Monday, June 27, 2016

This Morning at Olana

Champions past and present of Olana and of historic preservation gathered outside Frederic Church's grand and exotic home this morning to commemorate the day fifty years ago when Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the Lane-Newcombe bill which authorized the state to buy the house on the hill and the 250-acre landscape that is Olana.

Many of the visionaries and the foot soldiers in the battle that was waged to save Olana fifty years ago were present for the occasion. Sam Aldrich was there, as was Trudy Huntington, the widow of David Huntington. Ruth Pierpont, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, was among those who spoke at the event. In her remarks, Pierpont pointed out that 2016 marked not only the fiftieth anniversary of Olana but also of the fiftieth anniversary of National Historic Preservation Act and New York State Historic Trust. The NHPA created the National Register of Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks, and the State Historic Preservation Offices. The New York State Historic Trust was New York's SHPO.

Sadly, the passion and zeal for preservation that rescued Olana in 1966 did not realize the same success four years later in Hudson. In 1970, the 1837 Greek Revival General Worth Hotel, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was demolished, despite urging from the Hudson River Valley Commission, a commission formed by Governor Rockefeller in 1966 to regulate development along the Hudson River, the New York State Historic Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that it be saved.

Four years later, in 1974, all the buildings along the west side of Front Street and in the greater part of the Second Ward were razed in the name of urban renewal.

But that great loss is a matter for another time. Today is the occasion for celebrating a great preservation victory.

Governor Rockefeller signing the Lane-Newcombe bill | Photo courtesy Olana

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