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The Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York, marks the place where this nation’s first major art movement began. Thomas Cole’s profound influence on America’s cultural landscape inspires us to engage broad audiences through innovative educational programs that are relevant today.

Your encouragement means the world to us. A gift of any amount helps make possible everything we achieve. Read about our innovative year in the 2021 newsletter and browse our in-person and online arts programming available now.

All donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. You can make your gift here online or by mail to the Thomas Cole Historic House, 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414. Thank you so much for your generosity towards this place we all love.


The Educational Program Endowment

A gift to the Program Endowment is a gift that gives forever. The Program Endowment provides a permanent source of income for all of our educational programs, including school programs, the Cole Fellows program, art exhibitions, free community events, our lectures series, and more.


Making Your Gift a Lasting Legacy

Many of our supporters have already left a gift to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in their wills or estate plans to help preserve this historic place for future generations, and you can too. If you have already included the Thomas Cole Site in your will, please let us know. We can’t wait to thank you.

To talk about your goals and any questions please reach out to Jennifer at jgreim@thomascole.org.


Important Information

Legal Name: Thomas Cole Historic House
Mailing Address: 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414
Tax Identification Number (EIN): 27-0599147

The Program Endowment that supports educational programs at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this the programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

rootThank you for being a part of this community

Old Studio

This studio is the where Thomas Cole created many of his major works. The building was restored in 2004 and is now furnished with his original easels and other art-making equipment and tools.

 

Do you know that I have got into a new painting Room[?]  Mr. Thomson has lately erected a sort of Storehouse and has let me have part of it for a temporary painting room; it answers pretty well, is somewhat larger than my old one and being removed from the noise and bustle of the house is really Charming – what shall I be able to produce in it heaven knows – the walls are unplastered brick with the beams and timbers seen on every hand – not a bad colour this pale brick and mortar.  I am engaged upon my great Series. 

Thomas Cole to Asher B. Durand, December 18, 1839. NYSL, Cole Papers, Box 1, Folder 4

 

When/By Whom it was Built:

Begun in early 1839, and overseen by John Alexander Thomson and Thomas Cole. Information about the team of people who built the structure is not currently known.

 

By Whom it was Designed:

Thomas Cole and John Alexander Thomson. Click here for the 2022 exhibition catalog, in which scholar Annette Blaugrund discusses a letter revealing Thomas’s role in designing the building.

 

The Other Half of the Building: Storehouse

During Thomas’s residency here, the property consisted of 110 acres of farm fields and orchards. The east half of this building was the storehouse, a crucial part of the farm operation. It was likely in this building that harvested and saleable crops (hay, oats, corn, barley) were stored. Today, this east half of the building is the Site’s Visitor Center and Gift Shop.

 

Enter Thomas Cole:

Immediately after his marriage in 1836, Thomas Cole worked in the Main House itself. But in 1839, he was able to move to this building, a larger and more private space. He considered this new building to be “a temporary arrangement,” for he hoped to build a new house with a studio inside. The house was never realized, and instead he painted here for seven years. Thomas painted many of his most important works here, including the Voyage of Life for his patron Samuel Ward, as the ceiling was high enough to accommodate large canvasses. A fireplace permitted Thomas to work in any season, and he added a large skylight-like window to admit northern light, the preferred light for painting. Thomas welcomed visits from his family to the studio: as he worked, Maria, who married Thomas, read to him and offered advice, and the Cole children often visited. The Old Studio also afforded space for grinding pigments into paint, constructing stretchers, stretching canvasses, and fitting pictures into frames. Painting at this time involved a lot of hard physical labor—active, smelly, and frequently messy.

 

Painted Here: “My Great Series”

Among other works, Thomas pained The Voyage of Life series in this space. Click here for more about the series.

