When Frederic Church died in 1900, Olana was willed to his youngest son Louis Palmer Church. The following year Louis married Sarah Baker Good (known as “Sally”) and the two of them lived together at Olana. After Louis’s death in 1943, Sally stayed on at Olana until her death in 1964 at the age of 96. She was the last Church family member to inhabit the estate, and she willed the property to her nephew, Charles Lark. In the mid-1960s, the Hudson River School had not yet seen the revival of its popularity, and Olana was seen as a curious remnant of the Victorian era. Lark planned to sell the land and auction off the contents of the house, including all of Frederic Church’s art. The art historian David Huntington had for some years been researching Frederic Church’s art and had been visiting Olana. He learned of Mrs. Church’s death, and after ensuring that her nephew would give him a little time, began to contact individuals who might be able to assist. Olana Preservation, Inc. was formed and began the two-year task of raising funds with which to purchase the property and contents of the house.
At the end of the two-year period, Olana Preservation, Inc. had raised over half the funds necessary to purchase the property, but was unable to raise the full amount. Lark made arrangements to have the contents of the mansion put up for auction, and to sell the property to a developer. At that moment, in September of 1965, Life Magazine ran a story on Olana, with the title “Must this Mansion be Destroyed?” This galvanized local and national attention. By June, 1966 the New York State legislature under Governor Nelson Rockefeller had passed a bill authorizing the purchase of Olana, with Olana Preservation contributing the funds it had already raised. Olana opened as a New York State Historic Site in June, 1967.
Olana Preservation, Inc. disbanded, but several of its key members rejoined to start the non-profit Friends of Olana in 1971, which changed its name to The Olana Partnership in 2000. The Olana Partnership continues to play an integral part in supporting New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s efforts at Olana.
Read more about David Huntington’s efforts in “The Campaign to Save Olana,” edited by Dorothy Heyl, which can be purchased in The Olana Museum Store.
The Olana Partnership (TOP)
a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, development and improvement of Olana State Historic Site.
Mission for The Olana Partnership (TOP)
To inspire the public by preserving and interpreting Olana, Frederic Church’s artistic masterpiece.
Vision for Olana
The fully restored Olana, vibrant with the activity of students, visitors, scholars and artists, will be the most widely recognized artist’s home and studio in the world.
The Olana Partnership (TOP) is committed to on-going operational support for the site, including:
• TOP provides on-site curatorial and archival staff.
• TOP staffs the Wagon House educational programs.
• TOP provides landscape maintenance workers.
• TOP manages the gift store.
• TOP manages a membership program.
• NYSOPRHP manages the guide staff, the landscape maintenance staff and the security staff.
• NYSOPRHP administers the daily operations of the site.
• NYSOPRHP funds utilities.
Board of Trustees
Meredith J. Kane
David B. Forer
Robin M. Key
Richard N. McCarthy
Janet R. Schnitzer
Members of the Board:
David H. de Weese
Meyer S. Frucher
Kate C. Gubelmann
Belinda K. Kaye
Kelly M. Williams
Washburn and Susan Oberwager President:
Sean E. Sawyer, Ph.D.
Immediate Past Chair:
David N. Redden
Kay Toll, Chair
Robert R. Beard
Elizabeth Jacks Scott
Jazz Johnson Merton
Chas A. Miller, III
John L. Moore
David N. Redden
Olana National Advisory Committee
J. Winthrop Aldrich
Leslie Greene Bowman
Linda S. Ferber
Barry R. Harwood
Laurie Norton Moffatt
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr.
Olana National Council
Stuart P. Feld
Marshall Field, V
James L. Johnson
Mark F. Rockefeller
Fiona may be a new volunteer, but her relationship with Olana has been nearly lifelong. She first visited when she was six or seven years old, and her parents like to point out that she showed little interest in the spectacular art surrounding her at the time. Fortunately, her appreciation of Olana has grown through the years and she began volunteering at Olana this past summer. She has been an immense help to Olana staff and visitors at several of our educational programs including the Live in the Landscape evenings and the Plein Air celebration.
