The Waterfall House and A Stream Side Cottage sit snuggled into an area so rich in history, where legend begat fact, that the neighborhood adds another layer of wonder to an already stunning setting.
It was this immediate area of Palenville that Washington Irving borrowed in 1819 for the setting for the epic slumber and awakening of Rip Van Winkle, drawing the then-young country's attention to the area. A few years later, the first of the pioneering artists of what became known as the Hudson River School of painting were pulled here, too.
The young Thomas Cole first visited here in 1825, to sketch nearby Kaaterskill Falls and other spots. The paintings he made from those sketched moved many other artists to flock to the area to try to capture it's awe-inspiring beauty, not only on canvas but also in poetry and prose.
Their glorious works, widely reproduced in the major periodicals of the day, attracted so many visitors that they in turn spurred the popularity of grand mountaintop hotels, which became favored destinations for all the giants of the 19th and 20th century.
The famed Catskil Mountain House, in 1823 the first resort in America, was as legendary in its time as any playground of the famous and powerful today. The Mountain House, and the others that followed, like the Hotel Kaaterskill and the Laurel House, attracted Twain, Sherman, Presidents Arthur and Grant, along with nobility and notables from all over the world.
This is the real Catskill Mountains, not the vacation areas in the foothills to the southeast that long ago misappropriated the name. The justly famed Kaaterskill Falls, the tallest in New York State, rendered and made famous by all the major Hudson River School artists, is no more than four miles up the road!
The Mountain House, Hotel Kaaterskill and the Laurel House, widely famed landmarks in their day, are all gone now. The depression of the 1930's fire, and the march of time eventually brought their reign to the end, and the once imposing structures demolished. But the scenery is now even more sublime since the area has reverted to its natural state, and man made structures no longer interfere.
Asher Durand, who bought one of Thomas Cole's original three paintings of the region, painted this tribute to his friends William Cullen Bryant and Cole after the latter's passing. It show his interpretation of a spot in the Katterskill Clove, borrowing various features from different locations. It is regarded as a defining work of the Hudson River School.
Links & References
The Hudson River School Art Trail - Hike to the nearby sites made famous by the painters of the Hudson River School.
Tracking the Artists' Journey on the Hudson ( NY Times, 11/13/05 )
Cedar Grove- the Thomas Cole House in the nearby Town of Catskill, a national historic site.
This page shows reproductions of Thomas Cole's historic first three painting from this area in 1825, including one of the Kaaterskill Falls.
National Gallery of Art, 2007 Exhibition on Asher Durand
Kaaterskill Falls - from Wikipedia
The Wadsworth Atheneum's renowned Hudson River School collection, the finest of its kind, contains over 65 Hudson River landscapes, including thirteen of Thomas Cole's. The paintings are currently traveling as an exhibit in Europe (9/08). Founder Daniel Wadsworth was one of Cole's most important patrons.
Book: Katterskill - From the Catskill Mountain House to the Hudson River School. Published by the Mountain Top Historical Society, Black Dome Press, 1993
The Falls of the Kaaterskill, 1826 By Thomas Cole
A House In The Woods
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Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand ( Cole & Bryant)