The Thomas Cole Historic Site has announced that it has received a bequest of $1,000,000 from the estate of Raymond Beecher (1917–2008), a guiding light in the preservation of the Thomas Cole Site as well as countless other historic properties in the area. The newly established Raymond and Catharine Beecher Memorial Fund will be used for the maintenance of the buildings and grounds of Cedar Grove, the 19th- century home of Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole.
The bequest is restricted to funding the maintenance of the building and grounds of the Thomas Cole Historic Site, and only a portion of the interest may be used each year so that the principal will endure. Were it not for Raymond Beecher, who passed away in October at the age of 91, there might not be a Cedar Grove today. When the property was up for sale and possibly headed for demolition, Beecher put up his own money to buy the property and begin the restoration process. According to Thomas Cole Historic Site Executive Director Elizabeth Jacks, “It might not have happened without him. He led the charge. So we are delighted that his legacy lives on in a way that helps maintain the site he loved so much.”
Raymond Beecher was a soldier, educator, historian, writer, philanthropist, and public servant. He was the Chairman of the Greene County Historical Society and the Greene County Historian for many years. He was a leader in the establishment of the Vedder Library – a collection of important pieces of Greene County history. Beecher was a World War II veteran serving in both Europe and the Pacific. He wrote several books and for many years wrote a weekly column in local newspapers. He was declared a “Greene County Treasure” by the County Legislature in 2007.
Cedar Grove is the historic name for the Thomas Cole Historic Site, a non-profit organization that preserves and interprets the site where the artist Thomas Cole lived, worked, was married, and where he died at the age of 47. Today the site consists of the Federal style brick home (c. 1815) in which Thomas Cole resided with his family, as well as the artist’s original studio building, on five landscaped acres with a magnificent view of the Catskill Mountains.
Photo: Raymond Beecher in the grounds of his beloved Cedar Grove. Photo Richard Philp.