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Capital Region Economic Development Council Announces Historic Preservation Projects Underway at Olana State Historic Site

(May 16, 2012)

Capital Region Economic Development Council Announces Historic Preservation Projects Underway at Olana State Historic Site

The Capital Region Economic Development Council today announced The Olana Parternship, the non-profit support arm of the Olana State Historic Site, has signed its contract with the state and is moving forward with two critical historic preservation projects on the strength of $1.75 million in awards from key economic development initiatives advanced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The Olana Partnership (TOP) was awarded a $274,125 grant to restore the historic meadows and pastureland at the Olana State Historic Site, a significant tourism destination in the upper Hudson Valley, through Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative. Additionally, construction has begun on $1.5 million in essential roof repairs funded by the Governor’s New York Works initiative.

“As we prepare to celebrate Heritage Weekend, it’s important to remember that our state’s historic sites and cultural landmarks need dedicated stewardship to survive from one generation to the next,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Governor Cuomo, the Legislature and our partners at TOP are proving that this stewardship is alive and well, and I’m grateful for their recognition of Olana’s enduring contributions to New York’s prosperity and culture.”

With the assistance of the award through the Regional Council, The Olana Partnership (TOP) will implement a major aspect of Olana’s Landscape Restoration Plan - the restoration of the historic North Meadow. Designed by Hudson River School artist Frederic Church as a work of 19th-century landscape gardening, the historic 250-acre landscape is equal in historic and artistic importance to Olana’s house and collections. The completed project will restore the historic meadows and pastureland and reopen views that have been lost over the last 100 years.

“Olana’s North Meadow is a significant component of Church’s landscape design,” said Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “It was pasture land, and an important part of his agricultural operation. Its restoration will give visitors a richer understanding of Church’s grand vision, and give them that many more reasons to visit Olana.”

The project will entail the clearing of more than thirty acres of second-growth forest to restore meadows and intended views. Native species of plants and trees will be used to restore the meadow. The restoration of church's farm at Olana, and the North Meadow in particular, will provide an opportunity for the visiting public to experience the artist's vision and the working farm. In restoring the North Meadow, TOP will be reinstating native grasses that are being lost to both invasive species and other quicker-growing fescue grasses. The reestablishment of the native grasses will restore long-missing habitat for a variety of birds and small mammals.

In addition, Olana was awarded $1.5 million through Governor Cuomo’s New York Works initiative and construction work to repair the site’s roof, and preserve a key piece of history, has already begun. The project will eliminate leaks that are causing water infiltration into this unique, historic building. The project includes applying new coating over existing metal roofing and built-in gutters, installing new flashing and downspouts, selective removal and replacement of slate, structural stabilization of the Bell Tower, and repair and repainting of the roof balustrade. The project is scheduled to be completed this fall.

The grant awarded to TOP is part of a total of $785 million that was awarded last year through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) for job creation and community development projects consistent with each region’s strategic plans. The roof restoration project is part of the Governor’s comprehensive New York Works initiative to put thousands of people to work by making strategic investments to improve roads and bridges, municipal water systems, state parks and historic sites, and dams and flood control projects. New York Works will provide $89 million, leveraging $143 million in total funding, to rehabilitate state parks, representing the single largest infusion in history of capital dollars for New York's parks

Senator Steve Saland said, “I am pleased that this budget includes an infusion of capital dollars for the rehabilitation of New York’s state park system, particularly Olana which is among the most important historic sites in the state park system and a major tourism draw. Our state park system is a vital component of our regional and state tourism and the revitalization of these natural treasures will not only create new jobs but also attract many visitors to New York's parks and historic sites.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett said, “By investing in Olana through restoring this historic site back to its original beauty we are providing a boost to our local economy. I am grateful that the Capital Region Economic Development Council and Governor Cuomo have invested in this site and I look forward to working with them in the future to ensure our communities continue to flourish."

Olana was the 19th century home, studio and designed landscape of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Visited by over 150,000 annually, the 250 acre historic estate features an elaborately stenciled, Persian-inspired mansion filled with original sketches, studies and paintings by one of the mid-19th century's most famous artists. A 2008 study found the historic site has an economic impact of $7.9 million annually and supports 267 jobs in the local economy.

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.nyworks.ny.gov.

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