Tag Archives: Olana State Historic Site

Spring Walk at Olana Features Landscape, Wildlife

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.

Forum: 1979 Hudson Valley Nuclear Decision

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.

Olana Partnership Elects New Trustee

Richard Sharp, Chairman of The Olana Partnership, has announced the election of Joseph A. Pierson to the board of trustees.

“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.”

At Olana, The End of a Season and an Era

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.

Walking Tours of Olana Landscape

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.

Landscape Photography Workshop at Olana

The Olana Partnership will host a two-day landscape photography workshop, Growing your skills beyond the snapshot phase, on Saturday, September 17 and Sunday, September 18 from 1-7:30 pm at the Wagon House Education Center at Olana. Photographer Greg Miller will teach participants how to blossom from a snapshot shooter to a photographer who makes compelling photos that elicit strong emotional reactions. Participants will learn about proper lighting, technical vs. artistic skills, composition, equipment, and technique, and will have an opportunity to shoot intimate scenes and vistas in Olana’s picturesque landscape.

Cost of the workshop is $75 for Saturday only or $125 for both days for non-members, and $50 for Saturday only and $100 for both days for members of The Olana Partnership. An additional $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as tickets are available. Register now while space is available. Contact Sarah Hasbrook, education coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

Greg Miller’s books include The Hudson River: A Great American Treasure (Rizzoli, 2008) which was selected for the “2008 Editors’ Favorite Books of the Year” list by The Bloomsbury Review. Miller’s second book, Panorama of the Hudson River (SUNY Press, 2009), was commissioned by Open Space Institute and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. His selected permanent collections include the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington D.C. (five prints), and Catskill Regional Medical Center (eighteen prints), to name a few. Miller was selected to be a 2009 “Artist in Residence” for Acadia National Park and was a finalist for the “2003 Photography Now” award from The Center of Photography at Woodstock. In addition, Miller is a workshop leader for the Center of Photography at Woodstock, and photography tour leader for the Adirondack Photography Institute. More information and photographs can be found on Greg Miller’s website

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency- the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation- the Educational Foundation of America- the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Photo: Hudson Valley by Greg Miller.

Olana Offers Painting Workshop Aug 17-19

The Olana Partnership will offer an adult workshop Mixed Media Painting with the Impressionists this Wednesday, August 17 through Friday, August 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wagon House Education Center. Learn the basics of watercolor, oil pastels and acrylic paint with artist Patty Tyrol. Discover how to layer and build up surfaces through mixed media. Participants will be inspired by Olana’s picturesque views as they work in the landscape.

Patty Tyrol is an artist who received her BFA and MA in printmaking from SUNY New Paltz. Tyrol has taught adults and children at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and in public school settings. Tyrol has been making prints and teaching for 30 years. Most recently, she was the artist in residence at the National Seashore in Provincetown, Cape Cod where she worked and produced a body of cyanotype work that will be shown in November at Unison’s Water Street Market Gallery in New Paltz.

Cost of the workshop is $15 per class, or all three classes for $40 for members of The Olana Partnership, or $20 per class or all three classes for $50 for non-members. Register by contacting Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 State Route 9G in Hudson, NY 12534.

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency- the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation- the Educational Foundation of America- the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

The eminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) designed Olana, his family home, studio, and estate as an integrated environment embracing architecture, art, and landscape. Considered one of the most important artistic residences in the United States, Olana is a landmark of Picturesque landscape gardening with a Persian-inspired house at its summit, embracing unrivaled panoramic views of the vast Hudson Valley.

Olana State Historic Site, a historic site administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, development and improvement of Olana State Historic Site. To learn more about Olana, please visit www.olana.org.

Olana Civil War Event: Rally Round the Flag

The 77th New York Regimental Balladeers will present a free concert of music popular during the Civil War along with letters and commentary from and about the war. The music starts at 2 PM on the East Lawn at Olana State Historic Site on Saturday, August 13, 2011. There is a $5 per car fee at the entrance to the park- bring your own blankets and chairs- the concert is from 2 – 4 PM.

The 77th New York has appeared many times at Olana, each time to an enthusiastic response. This year, their performance is part of the Sesquicentennial observances of the Civil War taking place throughout the country. The 77th New York will provide a look at the war from a musical perspective. Dressed in authentic reproductions of historic uniforms and costumes, the 77th New York provides a musical and narrative story of both sides in the painful and bloody conflict

The Civil War is of importance to Olana because of its relevance to Frederic Church, his art, and his family. While Church did not fight in the Civil War, he supported it financially- some of his greatest works, like Icebergs and Cotopaxi, were produced during this time. He and his family, like so many in this country, suffered the deaths of dear friends in the conflict. Long time friend and author Theodore Winthrop was lost in one of the first battles of the war- later friend and fellow Connecticut artist John Jameson died at the infamous Andersonville prison camp.

