The luminist landscapes painted by the Hudson River School artists in the mid-1800s helped to shape American art. Centuries after the movement began, the homes and studios of school founder Thomas Cole and renowned painter Frederic Edwin Church remain in the Valley as prominent historic sites; Cole’s former residence, Cedar Grove, is in Catskill, and Church’s estate, Olana, stands across the river in Hudson. Though the Rip Van Winkle Bridge has long connected the two cities, easy access between the sites was never an option — until June, when a restored walking path along the bridge opened.
The reconstructed path provides expansive views of the Valley toward the distant Catskills, with three spacious scenic viewpoints overlooking the river. The original walkway stretched about a mile long, but with sidewalks now extending beyond the bridge on both sides, and a new roundabout for safe highway crossing in Hudson, the Skywalk encompasses nearly three miles each way.
“The Hudson River Skywalk is a pedestrian connection between Olana and Thomas Cole, but it’s so much more,” explains Sean Sawyer, president of the Olana Partnership, the nonprofit behind Olana State Historic Site’s conservation efforts. “It’s truly unique to link the homes and studios of two artists who defined early American art, in a way that allows visitors to experience the landscape that influenced their work.”
“The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Frederic Church’s Olana have been connected by history for 175 years, but before we built the Hudson River Skywalk, there was no way to safely walk between them,” says Elizabeth Jacks, executive director of the Thomas Cole Historic Site. “Now, there is a beautiful, walkable connection between the two sites.”
In September, the walkway hosted its Hudson River Skywalk Arts Festival on Sept. 22, featuring art exhibits, music, history tours, and other activities at both historic sites and along the Skywalk.