A visit to the mansion of Frederic Edwin Church

SN001956Abraham Adams at Harper's Magazine:

There is a Moorish mansion on a steep hill in the New York countryside. Built by the landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, it has mosaic rooftops, mortared stone walls, and a fez-red trim. Its balconies look out through horseshoe archways at the Hudson River Valley from a boxy, upright structure of a kind that is more locally familiar than its trappings; in fact, it’s a Victorian in Orientalist drag.

To get inside you have to take the tour. They sell the tickets at the gift shop in the carriage barn, a building just below the hilltop, painted solid green in deference to the house. I went in spring on no occasion. The silent man behind the register declined my press credentials, looking at them like they were reminding him of something he’d forgotten, so I paid. We were early. He invited us to watch their documentary. We followed him to a sunny back room full of benches that felt like a frontier chapel. A television on a rolling stand was displaying credits. The video ended and started over.

Church had muttonchops, a bare chin, and a wide-eyed visionary look that seemed to me, 150 years or so his junior watching photos of him passing on the screen, a little funny in its gravitas.

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