Saratoga County

Fire forces Yaddo staff to new quarters

This year, setting up Yaddo’s annual summer benefit will take some extra maneuvering.

PHOTOGRAPHER:

This year, setting up Yaddo’s annual summer benefit will take some extra maneuvering.

That’s because 12 employees are using the Yaddo Mansion music room as an office after an early morning May 10 fire in the basement of the separate office building caused smoke and soot damage on the upper levels.

“Guess where that fundraiser’s held?” said Lesley Leduc, spokeswoman for Yaddo. “Right where we’re working.”

So on Monday, the employees’ things will be moved out of the room. On Wednesday, after the Tuesday event, they’ll be moved back in.

“We know that the event will still go on as planned, and it will be a spectacular evening,” Leduc said.

Author and humorist Jonathan Ames, who has been in residence at Yaddo, is the featured guest at the event that begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The fundraiser includes a silent auction.

The fire a month ago caused $1 million worth of damage in the three-story office building, although the fire itself was confined to the basement, where a riding lawnmower was stored.

Fire Chief Robert Cogan said he believes a short in the lawn tractor caused the blaze when arcing from the short burned through a fuel line and ignited the gasoline and some nearby combustibles.

“It made quite a mess, to tell you the truth,” Cogan said.

The building’s electrical and telephone systems also were destroyed.

Restoration crews have been working on the building since then, but Leduc said it probably won’t be finished until September.

“Everything has to go out for treatment,” she said, adding that nothing of historical significance was destroyed in the fire.

Leduc said Yaddo has insurance that is expected to cover the repairs.

The building houses offices for the employees, storage space, a media room for artists, the Yaddo Authors’ Library, an apartment and a kitchen.

No one was hurt in the fire, which triggered an alarm at 12:18 a.m. Even the cat that lived there, Mr. Pink, was rescued without incident, Leduc said.

In the music room in the mansion, employees share one incoming phone line and can’t transfer calls from one desk to another.

In the midst of the chaos, staffers also are preparing for an October exhibition at the New York Public Library.

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