Frederic Edwin Church is born.
Frederic Church designs a 250-acre landscape and, with Calvert Vaux assisting designs and has built a villa on the highest point of the property. The villa, an eclectic mélange of Moorish, Italian and Persian elements, overlooks the Hudson River, a few miles south of Hudson, New York. Frederic and Isabel Church spend much of their time at Olana, raising their four children.
April 7, 1900
Frederic Church dies in New York City and is buried in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was born and raised. His will leaves Olana to his son Louis.
Louis Church marries Sally Baker Good. The two have no children.
Louis Church donates thousands of his father’s sketches to the Cooper-Hewitt in Manhattan. This collection, the largest of Church works in the world, joins works by Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran previously donated to the Hewitt sisters for their museum.
Rip Van Winkle Bridge is built, spanning the Hudson River from Olana to Thomas Cole’s house in Catskill. The original design of the bridge would have required destruction of Cole’s house and grounds, but Cole’s heirs prevailed and the bridge was rerouted to the north.
November 3, 1943
Louis Church dies in the villa at Olana, leaving Olana to his wife Sally.
Russell Lynes describes the Olana villa in the Tastemakers.
Oliver Larkin describes the Olana villa in his survey Art and Life in America.
David Huntington spends four months in Hudson researching Olana for his dissertation on Church
Nelson Rockefeller becomes Governor of New York State.
The old Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan is demolished.
August 17, 1964
Sally Church dies, leaving Olana largely intact. Her will leaves most of her estate to a nephew, Charles Lark, who has served as her lawyer and is her executor.
Thomas Cole House in Catskill auctions off what is left of Thomas Cole’s work.
After Sally Church’s will is probated, her executors arrange for the estate to be liquidated. The villa and grounds are put on the market, Church’s collection of paintings shipped to Parke-Bernet in New York City, and an auctioneer retained to sell the other contents of the villa.
The art world learns that Olana will imminently be sold off and a group is formed to save it. With David Huntington taking the lead, the group persuades the executors to put off the auctions and give them time to raise funds to purchase Olana while they lease the property from the Sally Church estate.
The group persuades Alexander Aldrich to become president of a 501(c)(3) corporation that will raise the necessary funds. Aldrich asks Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy to form the corporation, to be named Olana Preservation, Inc. To purchase Olana, $470,000 will need to be raised. Additional funds will need to be raised to pay for leasing the property from the estate and operating expenses.
Olana Preservation, Inc. begins raising funds from wealthy families, including the Rockefellers in New York and DuPonts in Delaware.
Plans for a traveling exhibit of Church paintings and sketches is commenced.
Milbank assists with contract for publication by George Braziller of the first monograph on Church, The Landscapes of Frederic Church.
December 31, 1965
While some funds had been raised, by the end of 1965, the balance in the checking account for Olana Preservation Inc is only $12,904.93.
March 23, 1966
Legislation is introduced for New York State to acquire Olana.
Olana becomes a National Historic Landmark
Article in Life Magazine, “Must the Mansion be Destroyed?” is published.
June 23, 1966
Olana bill passes legislature.
June 27, 1966
Rockefeller signs bill into law at Olana. The bill allows the NYS Education Department to buy Olana from Olana Preservation Inc. for up to $477,000.
June 30, 1966
Olana Preservation Inc. exercises option to buy Olana from estate and is obligated to raise funds for closing by July 29, 1966.
July 25, 1966
Frank McCabe arranges short-term loan of $180,000 to Olana Preservation, Inc., which is needed for the closing to cover the shortfall in fund raising.
July 29, 1966
Olana Preservation Inc. takes title to Olana.
October 1, 1966
New York State Historic Trust is created, replacing the Education Department in negotiations with Olana Preservation Inc.
December 13, 1966
Olana estate transferred to the New York State Historic Trust, in exchange for $189,000, which is used to pay off the loan arranged by Frank McCabe.
May 18, 1967
New York Council on the Arts presents award to Olana Preservation, Inc.
June 3, 1967
Olana State Historic Site officially opens to the public.