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A Photographic Journey to the Hudson River School of Painting – Part II

September 4, 2011

After our initial visit to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Kaaterskill Falls, described in Part I of this blog, Margot and I decided to return for a two-day stay in Haines Falls, New York, which lies a few miles west of Bastion Falls on Route 23A. From there, it is a very short drive to North Lake and South Lake, where there are trails leading to the site where once had stood the Catskill Mountain House and to Sunset Rock. These are the sites numbered 6 and 7 on the Trail Map for the Hudson River School Art Trail that we had picked up at the Thomas Cole house, and were inspirational for Cole and other members of the Hudson River School of Painting.

The Catskill Mountain House

From the parking area at North Lake, an easy trail less than one-half mile long leads uphill to the former site of the Catskill Mountain House. The Catskill Mountain House  opened in 1824 and was America’s first mountaintop resort hotel. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the hotel was a favorite destination of wealthy and socially prominent Americans and was visited by three U.S. presidents. It sat at an elevation of 2,250 feet above sea level on the edge of an escarpment facing east with a vast panoramic view of the Hudson River and landscapes extending to Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont as well as New York. The hotel later fell on hard times and an effort to renovate it in the 1950’s was unsuccessful. In 1963, it was burned to the ground by the New York State Conservation Department, over the protests of preservationists, on the ground that it violated the New York Forest Preserve’s “forever wild” policy. However, the famous view remains for all to see:

View from the former site of the Catskill Mountain House

(Click on any image in this post to see a larger version.)

We also took a longer and more difficult trail to the north and west around the edge of the escarpment to Artist Rock and Sunset Rock. From Sunset Rock there is a magnificent view to the southwest and west that encompasses North-South Lake, Hunter Mountain and other mountains, and the site of the Catskill Mountain House:

View from Sunset Rock

View from Sunset Rock

Here is a view of this scene, from a slightly different direction, painted by Jasper Francis Cropsey in 1855. Note the location of the Catskill Mountain House about halfway up the escarpment:

Catskill Mountain House, by Jasper Cropsey, 1855

We also paid a visit to site number 3 on the Trail Map. Located in the town of Catskill itself, on an overpass over the Catskill Creek along what is now Route 9W, the site affords a view of the creek similar to that seen in a number of Hudson River School paintings such as this one by Frederic Edwin Church:

Scene on Catskill Creek

Here are a couple of my photos of the creek as it looks today:

Catskill Creek

Section of Catskill Creek

Unfortunately, from this location we could not see the mountains in the background, which are visible in Church’s painting.

We then traveled back across the Hudson River via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to Olana, the home of Frederic Edwin Church. Church was a student of Thomas Cole and a leading member of the Hudson River School. His home is a Persion style mansion that sits high atop a prominent hill from which there are commanding views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, such as this one:

View of the Catskill Mountains from Olana

Olana is open to the public and there are regular tours of the house and the frequent exhibitions available to be seen there.

Our trip to Olana concluded our self-guided tour of sites on the Hudson River School Art Trail. Other photos relating to our tour of these sites and to the Hudson Valley region generally can be seen in the Hudson Valley Gallery on my website.

I should also mention that during our two-day stay in the Catskill area, we stayed overnight at the Rosehaven Inn, a beautiful and meticulously maintained B&B located in Haines Falls just off Route 23A, which we highly recommend.

We could not leave this area without a visit to the town of Hudson, New York, which lies on the east bank of the Hudson River just a few miles north of Olana and is my favorite town in this part of the country. The main street in Hudson is Warren Street, a gorgeous avenue that stretches for several blocks down to the edge of the river and features beautiful architecture, antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes, including the Cascades Cafe. This street and cafe were the principal locations for a short film entitled The Man at the Counter shot in September and October of 2010, for which I had the pleasure of serving as the production stills photographer during the initial days of shooting. This is how Warren Street appeared to me at sunrise on the first morning of shooting, as the crew was setting up for the initial takes:

Early morning on Warren Street, Hudson, New York

The Cascades Cafe is located on this block. Here is a shot of the front of the cafe which I took a little later the same morning:

The Cascades Cafe

My experiences shooting production stills for The Man at the Counter will be the subject of a future posting in this blog.

For additional examples of, and information about, my photography, please see my photography website and my photography Facebook page.

Phil Haber

Copyright © 2011 Philip A. Haber

  1. Great post and photographs!

  2. Thanks for writing on this, I enjoyed the posts. I also love exploring new places with this kind of cultural or historical thread to guide and frame the experience. I made a similar (albeit shorter) journey last spring to Hudson River School sites of interest to film and take photographs for my multimedia educational website about Thomas Cole and The Course of Empire
    I wrote a short blog about my trip here:

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