Olana gets $350K for farm restoration
GREENPORT — The farm at Olana is a significant feature of Frederic Church’s 250-acre designed landscape. Much work has been completed in and around Olana’s main house, but attention is now being directed toward Olana’s historic farm and farm complex.
A $350,000 grant from Empire State Development to The Olana Partnership has made this possible. The Olana Partnership is administering this grant, in cooperation with the New York state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Work has commenced and will be completed before the end of this summer.
This is an initial phase of a larger farm restoration effort envisioned at Olana State Historic Site.
Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects of New York City and Charlottesville, VA were hired to develop the scope of the project and prepare the restoration plans for this first phase.
“Olana is a farm among farms,” said Sara Griffen, president of The Olana Partnership. “We’re grateful to Empire State Development for helping us to begin this restoration effort.”
Agriculture is an integral component of Frederic Church’s Olana. Church referred to Olana as “the farm” and wanted his ornamental and working landscape to be both productive and self-supporting.
This current project will begin to return the farm to the historical land-use patterns during Church’s time and set the stage for future farm restoration projects. The first phase includes a series of carefully considered improvements: selective thinning of hedgerows and invasive plants which have taken over former pasture; establishment of low native meadow grasses in the historic orchard; restoration of pastures; revealing, through the clearing of vegetation, the existing ruins of the property’s original 18th century farmhouse, the farm shed, the ice house, and the stone walls along portions of the east and north property lines; drainage adjustments, and the restoration of the Crown Hill Carriage Road, one of the carriage roads created by Frederic Church which provides singular views over Olana’s farm.
“Olana’s artist-designed farm is a public resource, not private,” said Mark Prezorski, Olana’s landscape curator. “In that regard, this restoration project presents an exceptional opportunity for the Hudson Valley.”
The question of restoring a landscape to a former time period is a challenging one. The reliable cycle of natural processes ensures that a landscape will continually change and evolve if left to its own devices. In the case of Olana, much of this highly significant and culturally recognized man-made landscape has been erased. The landscape restoration plan for Olana strikes a balance between restoring the farm complex and grounds in accordance with Frederic Church’s original design intentions, and leaving traces of former building foundations and stone walls to be discovered and interpreted as ruins in the landscape.
“Olana is part of a broader cultural and ecological narrative in the region,” said Thomas Woltz, FASLA, principal and owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. “This landscape restoration and management plan will bring authenticity to Olana’s landscape and will support local ecological frameworks. Furthermore, as a state historic site, Olana sets a very public example for responsible land management in the Hudson Valley.”
“The farm complex at Olana includes some of the first land that Frederic Church owned in the Hudson Valley, and documentation shows that this area of the property was always active during Church’s time,” said Kimberly Flook, Olana’s historic site director. “Church was incredibly proud of his farm and its produce. It’s exciting that this project will allow us to share these aspects of Olana with our visitors.”