Accessibility at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Everyone is welcome at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and we are committed to enabling all visitors to experience the place where American art was born.  Currently, two out of three of the buildings on campus are wheelchair-accessible and we are in the planning process of augmenting the third building. Until this is complete, we provide printed materials that describe and depict the exhibits that are not yet fully accessible. Additional information is provided below on accessibility services.

Wheelchair Access

Thomas Cole’s 1839 Old Studio and Visitor Center is handicap accessible through the main Visitor Center entrance. This barn-like structure includes Cole’s painting studio where he worked from 1839-1846 and created many of his most iconic and celebrated works. Furnished with his original easels and painting tools, it is arranged as though the artist has just stepped out. This building also features a Visitor Center and gift shop where visitors can watch a short introductory film about Thomas Cole while seated. The Old Studio, which is the last stop on the guided tour, can be accessed through the Visitor Center entrance. Please let your tour guide know if you prefer to use this entrance.

Thomas Cole’s 1846 New Studio is also handicap accessible through the side entrance. This building was originally designed by Thomas Cole and was built in 1846, but demolished in 1974, before the site became a museum. The New Studio was reconstructed according to Cole’s design and re-opened in 2016. Today, the space features a museum quality gallery with annual special exhibitions of 19th century landscape paintings and hosts the innovative lecture series, the Sunday Salons. The main entrance has two small steps up, but the side door has a ramp. If you prefer to use the side door, ask the Visitor Center staff to call over to the New Studio, and the gallery attendant can open the door and greet you.

The Main House is currently not wheelchair-accessible but the site is working through fundraising and planning to install an elevator. The federal-style house was built in 1815. Thomas Cole lived here with his wife Maria Cole, their children and Maria’s family from 1836 until Cole’s death in 1848.  Today, the first floor of the artist’s home features the immersive installation, The Parlors, which combines a multimedia experience with meticulous historic restoration. The second floor includes period and Cole original furnishings, Thomas Cole’s artworks and objects, and features the exhibition “Mind Upon Nature: Thomas Cole’s Creative Process” which is primarily drawn from the Cole Site’s collection. The main floor and second floor are only accessible through flights of stairs. Modern chairs are kept throughout the house for visitors who wish to sit down. For guests who are not able to access the Main House, please see the Visitor Center Associate for an exhibition guide to “Thomas Cole’s Creative Process” and to view The Parlors digital presentations on a computer.

Our Guided Tour consists of a 45-50 minute structured tour of the Main House and the Old Studio. The New Studio can be seen without a guide either before or after the Guided Tour. The site also offers “Explore at Your Own Pace” ticketed hours which are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2 pm – 4pm in May and 2 pm to 5 pm, June through October. “Explore at Your Own Pace” provides visitor’s access to the 1839 Old Studio, the 1846 New Studio, and the 1815 Main House and allows for more flexibility to explore the site in a way that works best for you. You also may simply explore the grounds and visit the outside of the buildings at no charge. The grounds include gravel paths and the parking lot is standard asphalt and includes a number of handicap spaces.


Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The experience of visiting the Thomas Cole site includes several multi-media displays, one of which includes audio. The 6-minute audio-visual display in the East Parlor of the Main House is transcribed in a printed hand-out so that visitors can read what is being said. The multi-media presentations in the West Parlor are silent – there is no audio component.

Please feel free to reach out at 518.943.7465 if you have any questions and please check back for announcements on improving our accessibility.

Jennifer GreimThe Thomas Cole National Historic Site Accessibility