, Hudson, NY

Episode 124: Olana

On this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley , Carolyn Keogh joins us to talk all that Olana offers including some of the programs that are available. Carolyn is the Director of Education and Public Programs at The Olana Partnership and an experienced museum educator and administrator working with school, youth and family audiences. A graduate of New York University, she also has a Masters degree in Art History at City College. She came to Olana from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she was the Manager of School, Youth, and Teen Programs, overseeing gallery and studio programs, coordinating professional development for educators and assisting with teaching and curriculum development.

Olana, located in Hudson, New York, is the greatest masterwork of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the most famous American landscape artist of the mid-19th century and the most important artist’s home, studio, and designed landscape in the United States. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with five miles of carriage roads and a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces beautiful panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.

Frederic Church is well-known as a painter, but he was also a world traveler, a family man, and a self-taught architect, farmer and landscape designer.

Born in Hartford, CT, Frederic Church was the son of a silversmith with interests in milling, insurance, real estate and railroads. Showing early artistic talent, Church’s parents arranged for him to study with Thomas Cole in Catskill, New York. Cole had already established himself as an important landscape painter, and Church studied with him between 1844 and 1846. The following year, Church moved to New York to begin his independent career. He was very well-traveled in New England, including Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut. He went to South America, in 1853 and 1857, along the cordilleras of the Andes, to see equatorial volcanoes.

Church achieved success in his twenties and attracted important patrons. Even after Olana became his primary residence, he maintained an active presence in New York City, where he was a part of the art community. In 1860, he married Isabel Mortimer Carnes.

Church purchased 126 acres of hardscrabble farmland on a south facing hillside a few miles south of the town of Hudson, a sketching spot he had visited twenty years earlier in the company of Thomas Cole, his teacher. Although Cole had died in 1848, his family still lived just across the river, in Catskill. Frederic and Isabel boarded with the Cole family while working with architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a small house. They called it “Cosy Cottage” and the couple moved in by the early summer of 1861. Acting as both a farmer and a landscape artist, Frederic improved the land. He planted crops, established a dairy herd, transformed a swampy area into a lake, and planted thousands of trees. He built a studio on the highest point of land he then owned, and there he made sketches of the views and worked on larger compositions.

After spending 18 months visiting Europe and the Middle East, the Churches returned to New York in 1866 and purchased an additional 18 acres at the top of their hill, where the house, eventually named ‘Olana’ is sited. They eventually moved into their new home in 1872 and raised four children there. Although they were frequent visitors to New York City, Olana was their primary home.

The Olana State Historic Site, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, is a designated National Historic Landmark. It is one of the most visited landmarks in New York State, consisting of breath-taking views, informative tours and educational programs.

Hosts: Jean Thomas and Teresa Golden

Guest: Carolyn Keough

Photo by: Teresa Golden

Production Support: Linda Aydlett, Teresa Golden, Timothy Kennelty, Xandra Powers, Annie Scibienski, Robin Smith



Xandra Powers
Community Horticulture Coordinator
518-828-3346 x106

Last updated June 17, 2024