American landscape painter Frederic Church made his home on his great estate, Olana, located in the Hudson River Valley. Church's paintings reached a height of popularity in the mid-19th century, and many recall his paintings evoking a sense of calm and hope."Olana was named by Church's wife, Isabel, and is an old Latin name for a place in Persia," says Bradley Reifler, Millbrook resident. The Olana estate is Persian-inspired, complete with a stone "fortress" overlooking the Hudson River with breathtaking views set on 250 acres of land.

Olana was built on a hill between 1870 and 1891, with grand views of the Catskill Mountains, the Hudson River and the Taconic Hills. Olana is a New York State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, Olana was originally built to suit his small family, and they referred to the home as a "Cosy Cottage," according to Bradley Reifler.It still stands today, as the headquarters of The Olana Partnership, which preserves the estate.

In 1867, Church purchased more land overlooking his property, with the intention to build another home. Church, his wife and their infant son traveled to Europe and the Middle East. The couple became inspired by the grand architecture in Beirut, Jerusalem and Damascus. Upon returning home, Church hired architect Calvert Vaux to create the Persian-inspired home, says Bradley Reifler.

Besides the grand architecture, the decor of Olana was masterfully created as well. Stenciled walls, colorful ceilings and unique furniture and objects filled the home. The layout of the house reached its current state in 1891, when Church completed a wing with guest rooms and an observation room.

It took Church over 30 years to accumulate the unique furnishings within the home, all of which are still present. They include furniture, tapestries, Middle Eastern rugs, bronzes, paintings, sculptures, and other objects representing cultures and religions from around the world. Mexican and colonial folk art, pre-Columbian art and 19th century American and Oriental furniture are displayed in the home, as well as paintings by Church and fellow painters Martin Johnson Heade and Arthur Parton and sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer.

Besides touring the home, visitors can walk the over five miles of carriage drives throughout the property. The walking tour can take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, depending on how far the visitor wants to go throughout the carriage drive system. Tours are available year-round, for $5 per car on weekends and holiday Mondays April to October, and is free at all other times. For an additional fee, visitors can take one of the following tours: Main Floor and Studio (showcasing the paintings and collections); Second Floor and Sharp Family Gallery (looking at the servants' quarters, the Church's bedroom); a Combination Tour (Main Floor, Studio, Second Floor and Sharp Gallery); and Coachmen's House Gallery.

References: www.olana.org.