 

About Contemporary Artwork On Site:

This property has long been an inspiration for artists. In addition to Thomas Cole, family members Sarah Cole (1805-57) and Emily Cole (1843-1913) were both practicing artists; and many others visited here to see the place where Thomas lived and worked. We seek to continue this tradition of living artists actively working in and being inspired by this site, by working with artists through OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. This annual series of curated contemporary artist installations is located within, and in response to, the historic home and studios of artist Thomas Cole. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across centuries. Exhibitions and artworks have ranged from those that literally reference Thomas’s iconic works to those that expand on issues and themes relevant to Thomas, including art, landscape, history, and balancing the built and natural worlds. OPEN HOUSE projects shed light on the connections between nineteenth-century American art and our contemporary moment. Click here to see the current or upcoming exhibition in the series.

 

How to Explore:

In the warmer months, the Site has regular open hours, and you can purchase a ticket to explore the historic interiors. In the colder months, the Old Studio (and Main House) are open for private tours by appointment. Click here to find out more. Also, check out 360 Explore, a virtual walkthrough of the historic interiors.

 

 

I am still a Youth in imagination + build Castles still.

Thomas Cole to Asher B. Durand about the “Voyage of Life” series, March 8, 1842, New York State Library, Thomas Cole Papers, Box 1, Folder 5

 

Image: Charles Herbert Moore, Old Studio, c. 1860s. Oil on canvas, Thomas Cole National Historic Site.
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Main House

In 1815, siblings Thomas, John Alexander, and Catherine Thomson had this house built for themselves and their extended family. It has stood here since that time. Cole-family descendants lived here through the 1970s, after which time the house was neglected. It passed through several hands before the Greene County Historical Society assumed ownership in 1998. The house/site is now owned/operated privately by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

 

I arrived here in February last after an absence of nearly 12 years [in South America] in good health and flourishing circumstances having realized my full expectations as far as regards the accumulation of wealth […] Alexander has […] commenced building a very comfortable House on the Hill for the Family which I trust will be ready by next Dec.

Thomas T. Thomson in Catskill to his sister Maria Thomson Bartow in Canada, May 17, 1815. Albany Institute of History and Art, Thomas Cole Collection, CV553, Box 1, Folder 11.

 

When/By Whom the House was Built:

Begun in 1814, and overseen by siblings Thomas, John Alexander, and Catherine Thomson. This house was built by a group that likely included enslaved persons. We know that the Thomsons enslaved people from at least 1790 up until at least 1817. For more, check out the research of two of our Cole Fellows, Adaeze Dikko and Beth Wynne: Regarding the Free, Black woman documented as a Cedar Grove Resident and Contextual Research on the Unnamed, Free Black Woman and Other Laborers at Cedar Grove.

 

Architectural Style:

Federal (of the period after the American Revolution when a federal system of government was being developed). It is characterized by symmetry, high ceilings, the bald eagle visible in the window over the front door, and features inspired by ancient Greek architecture.

 

Enter Thomas Cole:

Thomas Cole moved into the house after he married into the Thomson family: Maria Bartow (1813-1884) married Thomas in 1836. Thomas himself never owned the house.

 

Who Lived Here During Thomas Cole’s Residency (1836-48):

Maria and Thomas lived here along with many other family members and hired laborers. During Thomas’s time here, the number of residents at the property ranged from 11-14, and this included a free Black woman recorded on the 1840 census. This household of people acted as a support system to Thomas, enabling him to produce his artwork and support the household with his earnings. Click here for the in-progress list of people who resided here at the same time as Thomas Cole.

 

Title Holders:

After John A. Thomson passed away in 1846, ownership of the property passed to a succession of Bartow and Cole women, who were both titleholders and stewards of the property. We are ever in debt to their remarkable efforts to preserve it. For a glimpse into their stories, check out A Feminist’s Guide to the Thomas Cole Site.

 

Reinterpretation Efforts: 

We believe that the stories of those who lived here are key to telling the histories of this property. In 2017, we installed the first phase of these efforts with The Parlors, combining scholarship, restoration of the interiors, and technology-driven storytelling to immerse visitors in Cole’s world and thoughts. As we move forward, we seek to shine a spotlight on those who lived here with Thomas, and who made his pursuit of a career in the arts possible.

 

Restoration of the Interiors: 

Click here to view the 2019 Historic Structures report.

