Tour of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York

Thomas Cole, founder of The Hudson River School, the first major art movement in America that inspired Bronxville’s great landscape artists, proclaimed, “The Hudson, for natural magnificence, is unsurpassed.” On September 23, 2018, members and friends of the Bronxville Historical Conservancy enjoyed that very magnificence — and a good deal of camaraderie — on a day trip on the Hudson River to tour the artist’s studio and home, now a national historic site in Catskill, New York.

For more than two hours, passengers on board the Seastreak fast ferry enjoyed the Hudson’s beauty, taking in historic landmarks on both sides of the river. The ship’s three levels of seating included an open upper deck and two enclosed lower levels with expansive windows for optimum viewing. In addition to the breathtaking views, passengers enjoyed con- versation, cards, and a hot lunch before disembarking in Catskill for buses to Cole’s house and studio.

The tour included the artist’s 1815 federal-style home, and two artist studios. The larger studio, originally designed by Cole in 1846, was demolished in 1973 and rebuilt in 2015. Today it includes a museum-quality gallery where participants viewed paintings by Cole and other invaluable artwork from the 19th-century Hudson River School. The smaller studio, built in 1839, remains on the site. Restored in 2004, this smaller barn-like structure is furnished with Cole’s original easels and other tools and appears as though the artist has just stepped out. Cole’s writings are also prominently displayed throughout the exhibit and include personal letters and published poetry.

At the conclusion of the tour, the group boarded buses back to the ferry for the return ride home. Cruising home on the Hudson, passengers en- joyed wine, cheese, and a light supper while continuing conversations inspired by the tour. Commenting on Cole’s work, Judy Unis, tour chairman, said, “The struggle between preservation and progress is a recurring theme throughout Cole’s artwork and writings. He wanted desperately not only to capture, but also to preserve the natural beauty of his Cedar Grove home in Catskill and the Hudson Valley he so dearly loved.”

About the author

The Bronxville Historical Conservancy was established in 1998 to further the understanding and appreciation of the history and current life of the Village of Bronxville, New York. The Conservancy furthers its mission through the presentation of programs, publications, lectures, and special events that foster an awareness of the Village’s architectural, artistic, and cultural heritage and lends its support for projects designed to strengthen and preserve those legacies.