The Waterfall House sits 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
Thomas Cole, The Falls of the Kaaterskill, 1826
The young Thomas Cole first visited here in 1825, to sketch nearby
Kaaterskill Falls and other spots. The paintings he made
from those sketches 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 early 20th century.
The famed Catskill 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 manmade structures no longer
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 shows his interpretation of a spot
in the Kaaterskill Clove, borrowing various features from different
locations. It is regarded
as a defining work of the Hudson River School.
The Hudson River School
Art Trail — Hike to the nearby sites made famous by the painters
of the Hudson River School.
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.
"Olana" — The Frederick
Church House, in Hudson, NY, hailed
by many as the queen of the Hudson Valley estates
Thomas Cole, Dawn Of The Hudson River School
This page shows reproductions of Thomas Cole's historic first
three paintings from this area in 1825, including one of Kaaterskill
Gallery of Art, 2007 Exhibition on Asher Durand
Falls" - from Wikipedia
Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn.
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: "Kaaterskill - From the Catskill Mountain
House to the Hudson River School"
Published by the Mountain Top Historical Society,