The Hudson River School of painters popularized a romantic notion of the Hudson Valley, making its grand and uncommon beauty tangible for the kinds of New York City types who would later travel to its various mountain houses.
In honor of the beloved landscape, Frederic Church, a leading artist in this group, made his home in 1871 at Olana, a Persian-style mansion he designed with the architect Calvert Vaux, and named after an ancient treasure house. Church also designed the grounds, so as to maintain ideal views of the Hudson, Catskill, and Taconic mountain ranges. After Church’s death the Olana estate was passed down to Church’s son and from there on down family lines. Keeping the mansion and land among those close to the artist’s family has ensured that the interior decor and stunning vistas have remained in their original condition, maintaining the feel of a living painting in the Hudson River School style.
Today, the mansion and its 250 acres of land act as a museum to the artist and his placid style, and the site has been designated a New York State historic site. Visitors, ignoring trucks crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge or cars revving down 9G, can try to experience the Hudson Valley as it appeared to Church. Olena is still furnished much as it was before his death in 1900 and contains a number of his works. Fans of both art and nature will be at home in this living museum.