Site #8 Catskill Mountain House
Introduction by Kevin J. Avery, Senior Research Scholar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In his bestselling 1823 novel, The Pioneers, James Fenimore Cooper described the panorama from Pine Orchard, a ledge 1,600 feet above the Hudson River Valley, through the mouthpiece of his hero, Hawkeye. "Creation!" exclaimed the scout. "The [Hudson] River was in sight for seventy miles, looking like a curled shaving, under my feet, though it was eight miles to its banks. I saw the hills in the [New] Hampshire grants, the high lands of the river, and all that God had done or man could do, far as eye could reach." The year after The Pioneers was published, in 1824, the Catskill Mountain House hotel opened at Pine Orchard, offering urban visitors the spectacular vista that Hawkeye described. Though Hudson River School artists also sometimes stayed there and occasionally sold to hotel guests paintings of the surrounding mountains, strangely perhaps, few of them made pictures of Hawkeye's prospect. A prominent exception was Frederic Edwin Church, pupil of the Hudson River School founder, Thomas Cole, with whom Church stayed at the Mountain House in summer 1844. Five years later, a year after his teacher's death in 1848, Church painted what had become a major attraction for Mountain House lodgers, expressly awakened for it from their beds: the dramatic sunrise breaking over the fogbanks that typically form in the valley through the summer night. Invisible in Church's composition of swirling pink mists, solar radiance and gesturing trees are the "curled shaving" of the Hudson River and the villages and farmlands of the valley, but his pictorial dynamics as readily evoke "Creation!" as anything Hawkeye described.
Plan Your Trip
Visit their Website
Meets few ADA standards and has significant barriers. Most visitors with disabilities will need assistance
May-Oct (see website for details)
Map & Directions
Driving Directions: We recommend Google Map . Site coordinates: 42.194729 Lat., -74.034744 Long.
Location Notes: The site of the Catskill Mountain House (demolished 1963) is reached via Rte. 23A to County Rte. 18 (North-South Lake Road) in Haines Falls, New York. Drive two miles to the North-South Lake State Campground (day use admission required), and request campground and trail maps at the entrance. Park in the public lot at North Lake Beach and walk south and east picking up the Escarpment Trail (blue blazes) leading to the grassy open site where Mountain House signs are posted. In the pale rocks along the ledge, read the names and dates carved by hotel guests going back to the early 1800s.
Photography / Painting Credits
Thomas Cole, Catskill Mountain House, c.1845-47, oil on canvas, Private Collection.
Thomas Cole, A View of the Catskill Mountain House, 1845-48, Oil on canvas, 15 x 23 in. Courtesy of Mr. Jonathan W. Warner and the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art.
Jasper Cropsey, Catskill Mountain House, oil on canvas, c. 1855, 29 x 44 in. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Bequest of Mrs. Lillian Lawhead Rinderer in memory of her brother, William A. Lawhead, and the William Hood Dunwoody Fund.
Frederic Edwin Church. Morning, Looking East over the Hudson Valley from the Catskill Mountain. Oil on canvas, 1848, 18 ¼ x 24 in. Albany Institute of History and Art. Gift of Catherine Gansevoort (Mrs. Abraham) Lansing, x1940.606.7.
Frederic Edwin Church. Above the Clouds at Sunrise. Oil on canvas, 1849, 27 ¼ x 40 ¼ in. The Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Patti Ferrara. View from the Site of Catskill Mountain House. Photograph, undated, 7 2/3 x 10 ¼ in. Private Collection.
Thomas Cole. View of the Catskill Mountain House. Pen and black ink over pencil on paper, c. 1835, 9 3/8 x 15 ½ in. The Art Museum, Princeton University, Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. Collection.
Anonymous. View of the Cattskill Mountain House, N.Y.. Engraving by fenner, sears & company after thomas cole, 1831, 5 ¼ x 4 ¼ in. Originally published in Hinton, ed., The History and Topography of the United States, vol. 2.
Anonymous. Catskill Mountain House. Sepia on cardboard, 1892. Vedder Library, GCHS, Coxsackie, NY, 48-033.
Sarah Cole, A View of the Catskill Mountain House,1848, oil on canvas, Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase, 1964.40