As an Art History major at Simon’s Rock College, Olana has taken on a new significance for Fiona. “I started volunteering at Olana to gain a better understanding of what working in a museum setting would be like. Volunteering for Olana has been a great experience that has deepened my appreciation for art and sharing art with others. On my first day, I had just finished a seven hour shift at a different job. Instead of feeling tired and sluggish while volunteering, I was so excited to be at a beautiful place, while learning and sharing it with everyone working at Olana and park visitors. I didn’t feel tired at all- I felt inspired. The scenery alone could sweep someone away, but also being greeted by so many smiling faces of happy patrons and staff was just truly lovely. Sharing my time with the Olana community has been quite informative, and I would love to continue to work at museums where I can simultaneously learn and enjoy the spaces around me, while also sharing this beauty with others.”
We’re delighted that Fiona decided to become a volunteer at Olana and hope her experiences here lead to a fulfilling museum career.
Marty has been lending a hand at Olana for over 20 years. Olana first caught his eye in 1983 after he purchased a Victorian home in nearby Claverack. Brookbound, as it is known, was built around the same time as Olana and Marty visited to get inspiration for his total restoration. He got to know Jim Ryan, Olana’s site manager at the time, whom Marty called a “national treasure”. Their friendship resulted in Jim writing a history of Brookbound including the Aesthetic Movement furnishings from the 1880s and 1890s that Marty had collected.
For many years, Marty helped with the planning and execution of Olana’s summer parties. For the French-themed Summer Party in 2005, Marty went above and beyond by spending three days creating the “O la la” marquee. The 3 ft. tall letters, made of Styrofoam, had to be punched with hundreds of holes all around the edges so that tiny Christmas lights could be inserted into each hole. As Marty says, “people thought I was crazy to take on that project. But for Olana, I’d do anything!”
More recently, Marty has been helping behind-the-scenes at Olana with mailings. For many years, Marty owned a direct mail graphics design business that worked with the magazine and cable TV industries. One news article written about Marty’s company even crowned him “King of the Mail Heap”! Marty utilizes his expertise to help The Olana Partnership’s development and marketing team mail invitations, letters, and other publications to our members and friends.
Overall, the part that Marty has enjoyed the most about volunteering at Olana is all the wonderful people he has met over the years. We’ve enjoyed getting to know him too!
Laurie (Conine) Schmolz
You would never know it by her youthful appearance, but Laurie has been an important part of Olana since 1975!
Working at Olana was Laurie’s first summer job while attending college. She was an enthusiastic employee during the 1970’s and worked primarily as a guide. Much has changed from those days 39 years ago when Laurie was beginning her role as a guide in the House. She recalls that there were five guides in total, they were required to wear long skirts with tops that had high collars and long sleeves, keeping in the theme of the Victorian era. Tour tickets (a roll of red raffle tickets) were sold at the front door by the guides for $2 and tours were of the first floor only.
One of Laurie’s fondest memories is the “Victorian Picnics” that were held on the east lawn at Olana. Guests were encouraged to bring picnic baskets and participate in Victorian games such as wooden hoops and croquet, as you can see-she even saved a photo of such an event from 1979!
Since those early days at Olana Laurie has taken some time off to get married (husband James Schmolz) and raise two beautiful daughters, she is currently employed at the Hawthorne Valley School. Laurie continues to display her devotion to Olana by volunteering almost every Sunday.
Laure was asked if she could provide what she felt has changed at Olana since she first began working here.
She states, “It feels more vibrant and alive because of all the knowledge that we (the guides) are now provided to share with the guests. Also, there are many more people just visiting the grounds than in the past.
“To me there is no place like Olana, there is always a special feeling, a family sense is still present – a real home.”
The Olana Partnership would like to thank all of our Volunteers for their time and commitment, we could not do it without you!