Reconstructing Thomas Cole’s New Studio

Our Executive Director, Betsy Jacks, documents the behind-the-scenes journey to recreate Thomas Cole’s self-designed New Studio.

The Grand Opening! May 2, 2016

Photo by James Autery

Photo by James Autery

On Sunday May 1, the grand opening and official ribbon-cutting for the New Studio took place at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Pictured here, left to right: Anne Miller, Chairman of the Capital Campaign Committee; Lisa Fox Martin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, George Amadore, State Senator; Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director; and John Mesick, Architect.


Finishing Touches November 25, 2015

At last the beautiful, hand-made, bright green shutters have arrived. The architect John Mesick designed them to be exactly like the originals, with smaller louvers on the top half of each shutter and larger louvers on the bottom half. The color was taken from two sources: one is a pencil drawing by Frederic Church from 1848 in which he indicates the colors in his hand-written notes on the drawing. The second is from a recently discovered painting of the building by Charles Herbert Moore, which will be on view inside the New Studio as part of the 2016 exhibition that will open on May 1, 2016.

Photo by Elizabeth Jacks, November 25, 2015

Photo by Elizabeth Jacks, November 25, 2015


Preview for Supporters Coming Up September 9, 2015

On Saturday September 19th we will open the doors of the New Studio for the first time for a special preview for everyone who has donated to the campaign. This is a truly thrilling moment for all of us. Please donate now and join this incredible celebration. Cocktails will begin at 5 pm, followed by remarks by the building’s renowned architect John I Mesick at 5:30. The event is free for anyone who has donated to the campaign at any level. Become a part of this historic moment.



The New Studio Hits The New York Times August 10, 2015

The lovely reporter, Eve Kahn, visited us a few weeks ago and just fell in love with the New Studio. As luck would have it, the exterior scaffolding had just been taken down, and the exterior painting just completed, revealing the beautiful little building in its full glory at last. She exclaimed, “It combines grandeur with adorableness!”, which I had to agree with. Here is her wonderful article that appeared in print today: Thomas Cole’s Art Studio to Be Recreated. 


Siding, trim! May 11, 2015


The construction crew of Dimensions North continued work through the weekend to get up the siding and trim along the roofline. Every day the building looks more and more like the photograph.  The 2015 photo is taken from the south-east corner, while the 1900 photo is taken from the north-west.




Barge Board of Solid Mahogany March 25, 2015


Over the winter, while the rest of us were wondering if the cold weather would ever end, the construction crew at the New Studio have been busy. With the building closed in and insulated, even the below-zero weather did not slow them down. On New Year’s Day, the cellulose insultation was blown into the wall cavities. The VESDA (Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus) was installed, along with the security system. The stainless steel pipes for the high-pressure mist fire suppression system were laid into the attic. A large sample of the “barge board” was created and approved by the architect. In the photo at right, the head contractor Rich Rappleyea shows off the woodwork sample, made of solid mahogany so that it will last at least 50 years. Now, with the weather turning at last, the crew will turn to work on the exterior once again.


Cast in Silver January 26, 2015


Right now, the New Studio looks as if it were made of solid silver. The building has an unusual construction: the plywood sheathing is on the inside, attached to the wooden studs from within. The insulation, therefore, was added from the outside. What you are seeing in the photo at right is the foil coating on the insulating foam board. Underneath that layer is cellulose insulation, in between the studs. Very soon, the contractor will be putting on the siding. I’m sure the siding will be beautiful, but I do like the solid silver monument that it is right now.


The Roof Takes Shape October 9, 2014

We brought in a crane this week and lifted the trusses into place. The building is taking on its final shape in this video:


Meet the Project team September 23, 2014


As this building goes up, a team of architects and enginners are overseeing every step. Pictured at right are (left to right):

Mark Dahl, architect from Mesick-Cohen-Wilson-Baker Architects; Betsy Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site; Rich Rappleyea, owner of Dimensions North, the contractor on the project; Stephen Dunn, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and head of the Building Committee; and Curtis Wilsey, engineer from Quantum Engineering.


