The most dramatic efforts to save Olana began in November 1964, when it came to public attention that an intact home and studio of a 19th century American painter was in imminent danger of being auctioned off by the heirs of Frederic Church’s daughter-in-law. Key events in this ultimately successful battle appear in the timeline.
But the saving of Olana is actually a timeless process that began when Church decided to create an Edenic world of forests, a lake, and stunning vistas on some treeless land that had been depleted by poor farming practices. Carving roads and the foundation for his villa out of the rock, Church restored natural beauty to the landscape, in the same way that his architect Calvert Vaux, together with Frederick Olmsted, had created a romantic “natural” landscape in Central Park, a decade earlier.
When Church died, Olana was bequeathed to the son who had been caring or the estate and farm, Louis Palmer Church. Together with his wife, Sally, the Church descendants preserved Olana until Sally’s death. After the estate was rescued from Sally Church’s heir and turned over to New York State for stewardship, the state, together with The Olana Partnership, have worked together to preserve and restore the villa and designed landscape. The most significant challenges in saving Olana have originated beyond its borders, posed by 20th and 21st century encroachments in the viewshed, including a planned nuclear power plant, a cement factory, and a looming cell phone tower. So Olana continues to be saved, as a national historic landmark for the people of New York State and nature and art lovers around the world.