There are three things I know about Frederic Edwin Church:
1. He was a celebrated artist of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting.
2. He designed and built Olana, a Persian-style palace.
3. He rocked the mutton chops.
As much as I'd like to discuss the curious stylings of 19th century grooming, I feel I should focus on Olana, being that it is indeed an oddity found upstate, in the town of Hudson, to be exact.
Freddie's inspiration for Olana came to him after several visits to the Middle East. In 1870, he hired an architect and went to work having a dream home built on his expansive hillside property overlooking the Hudson River. Seeing it in the distance is impressive, but the true artistry of his masterpiece is best experienced up close.
The exterior is covered in intricate stencils, brick, stone and tile work, all designed by Church.
Even on the overcast day I visited, the color was as vibrant as if it had been applied only days before.
Did you know that the six-pointed star (generally recognized as a symbol of Judaism), can be found in ancient Islamic and Christian lore? There were many such symbols worked into the design.
Olana was Church's last masterpiece. During the the first few years of its creation, beginning in 1870, Church became afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis making it almost impossible to paint. As a result, he put most of his artistic energies into the evolving design of Olana. Over the years, he had a new wing built to accommodate his family and to display his growing collection of world art.
I imagine him sitting on the deck in the summer, stroking his formidable whiskers whilst sipping an iced tea and enjoying the spectacular views of the Hudson Valley.
The interior is equally impressive to behold - every room has been embellished with intricate designs and many of Church's paintings are on view. I wasn't permitted to take any indoor photography, but if you happen upon the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, why not take it over the Hudson River...
...and ring the bell at Olana, so you can see it for yourself! The tour guides are super nice and knowledgeable.
You can also take a virtual tour here.