Cedar Grove, the homestead of Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole, reopens this month with a new, immersive installation combining technology and meticulous historic restoration and featuring the earliest-known, interior decorative painting by the American artist. Through a hidden audio and moving-graphics presentation, visitors will be able to hear the thoughts of Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and the historic conversations that took place in the parlors of his home.
The restoration took a decade to complete, and has transformed the first floor of Cole’s home to his original design — including newly uncovered, elaborately painted borders in both parlors. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site trustees had commissioned historic paint specialist Matthew Mosca to examine the first-floor rooms and help bring the interior design back to how it was when Cole himself roamed it.
Mosca was carefully scraping the paint in one of the parlors when he came upon what appeared to be wallpaper. It turned out to be painted decoration, very likely done by Cole himself, according to Mosca. It is believed to be the earliest-known, interior decorative painting by an American artist. Earlier, a border — also believed to have been painted by Cole, in 1836 — had been found under coats of paint in an adjacent pantry.
The restoration is combined with the latest techniques in immersive storytelling, developed in partnership with some of the leading experts in the nation. The multimedia installation will be the first of its kind in the restored rooms of a historic home and will feature the artist’s own words and artworks. It includes moving graphics and audio, and was designed and implemented by the nationally renowned design firm Second Story with Tony Award-winning theater director Warner Shook, also a Cole Site trustee.
Instead of viewing period rooms from behind velvet ropes, visitors can feel free to roam unfettered throughout the first floor, experiencing the home much like Cole himself.
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site will be open May–October, Tuesday–Sunday, starting at 10 a.m.
(218 Spring Street, Catskill; 518.943.7465; www.thomascole.org)