The Art of Architecture

The Hudson River Valley region is fortunate to have landmarks designed by notables such as Calvert Vaux, Andrew Jackson Downing, Frederick Clarke Withers and Frederick Law Olmsted. Many world-renowned landmarks came out of partnerships between these 19th century architects and landscape designers that set the style and fashion for America’s grand places.

Today we can appreciate the mission of the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance to preserve the regional legacy of the 19th century architect, Calvert Vaux. To expand appreciation of the historical value of these places, Kitty McCullough and the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance invited Franc Palaia to curate a photography exhibit that featured the historic architecture and landscape design in the Hudson River Valley. Palaia commented, “In my selection process I tried to focus on well-known, as well as lesser-known architecture to give the show a sense of discovery for the viewer.” From over 100 images, he selected 29 photographers to show 70 images for the exhibit.

Olana is a stunning example of Calvert Vaux’s partnership with Frederic Church to complete a home sited on a rise where views of the Hudson River and the landscape seems to go on forever. Photographer Paolo Nigris used drone photography to capture Olana and the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

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Photographer Paolo Nigris used drone photography to capture Olana and the sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. 

Several photographs in the exhibit feature the abandonment and ruination of these grand structures. Liz Cooke’s photography, Convalescent Home Piano Room, is a wonderful example of the architectural details in these old buildings. The photograph allows us to imagine the grandeur of this room in its prime, filled with music appreciators for an afternoon concert. Cooke has created a collection of these memorials to grand architecture and is the founder of Abandoned Hudson Valley, a website devoted to sharing ideas and images of the forgotten places in the Hudson Valley region.

CVLiz Cooke, Convalescent Piano Room
Liz Cooke’s photography, Convalescent Home Piano Room, shows items that are left behind in abandoned buildings.

Now abandoned, the Hudson River State Hospital Psychiatric Center looms above Route 9, a major transportation corridor. The iconic buildings were designed by Frederick Clarke Withers and the grounds were designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted: both were known for their pioneering work of America’s Park Movement, as well as the design for New York City’s Central Park. Monica d. Church captured the existing building on a cold morning in her photograph, Cheney Building, Psychiatric Hospital.

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Monica d. Church captured the existing building on a cold morning in her photograph, Cheney Building, Psychiatric Hospital.

Bannerman Castle is another spectacular architectural structure adjacent to the railroad corridor on the Hudson River. John Verner’s photo of Bannerman Castle shows the intricate architectural details of the structure up close.

CVBannerman Castle, John Verner
John Verner’s photo of Bannerman Castle shows the intricate architectural details up close. 

Wilderstein is an Italianate style home designed by John Warren Ritch in 1852, and 40 years later, Calbert Vaux completed a landscape plan for the grounds that were originally pasture. Wilderstein’s interiors were designed by Joseph Burr Tiffany featuring the finest decorative arts during that time, including stained glass windows. Photographer Pieter Estersohn captured one of Wilderstein’s large stained glass windows at the top of a stairwell. The window’s artistry continues to sparkle in the sunlight, providing beauty and grace to all who walk within the walls of this architectural gem.

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Photographer Pieter Estersohn captured a stained glass window at Wilderstein, one of the architectural treasures in the Hudson River Valley.

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Lifestyle section, May 10, 2020.

The Historic Architecture Photography exhibit is available for viewing online:
https://www.calvertvaux.org/index.php/online-exhibit-tour/
To learn more about the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance: https://www.calvertvaux.org/index.php/about-us/