 

About Contemporary Artwork On Site:

This property has long been an inspiration for artists. In addition to Thomas Cole, family members Sarah Cole (1805-57) and Emily Cole (1843-1913) were both practicing artists; and many others visited here to see the place where Thomas lived and worked. We seek to continue this tradition of living artists actively working in and being inspired by this site by working with artists through OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. This annual series of curated contemporary artist installations is located within, and in response to, the historic home and studios of artist Thomas Cole. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across centuries. Exhibitions and artworks have ranged from those that literally reference Thomas’s iconic works to those that expand on issues and themes relevant to Thomas, including art, landscape, history, and balancing the built and natural worlds. OPEN HOUSE projects shed light on the connections between nineteenth-century American art and our contemporary moment.  Click here to see the current or upcoming exhibition in the series.

 

Artworks by Thomas Cole Made Inside the Main House: 

Upon Thomas’ marriage to Maria Bartow, he used a small room on the second floor as a studio space. It later became the children’s bedroom. In that room, Thomas painted:

  • View on the Catskill—Early Autumn, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Departure, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • The Return, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • View of Florence, The Cleveland Museum of Art
  • View of the Arno, Near Florence, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
  • Dream of Arcadia, Denver Art Museum Collection
  • Elevation of State House, Columbus, Ohio, (architectural drawing), Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower, National Gallery of Art (NGA)
  • Past, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
  • Present, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
  • Tower by Moonlight, Thomas Cole National Historic Site
  • View of Schroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm, The Cleveland Museum of Art
  • A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Landscape with Tower in Ruin, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH
  • Multiple studies for The Voyage of Life series, National Gallery of Art, DC; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute

  

How to Explore:

In the warmer months, the Site has regular open hours, and you can purchase a ticket to explore the historic interiors. In the colder months, the Main House (and Old Studio) are open for private tours by appointment. Click here to find out more. Also, check out 360 Explore, a virtual walkthrough of the historic interiors.

 

I often look at our house and think, how wonderful that so much of happiness should be comprised in that little spot.

Thomas Cole to Maria Cole, undated letter from the Mountain House, New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Thomas Cole Papers 1821-1863, SC10635, Cole Family Letters, Box 4 Folder 4.

 

 

Image: Charles Herbert Moore, Untitled (Cedar Grove), 1868. Oil on canvas, 5 7/8 x 9 1/4 in., Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Gift of Edith Cole Silberstein. 
rootMain House

Thomas Cole’s New Studio

This studio is where Thomas Cole painted for the last fourteen months of his life. He designed the structure in 1846. The building was demolished in 1973, and reconstructed in 2015.

 

I am now sitting in my New Studio which is about completed though the walls are not quite dry. I have promised myself much enjoyment in it and great success in the prosecution of my Art, but I ought ever to bear in mind that ‘the day cometh when no man can work.’

Thomas Cole, Thoughts & Occurrences entry, December 25, 1846

 

When/By Whom it was Built:

Built in 1846 under the direction of Thomas Cole. Information about the team of people who built the structure is not currently known. The 2.2-acre plot on which this was built was the only land on the property that Thomas owned, having purchased it from his uncle-in-law, John A. Thomson.

 

By Whom it was Designed:

Thomas Cole designed the structure, and his architectural drawings still survive. Click here for the 2022 exhibition catalog in which scholar William L. Coleman discusses Thomas’s design, process, and goals for this structure.

 

Other Buildings Designed by Thomas Cole:

  • Saint Luke’s Church, Catskill (demolished 2001). It stood at the current site of the County Building on Church and Water Streets
  • Contributed designs for the Ohio State Capitol building. While he was not the official architect, the designs he submitted in a contest ended up being heavily used.

For more about Thomas’s architectural pursuits, check out the 2016 exhibition catalog, Thomas Cole: Artist as Architect.

 

Architectural Style:

Designs for this building changed over time from an Italianate villa (or in Thomas’s words, “a sort of Italian looking thing”) to what became a studio. For the latest scholarly research about this building, see the exhibition catalogs Thomas Cole: Artist as Architect and Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration.

