Through hidden audio and moving-graphics presentations, visitors can hear the thoughts of Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and the historic conversations that took place in the parlors of his 1815 home, where America’s first major art movement, the Hudson River School of painting, was founded. In November 2016, Senator Schumer visited the site to reveal Thomas Cole’s original handpainted decorations that have been uncovered on the walls of the historic Main House as a part of this project.
After Thomas Cole moved into the Main House in 1836, he completely redecorated the two parlors and the entrance foyer that connects them, transforming the interior spaces according to his vision of a stylish environment for displaying his paintings.
As part of this dramatic redecoration, Cole himself painted elaborate decorative borders around the circumference of both the East Parlor and West Parlor, using pigments and paints that only he — as a fine artist on the cutting edge of paint-making — would have had access to. The decorative borders were first discovered in the fall of 2014, having been buried beneath over a century of paint. The borders have been restored and will be on view with the opening of The Parlors in May 2017.
“The Parlors positions the Cole Site at the forefront of 21st-century presentations of historic properties,” said Elizabeth B. Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. “It combines meticulous scholarship with immersive storytelling to bring history to life for contemporary audiences.”
Storytelling with technology
The East Parlor has been restored to the way Thomas Cole designed it — with bright grass-green walls and an elaborate painted border up near the ceiling. At first glance, the room appears as a static furnished interior; however, the framed paintings on the walls reveal a multi-media presentation that uses Cole’s own words — taken from his written journals and letters — to provide a window into what drives him as a person and as an artist.
In the West Parlor, also fully restored to Thomas Cole’s own design, visitors have the opportunity to encounter three conversations between Thomas Cole and his patrons, revealing provocative content about landscape, beauty and art.