Olana State Historic Site, the home and studio of eminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church. A designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state, Olana hosts annual exhibitions from spring to fall in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery on the second floor of the main house. Olana is open all year round for house tours and self-guided landscape tours. The site allows for a plethora of recreational activities like hiking, picnicking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing, kayaking and non-motorized boating—all available seasonally along with programs and special events.
History of Olana: The House and the Grounds
Olana’s 250-acre naturalistic landscape is one of Frederic Church’s great works of art, and it exists today as one of the most intact artist-designed landscapes in the United States. Because it was created by a major Hudson River School painter in the birthplace of that art movement, the landscape at Olana possesses an exceptional sense of place. Church was intimately involved in all aspects of his landscape’s creation and design. His large-scale composition included a working and ornamental farm, meadows, outbuildings, an “artificial” lake, native woodlands, and more than five miles of carriage roads, so that visitors could move through and experience Olana’s crafted foreground against a backdrop of sublime and far-reaching views.
The main house at Olana is a unique mixture of Victorian architectural elements and Middle-Eastern decorative motifs. Stylistically, the building is a villa with an asymmetrical massing of towers and block masonry punctuated by fanciful windows and porches. The irregular silhouette of the exterior contrasts with the more regular rhythm of rooms arranged around a central hall. On the exterior, Middle Eastern motifs are carried out in colored brick, wood, slate, ceramic tile and especially stenciling. Together, the various motifs and themes create a unique artistic unity, one that is difficult to categorize.
“To wander the property firsthand is the only way to fully admire the natural elegance of this historic landscape. Alone, visitors could spend an entire day exploring the main house—the details of the decor so refined, yet so easy to overlook on a brief tour.”
—Andrew Frey “The City of Hudson & Beyond: A Day Trip to Columbia County” New York By Rail
A Top Pick from Don Wildman
“Olana State Historic Site (pictured on the cover) is a short drive away, across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and through the town of Catskill. Olana, where Cole’s student Frederic Edwin Church flourished, is simply one of the most remarkable historic homes in the nation. Inspired by their travels through the Middle East, the Churches designed a thrilling showcase of Persian and Ottoman influences. It is appropriately poised over the sweeping view, the kind that inspired the art that afforded him such prosperity.”
Click here for more of Don Wildman’s top museum picks across New York State.
How to Get to Olana State Historic Site
Where to Stay in Hudson
Looking for a getaway opportunity? Spend the night and experience all the Hudson area has to offer. Book a room at Wm. Farmer and Sons—just up the street from Basilica Hudson—and spend the weekend experiencing rich history, cultural hotspots and amazing views with the New York By Rail two-day itinerary, City of Hudson and Beyond. Read about the itinerary and other great places to visit here.