 

Reconstruction:

The original building was torn down in 1973 after falling into disrepair. After many years of research the building was reconstructed in 2015. For a behind-the-scenes look into at the process, click here. Also check out this publication.

Modern Building

  • Contractor: Dimensions North, Richard Rappleyea, located in Catskill, NY
  • Fire Suppression System uses water mist
  • Archaeology was done to find the original footprint of the building
  • Landscape was designed by Robert Toole
  • Architectural drawing by John Mesick of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects
  • Materials: Cedar shake roof, clapboard siding, interior maple floors, acrylic storm windows

 

Today:

The interior of the New Studio features a state-of-the-art exhibition space for displaying changing exhibitions, and its open floor plan provides a flexible space for lectures and educational programing. The building enables the Thomas Cole National Historic Site to effectively serve as a catalyst for the burgeoning national and international interest in 19th century American landscape painting, an outstanding destination for visitors to and residents of the Hudson Valley, and a resource and inspiration for future generations of scholars, collectors and artists.

 

An Inspiration For Generations:

Maria aimed to honor her departed husband’s artistic legacy. She kept the New Studio as Thomas left it for many years, allowed other artists to visit, and rented his studio to other artists. Maria helped to spread his legacy by helping others to experience his work and this place. For decades little changed at the property, which was maintained consistently by the family into the twentieth century, as one reporter in 1871 described it, “like a shrine.”  After Cole’s passing, artists Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey, and Charles Herbert Moore sketched Cedar Grove, including glimpses of the “new studio,” the only such images that survive before photographs from the turn of the century.  After his visit, Cropsey wrote this moving description of the space:

 

After breakfast we were invited to the studio. It is a new building about 1000 yards from the house, large and commodious, with a neat little porch and a wide open hall before entering the painting department. It is built in the modern florid style. We Entered; it seemed as if Mr. Cole would be in in a few minutes for every thing remains as when he last left painting. The picture he last painted on yet stands on the Easel, The brushes he painted with that last day are there; his paint table looks as when he was there – There too is the sketches upon the floor, and standing by the Easel as he left them – There are his books, his writing table, portfolios, and in short I felt like asking, “when will Mr. C be in,” Though the man has departed, yet he has left a spell behind him that is not broken, as you may sit there upon the sofa, and look upon his works, we will feel more than ever the devotion, genius and spirit of the man. Every thing breaths so much candor of will, truth of purpose, and love of the refined and beautiful, that we feel a kind of reverence there, we instinctively feel like taking off our hats, when we enter although He is not there.

 Jasper Cropsey to Maria Cropsey, July 7, 1850, Newington Cropsey Foundation

The artwork that Thomas Cole left behind in his studio when he died suddenly at the age of 47 in 1848 shaped the course of American art. The exhibition, Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration, reassembled many of those significant works, and explored how Thomas’s example so powerfully affected the evolution of art in America.

 

Emily Cole:

This studio was also used by Emily Cole (1843-1913), daughter of Maria and Thomas. Emily was a professional artist known for her botanicals and hand-painted china. She was just five years old when her father passed away and grew to share her father’s focus on nature in her artistic practice. Emily lived here her whole life and made a living selling her art. Emily was the focus of the 2019 exhibition, The Art of Emily Cole.

 

Art Made Here:

Check out the exhibition catalog, Thomas Cole’s Studio: Memory and Inspiration for research regarding what Thomas created in this space, and what was left here at the time of his sudden death in 1848.

 

How to Explore:

In the warmer months, the Site has regular open hours, and you can purchase a ticket to explore the special exhibition inside the New Studio (and historic interiors). In the colder months, we host our annual lecture series. Check our schedule here.

 

[…] my earnest desire is to see [Art] presented in such a form that none shall be deprived of its pleasures and benefits. That Art shall be exposed, free as air, to every citizen, high or low, rich or poor.

Thomas Cole, Lecture on Art, c. 1845

 

rootThomas Cole’s New Studio