Thursday, May 10, 2012


One of the loveliest jewels in Saratoga’s crown is the beautiful artist retreat, Yaddo. While the buildings are off-limits to the public, the gardens, and surrounding ponds, as well as some of the trails around them, are available for the public’s use, and many times I have made good use of them. Whether I go for a stroll in their beautiful gardens (to enjoy, not only their famous roses, but also the exquisite classic Italian sculptures, and marble fountains) or simply to sit in the sun on the vast lawn, I always come away renewed.
The estate was purchased in 1881, by financier Spencer Trask, and his wife, Katrina. They first fell in love with the property when they had previously spent summers there, at, what was then, a famous Inn, which used to be located on the grounds. Edgar Allen Poe, supposedly wrote The Raven here, and Katrina, a poet, herself, had said that his work most influenced her own.
The first mansion burned down in 1893, at which time they built the current edifice. The mansion is located on a 500-acre estate, with rolling lawns and pine groves. The gardens are modeled after classic Italian gardens, which the Trasks had admired in Europe.
After the tragic premature deaths of their 4 children, they decided to turn the estate into an artist retreat. With the financial help of philanthropist George Foster Peabody, they made this vision come true. The retreat’s mission was to  “nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption, in a supportive environment.” Artists from a broad range of artistic disciplines have been nurtured within these walls, including choreography, literature, sculpture, musical composition, film, printmaking, and performance art. Over the years, the retreat has played host to an impressive list of artists, including, Truman Capote, John Cheever, Katherine Anne Porter, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copeland, to name but a few. Over 6,000 artists have stayed here, and many have produced works of art, which won major awards, including 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 61 National Book Awards, and even a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow.)
I am grateful that this lovely place exists!

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