Yaddo, the artists’ retreat on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs that has hosted some of the great artists of the past century, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
The 400-acre estate with the rambling mansion built by Spencer and Katrina Trask in 1893 has offered a cost-free refuge and work space to such artists as Truman Capote, Leonard Bernstein, Saul Bellow and Sylvia Plath.
The Trasks endowed Yaddo generously so that invited artists could spend weeks or months creating new works without interruption in a supportive environment. The corporation was founded in 1900 and the first artist-guests arrived in 1926.
View two photo galleries of Yaddo:
• Oct. 16, 2012: Ghost tour of Yaddo
• Sept. 19, 2011: Yaddo open house
U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar granted final approval of the National Historic Landmark status late last week. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, announced the designation Monday.
“Saratoga’s own Yaddo is a source of great pride and has a legacy of artistic tradition that sparked a century’s worth of creativity that continues to enrich our lives,” she said in a statement.
The Yaddo property has for years been part of a historic district in Saratoga Springs and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Lesley Leduc, Yaddo’s public affairs coordinator, said Monday that there are more than 88,000 properties on the National Register but fewer than 2,600 properties nationwide listed as a National Historic Landmark.
“We are in pretty rarefied company,” she said about the landmark status.
The nomination process took more than a year and was coordinated by Wesley Haynes, a historic preservation consultant whom Yaddo hired by using a grant from American Express.
One of the key elements that the National Parks System Advisory Board considered when it recommended approval for landmark status to the Department of the Interior was the role Yaddo played in the country’s cultural history, Leduc said.
She said artists who have worked at Yaddo have won a total of 68 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards as well as a Nobel Prize in Literature (Saul Bellow).
Leduc said Monday was the 75th anniversary of the death of George Foster Peabody, Spencer Trask’s business partner and a lifelong family friend. After Spencer Trask died in a train accident in 1909, Peabody eventually married Katrina Trask in 1921, just a year before her death.
Spencer and Kartina’s four children died in their youth and the couple were left without immediate heirs, so they decided to bequeath their home to future generations of artists. The name Yaddo was suggested by their small daughter in a reference to shadow.
Peabody was involved in the start of Yaddo and hired the first executive director, Elizabeth Ames, who guided the artists’ community during its first half-century.
Yaddo offers residencies to professional creative artists from all nations and backgrounds, working in such areas as choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, printmaking, sculpture and video, according to a Yaddo history on www.yaddo.org.
“We are extremely pleased and honored to receive this designation in recognition of Yaddo’s essential role in shaping American culture for the past century,” said Yaddo President Elaina Richardson.
Yaddo continues to look forward. Contractors are completing a new state-of-the-art studio building on the Yaddo grounds that features two large multipurpose studios and lodging for two artists and will be finished this summer, she said.
Richardson said Yaddo is also completing a facilities master plan that will guide the corporation’s second century of supporting artists.
“We’re especially grateful for the support of our elected officials throughout the nomination process and to our board and members for their hard work and dedication to this remarkable place,” Richardson said in a statement.
Leduc said Yaddo will soon be receiving a National Historic Landmark plaque and a letter of designation from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“To this day, Yaddo offers a home to filmmakers, performers, musicians and those working in traditional forms without regard to financial means. Each guest is chosen by a panel of their peers and is permitted to stay for up to two months,” Gillibrand said in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Salazar urging him to grant landmark status to Yaddo.