HYDE PARK, N.Y. – Superintendent Sarah Olson retired from Roosevelt-Vanderbilt-Van Buren National Historic Sites on Friday, July 1, after 42 years with the National Park Service.
Olson’s career began in 1973, at the Denver Service Center (DSC) as a historian in what was then the Historic Preservation Office. Fresh out of graduate school with a degree in art history, her work at DSC led to furnishing the newly reconstructed Bent’s Old Fort and eventually took her to the historic furnishings division at the Harpers Ferry Center (HFC), in West Virginia where she later directed the historic furnishings program.
In 1992, Olson’s career moved into park management. She served as superintendent of Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, from 1992 to 1999, then became superintendent of Roosevelt-Vanderbilt-Van Buren National Historic Sites in 1999.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Olson, about her first day at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt-Van Buren National Historic Sites. “I certainly didn’t expect that the park stories, particularly the legacies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, would be so vast and deep, more than enough to last many careers."
"I didn’t expect the breathtaking beauty of Vanderbilt, of the Hudson River and of the entire Hudson Valley or the multiple layers, trails and gardens, through which we would expand the visitor experience," she added.
"I didn’t expect so many people and organizations with the talent and interest in helping us serve our visitors," she continued. "Most of all, I didn’t expect so many wonderful people on the park staff with whom I would work day in and day out. But, at some point this place and the people that make it work took hold of me and never let go.”
Olson points to reuniting the Home Of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill through several land transfers from the Scenic Hudson Land Trust as one of her most satisfying accomplishments.
Olson graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., with a bachelor’s degree in art history and the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in art history. She is an avid gardener and plans to spend her retirement in the Hudson Valley.