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Church, Frederic E. House (Olana)

Hudson, New York
County of Columbia.
5720 Rte 9G at the east end of Rip Van Winkle Bridge
National Register Number: 66000509
Resource type: Building.
Property type: Domestic - single dwelling. The threat level was Watch in
Congressional District: NY-22 Certified Local Government: NO
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Current use/information: State Historic Site.
Web Site: http://www.olana.org/.

Statement of Significance (as of designation - June 22, 1965):
Olana is a 250-acre estate within a 327 acre park. The picturesque estate was designed by the artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). The Church’s residences on the estate include a cottage designed by Richard Morris Hunt and the mansion designed by Calvert Vaux. The estate dominates a hilltop on the east bank of the Hudson River with views west to the Catskill Mountains and east to the Berkshires. The main house was constructed 1870-74; a wing 1888-90 was designed and constructed by the artist. Frederic E. Church was one of the leading American Landscape artists of the Hudson River School. Few estates with existing artist’s studios of such authenticity remain in existence.

Olana's view shed is threatened with new construction, although this threat has greatly diminished in the past few years due to a planned program of land and easement acquisitions. The latest threat comes from the construction of a proposed cement plant to the northeast in the town of Greenport. This cement plant would be located within 3 miles of Olana, in full view of many locations on the property including the Churchs’ first home, Cosy Cottage, designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Other issues associated with the project of concern to the public include traffic, noise and air quality. The Olana Partnership, a not-for-profit friends organization, is vigorously fighting the proposal. While the Landmark also has been endangered by the severe physical deterioration of the barns and Cosy Cottage, key buildings in the interpretation of the property, the state has been processing grants to address the deterioration of the estate's secondary structures. The main house, outbuildings and grounds are in the midst of a phased restoration. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), the owners of Olana State Historic Site, and the Olana Partnership (TOP), in 2002 adopted a Comprehensive Plan charting the future course for Olana. During the 2003-2004 period, capital projects have included restoration of exterior masonry, wood trim and painted surfaces on the main house, including five distinct polychrome decorated cornices, carriage drive and view restoration, planning for the burial of all on-site utilities, planning for the renovation of Cosy Cottage, and planning for HVAC and fire suppression systems. All of these projects are fully funded and represent in excess of $3.5 million. Olana received $750,000 from a $2.5 million “Catskill/Olana Viewshed Mitigation Fund established by the Athens Generating Company as part of an agreement in 2001 with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the NYS Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. These funds are being used for a variety of historic structure and landscape restoration projects at Olana, as part of a more comprehensive historic site restoration program estimated to cost +/- $10 million and require several years to complete. The Athens Generating Company facility, located in the Town of Athens in Greene County northwest of Olana, is fully operational at this time. A federal Save America's Treasures matching grant of 250,000 awarded in 2003 will support the restoration of Olana's severely deteriorated Studio Tower and its six prominent chimneys. A federal NEH grant of $650,000 awarded in 2004 will support a new heating and ventilation system as well as a new security and fire suppression system. Additional funding has been received from the Getty Program and the State of New York.

A federal Save America's Treasures matching grant of 250,000 awarded in 2003 will support the restoration of Olana's severely deteriorated Studio Tower and its six prominent chimneys. NYS OPRHP and TOP are jointly planning a new museum/visitor center for Olana, on property adjacent to the historic estate which affords views similar to Olana’s, i.e. sweeping views of the Hudson River Valley and Catskill Mountains. The proposed new facility will be 25-30,000 sq. ft. and provide orientation for site visitors as well as exhibits about Frederic Church and the Hudson River School. Consultant planning studies are currently being prepared; no time frame for construction has been set.

Recommendation/Change since last report:
If successful, efforts on the part of the state and the Olana Partnership will have eliminated most of the major threats to the integrity of the landmark. Continued deterioration of outbuildings and landscape features, existing industrial emissions, traffic, and construction in the valley still remain as threats to the building and estate.

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