Majesty On The Hudson: Artist Frederic Church’s Olana House Gets Its Own Book

Rizzoli has published a photo book about the famed Hudson River School landscape artist's historic 19th-century home.

Olana House
An aerial view of the main residence at Olana, looking south along the Hudson River, with the Catskill Mountains in the distance. (Steve Cohen)

My wife and I owned a beat-up Honda the last several years we lived in Brooklyn—and I can’t begin to explain how freeing having it was. That car was our one-way ticket out of dodge whenever we needed a break from city life. And our destination was always the same: somewhere Upstate. We drove to Bear Mountain (hiking), Woodstock (on our anniversary), Haines Falls (Selena’s Diner), Beacon (the Dia), Hyde Park (Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home) and Cornwall (Storm King Art Center)—anywhere where we could get a little slice of quiet and culture. 

In 2016, we ended up going on a permanent upstate jaunt, landing in Troy. One of the first post-move day trips we took the following summer was to the Olana State Historic Site in Greenport (maybe we’d avoided it because it sounded too much like our old neighborhood, Greenpoint?). I remember stepping inside of artist Frederic Church’s 19th-century, Persian-inspired home and studio—the main attraction on the sprawling, 250-acre estate—and immediately feeling a kinship with him: He was a collector like me.

Olana House
The Churches’ collections of objects from the Middle East and Mexico, as well as their old master paintings, are on display throughout the house, as seen in the Studio at Olana.

Each room had its own Metropolitan Museum of Art’s worth of rarities and oddities from around the world—including a number of Church originals—and every inch of space seemed to be accounted for. There was also the majestic view from his porch, overlooking the Hudson River and all the greenery that surrounds it, which I snapped a photo of and squirreled away on Instagram. It was one of the only times in recent memory when I can remember thinking, “I’m going to come back here again someday.”

For Capital Region residents, Olana should be added to your Upstate bucket list, stat. But for those of you who might have to book a train or flight to experience its majesty, allow me to offer a more economical option: the brand-new Frederic Church’s Olana On The Hudson: Art, Landscape, Architecture (Rizzoli, New York), which includes a comprehensive history of the famed Hudson River School artist’s digs, courtesy of Editors Karen Zukowski and Julia B. Rosenbaum, as well as a number of multi-season, panoramic photographs, shot by Larry Lederman both inside the Olana house and on its grounds. My guess is this book will merely act as a catalyst; you’ll make the trip to Olana one way or another. Simply looking at the book is making me want to escape life again, even if it’s no longer from Brooklyn any more.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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