A YEAR IN PICTURES: The Transformation of Olana’s Landscape in 2015

by Melanie Hasbrook

Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator

It’s rare that construction for an Olana landscape restoration project fits so perfectly within one calendar year, but Olana’s Main House Environs project demonstrates what a difference 12 short months can make. The Olana Partnership had been awarded a $343,000 New York State Environmental Protection fund grant for this project, and the design phase was completed last year. The project focused on some key landscape and architectural elements around Olana’s main house. The Olana Partnership, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Presentation, worked closely with our consultants at Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects to fine-tune the project scope and prepare for the construction phase in 2015. Our landscape architects based their design choices on research through Olana’s archival material, and they factored in issues related to historic preservation, environmental factors, sustainability, and Olana’s use as a public park. Construction documents were developed, and the entire project schedule was based on seasonal factors throughout the year.

The Olana Partnership administered and managed this project, and we raised the required $114,000 in matching funds so that the project could proceed. This landscape transformation has proceeded on schedule, and the change between last year and this year is dramatic and fully evident: the Hudson River is once again visible from Olana’s main house, the steep slope beneath the main house has been re-established based on a sustainable and native planting plan, and the large spiraling retaining wall which elevates visitors to the front door of Olana’s main house is once again in great condition. This project was very much a collaborative effort, and we are grateful to the many people who lent their expertise over this past year, and we thank our supporters who make transformations like this possible at Olana.

Special thanks go to Cherie Miller-Schwartz of Preservation Planning & Project Management for help with grant administration, as well as to our New York State colleagues at Olana, Kimberly Flook and Tim Dodge, who helped and facilitated throughout. This project involved many people, and it was truly a public/private effort. The full extent of this restoration project won’t be fully felt until things leaf out and bloom next year, in 2016, and it’s fitting that this will all emerge during Olana’s big anniversary year — the 50th anniversary of when Olana was saved from near-destruction and entered its next phase as one of America’s great public works of art.

Photos by Mark Prezorski