Walls! And They are Tall September 17, 2016


As I walked down the path to the New Studio construction site today, I was amazed to see a giant wall stretching into the sky. The building is taking shape. Two of the four walls are now up, and two enormous west-facing windows are framed. In the picture at right, I am standing in front of one of them. In Cole’s time, those windows would have framed an uninterrupted view of the Catskills. As I approached the building I was struck by how small the people looked in relation to the scale of the building, and it occurred to me that this was part of Thomas Cole’s design – the smallness of man. It was a beautiful sight. Do come and see this for yourself.

P.S. Don’t you want your name to be on the donor wall? Support the New Studio.


Thomas Cole’s Stones August 20, 2014


This week I am happy to report that the foundation has been poured and the stonework on the exterior is almost complete. In the photo at right, you can see the stones being cut and carefully put in place. During the excavation of the site, the original foundation stones were saved, washed and stored on pallets. A skilled stone mason is now placing them on a concrete shelf that was built into the poured concrete foundation. The concrete portion, which you can see now, will be covered with earth when the building is complete.


The Footing Is In July 14, 2014


Construction on the New Studio is now in its second week. Today the concrete footing was poured in the morning so as to be sure to get it in before the afternoon thundershower. Rich Rappleyea, our GC, was there early to be sure it all moved along quickly. The crew was fast! The wood form was completely done by the time the cement truck arrived. Shown in the photo at right is the footing at the north-west corner and a portion of the entrance portico as it juts out.


We Officially Broke Ground Today on the New Studio  July 3, 2014


We broke ground today on the reconstruction of the New Studio! It is a day that many people have been thinking about for a long time. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on the lawn next to the foundation stones with remarks and congratulations followed by a photograph with the shovels.

In the photo above are:

Rowena Sahulee, Director of Tourism Marketing at I LOVE NY.

Vincent Seeley, Mayor, Village of Catskill.

Joseph Kosloski (behind Vincent), Legislator, Greene County.

Stephen Dunn, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Warner Shook, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Lisa Fox Martin, Board Chairman, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Stephen Shadley, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

John Mesick (behind Stephen), Architect.

Rose Harvey, NY State Parks Commissioner.

Nina Matis (behind the shovel), Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Carrie Feder, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Linda Gentalen (behind Elizabeth), Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Hudson Talbott, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Peter Lopez, NY State Assemblyman.

Michel Goldberg, Trustee, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.


Ground Breaking Event July 1, 2014

Come to the Groundbreaking Event on Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 10am

We’re on our way! Join us for the official start of the project to reconstruct Thomas Cole’s New Studio. Giving remarks at the event will be Rose Harvey, New York State Parks Commissioner; Peter Lopez, New York State Assemblyman; John Mesick, the project’s architect; as well as Betsy Jacks and Lisa Fox Martin of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.


Historic Photographs February 12, 2014


Over the past decade we’ve been collecting any and all known photographs of the New Studio building, built in 1846 and demolished in 1974. Because the demolition was so recent, we are hoping that additional photographs will surface. Do you have or know someone who has an image of the building? If so, please contact us! Here are some of the images we’ve obtained so far. The sepia-toned photograph at right shows the building in a state of extreme disrepair, but the image is not dated and we have no information about the date. Below are two other photographs, but again with no date. Both of them show the building set among the trees of an old orchard, atop a grassy knoll. All of the known images show the building from this same angle — from the northwest looking southeast. The west facade has two enormous windows that face the Catskills. The north facade has an entrance porch. We have yet to find a single image of the east facade of the building.




The New Studio Project Gets Underway January 15, 2014


It is with great excitement that we publicly launch the project to reconstruct Thomas Cole’s New Studio! This page will be continually updated with the latest news as the project progresses, and it will serve as a source for the history of the building, surviving historic photographs, etc.

To begin, we would like to share with you a photograph of the building from 1964 — an image that we just became aware of this week. It had never been seen by our staff or the project’s architect until now. The leaves are off of the trees, allowing a clearer view of the north-facing porch and entrance. By this time, the delicate arched trim work from the eaves of the building is missing, as are the shutters on the west-facing windows, but the wooden acorn detail is still visible on the corner of the roof line.

For contrast, included here below is a photograph from around 1900. Thomas Cole’s daughter Emily can be seen near the entrance portico, giving you an idea of the scale of the building. Our reconstruction will painstakingly follow Thomas Cole’s original design, as seen below.


Jennifer GreimReconstructing Thomas Cole’s New Studio