The Thomas Cole House: Birthplace of the Hudson River School

Nicole Anderson

Nicole Anderson Magazine

Fig. 1. Thomas Cole house; courtesy Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

The English-born artist Thomas Cole (1801–1848) tolerated no ill comparisons to his adopted home in upstate New York. As he wrote to a friend in 1842: “Must I tell you that neither the Alps nor the Apennines, no, nor even Aetna itself, have dimmed, in my eyes, the beauty of our own Catskills?”

The Hudson River Valley—with its undulating peaks, rushing waters, dense forests, and crystalline light—served as the artist’s muse, raison d’être, and home for much of his life. His work inspired a generation of landscape painters, and a visit to his home in the town of Catskill—now the Thomas Cole National Historic Site—is a must for all who love and admire the art of the Hudson River school.

Cedar Grove, as Cole called his homestead, sits on a bluff above the Hudson that offers westward views of the northeast range of the Catskill Mountains—an escarpment known as the Great Wall of Manitou. The property is open to the public from May through October. Guided tours are offered, but visitors can stroll the grounds on their own. Wander through the Federal-style house where Cole and his family resided, then explore the restored “old studio,” now brimming with his easels and tools, and the “new studio,” recently reconstructed to Cole’s design, which serves as a gallery for special exhibitions and lectures.

Artist’s rendering of the West Parlor by Manuel K. Tan, 2017.

Recently, a new discovery was made: Cole’s decorative painting in the main house, the earliest-known interior painting of its kind by an American artist. Buried beneath layers of paint for more than a century, the artist’s painted borders were uncovered during the meticulous restoration of the first floor. Such details—along with a multimedia installation featuring Cole’s words and artworks—help bring the Hudson Valley’s most beloved painter back to life.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site; 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414; 518-9437465 thomascole.org