More than five decades before Jack Williamson coined the term “terraforming” during the Golden Age of science fiction, preeminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Church was doing it as a natural extension of his own art. “I am busy landscape architecturing!” he declared happily in an 1887 letter. The 250 acres surrounding Olana were his extended canvas every bit as much as the Moorish-style house itself, and restoring that immediate landscape to the way that Church left it at his death in 1900 has been one of the most ambitious long-term projects of the Olana Partnership.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Olana’s purchase for preservation purposes when it was threatened with destruction in 1966, the site is introducing regular guided public tours of Olana’s historic landscape – both on foot and via an open-air electric vehicle, so that even the mobility-impaired can get a firsthand look. “You get to put your body into the painting,” says consulting landscape architect Thomas Woltz.
Guided group landscape tours will take the visitor to key locations along Olana’s carriage roads, commencing this Friday, May 20 and continuing for the 2016 season through Sunday, November 6. These new tours present Olana as an integrated work of art, architecture, conservation, agriculture and landscape design, composed by Church to include a working and ornamental farm, varied architectural elements, an “artificial” lake, native woodlands and more than ﬁve miles of carriage roads.
Those who prefer exploring at their own pace, instead of with a group, can download a new cellphone app that provides a self-guided version of the tour. Several specialty events and hikes in the landscape will also be offered to highlight this inaugural season, including exploring the night sky during the Skyscape Series, combining patterns of steps and breathing during Breathwalk, a number of Artful Hikes, a Geology Walk and the annual Barry Hopkins Run.
The Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 Route 9G, a bit outside of the City of Hudson. For more information, visit www.olana.org.