Saratoga County

Fund begun for Spirit of Life

One of the city’s most significant landmarks — the Spencer Trask Memorial and Spirit of Life sculptu

One of the city’s most significant landmarks — the Spencer Trask Memorial and Spirit of Life sculpture — was last restored nearly 30 years ago and again needs attention.

A public-private partnership announced Wednesday will raise $225,000 for the restoration project in Congress Park over the next four years.

“It’s a national historic landmark in and of itself,” city Mayor Scott Johnson said during a news conference near the Spirit of Life reflecting pool.

“This is one of the most important landmarks in our city.”

The city of Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation are again joining forces, just as they did in the early 1980s, to restore the bronze sculpture, the reflecting pool, the masonry and stone surrounding frame, and overgrown landscaping.

The city has set aside $25,000 in its 2012 capital budget and is planning to include $25,000 in three succeeding city budgets for a total of $100,000 for the project.

Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, said the foundation is planning a restoration fundraising campaign that will reach out to private donors: city residents, visitors and local businesses.

The foundation will also seek grants for the project.

The centennial of the Spencer Trask Memorial and Spirit of Life, is 2015. Bosshart said the foundation and the city want to have the restoration project completed by June of that year.

Katrina Trask, founder of the Yaddo artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, and philanthropist George Foster Peabody commissioned the memorial in 1913 to honor Katrina’s late husband, businessman Spencer Trask, and his efforts to protect Saratoga’s natural mineral springs.

The Spirit of Life statue was created by sculptor Daniel Chester French, who also created the seated Lincoln sculpture in Washington, D.C., and architect Henry Bacon, who created the reflecting pool for the Lincoln Memorial.

Julia Stokes, who was executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation when the sculpture was first restored in 1982 and 1983, said the sculpture has held up well over the years.

When Phoebe Dent Weil, a professional restoration expert, restored and repatinated the bronze sculpture in 1983, she gave the city instructions on how to maintain the artwork. Stokes said the city Department of Public Works has carefully followed these instructions.

“They wax it every year,” Stokes said.

She congratulated the city for taking care of the Spirit of Life. Because of the good maintenance, Stokes said it should take only about $10,000 to restore the statue.

Much of the money is expected to be spent on the surrounding stone and masonry work, which includes the reflecting pool and a large foundation that frames the Spirit of Life as well as a stone-lined waterway that drains from the reflecting pool down into a lower pond in Congress Park.

A 10-person steering committee has been created to oversee the restoration. It includes preservation representatives and informed citizens.

Bosshart said Finch Paper in Glens Falls has offered the services of its professional foresters to assess the towering pine trees behind the memorial. Some of these trees may have been planted in 1915. Smaller fir trees that line the reflecting pool were planted 30 years ago but have grown significantly and may need to be replaced.

Saratoga Springboard, a group of local professionals, has selected the restoration as their project of the year. They will offer their skills in promotion, marketing, and fundraising for the project, Bosshart said.

People who would like to learn more about sculptor Daniel Chester French can attend a free informational talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday presented by the Saratoga Springs History Museum in the Canfield Casino in Congress Park.

A community meeting on the project will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, at Saratoga Arts Center at Broadway and Spring Street.

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