Currently, an exhibit, Rally ‘round the Flag: Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War, is featured in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery. The exhibit explores the Civil War connection to the artist and the country- it also provides a look at the paintings and a career cut short by the conflict, the works of Church’s young friend and artist, John Jamison.

Olana Third Thursdays Curator Tours

The Olana Partnership and the Olana State Historic Site have announced the remaining Third Thursdays Curator Tour Series. The Curator Tour Series provides an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes opportunity to experience Olana under the guide of its curatorial staff. Tours will showcase Olana’s latest exhibition in the Evelyn & Maurice Sharp Gallery and include a component that focuses on Olana’s artist-designed landscape.

These tours are held on the Third Thursday of each month from 5:30-7pm. Each tour will feature its own unique theme and explore many of the various influences that impacted Frederic Church and his design of Olana.

Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership explains that the tour series evolved out of an interest from the community to have more one-on-one time with our curatorial staff: “We have inaugurated this series in response to frequent requests that we offer more in-depth tours, whereby visitors can study the landscape, objects, and architecture in a more leisurely fashion – we hope this provides a new opportunity for the public to enjoy the riches of this magnificent site.”

The series also features wine tastings from some of the regions that had the deepest influence on Frederic Church and his work.

The remaining 2011 tour schedule is as follows:

August 18: Creating a Composition: Frederic Church applied his artistic talent to so much more than his monumental paintings. Olana can be seen as a three-dimensional artistic composition – a living landscape painting he spent decades perfecting. Olana’s curators will lead visitors through the property sharing the many artistic compositions created by Church, from the careful artistic arrangement of objects in the home’s interiors, to the painterly scenes he created outdoors through his own landscaping efforts.

September 15: Influences on Design: The development of the Persian-inspired house grew out of the artist’s experiences in the Near East and the inspirations found in the many books and photographs that he collected during his travels. The artist was also impacted by contemporary trends in American architecture and landscape design. Both these influences permeate the work he continued outside his home in the development of the outbuildings and the landscape. The curators will explain how these sources combined with Church’s own intensely personal artistic expression at Olana.

Space is limited. Tickets are $40 for members of The Olana Partnership, $50 for non-members. To reserve, please call (518) 828-1872 x 103 by the preceding Wednesday. Tours are subject to cancellation without minimum registration. The Behind-the-Scenes Curator Tour is also available for private functions upon special request and availability.

Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534.

Olana Presenting The Life of Emily Dickinson

The Olana Partnership will present “To See a Summer Sky,” a one-woman theatrical performance based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Excerpted from William Luce’s play “The Belle of Amherst,” on Saturday, July 2 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. The performance will take place at Cosy Cottage, the first home of Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church located in the historic farm complex at Olana State Historic Site.

The production, performed by Triple Shadow actress Mari Andrejco as Emily Dickinson, and directed by Beth Skinner, focuses on Dickinson’s quiet life of transcendent reflection. Dickinson’s poems were inspired by a circumscribed world of home, garden, and village of Amherst. Andrejco says the play is “created for family audiences and allows them to learn about Emily Dickinson as if they were living at that time period (1830-1886).”

Triple Shadow creates visual theater challenging artistic boundaries, revealing the interconnectedness between human cultures and nature. The collaborative process is intercultural and interdisciplinary, affecting audiences in sensory and subconscious ways creating new perceptions of time and memory.

Mari Andrejco trained with Sanford Meiser at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. She has performed in Europe, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. Andrejco has done stage acting, television, and video including appearing as Queen Elizabeth I and Susan B. Anthony for PBS. She has worked with Shakespeare and Company, Triple Shadow, and the Pleiades Company and has taught at the Institute for Arts in Education in the Albany schools.

Beth Skinner has premiered ten productions at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City with support from the theater programs of National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as grants from NEA Opera and NEA Presenting Program. The company has toured in Egypt, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Canada, and Indonesia and collaborated with artists from Japan, China, Korea, Hungary, Romania, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia.

The performance will take place at Olana State Historic Site 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY.

Cost of the play is $5.00 per person for non-members and free for members of The Olana Partnership. A $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (fee is waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as house tour tickets are available. Please bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating. For more information contact Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

This program is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency- the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation- the Educational Foundation of America- the John Wilmerding Educational Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.