Saratoga County

$7 million in repairs, expansion for Yaddo

New buildings are going up at Yaddo, and major upgrades are in the works for the estate’s 122-year-o
Pictured is the entrance to the gardens at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs.
Pictured is the entrance to the gardens at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs.

New buildings are going up at Yaddo, and major upgrades are in the works for the estate’s 122-year-old mansion.

Ground was recently broken for five live-work studios to be built on the property. Designed by Phinney Design Group of Saratoga Springs, the studios will overlook ponds on the estate, away from the noise of the Northway. Two of the spaces will be dedicated to composers and one to visual arts; the other two will be for general use. Each will house a single artist.

“They’re very beautiful, but they’re not complicated structures. They’re modest in scale,” said Elaina Richardson, president of Yaddo. “They’re contemporary but they do echo the materials that are used elsewhere on the estate. They reference the stonework, they reference the gabling and other sorts of design aspects like that.”

The studios will be put into use in the spring of 2016, enabling renovation work to be completed on the mansion without greatly impacting the artist-in-residence program.

Once the studios are completed, work will be done to repoint and repair the 45,000-square-foot mansion’s stone foundation, which is shifting. Exterior stonework on the mansion will be reinforced, and the slate-and-copper roof will be repaired.

“The building is now more than 100 years old and it was never intended for year-round use, so one of the things that happened, apart from just regular wear and tear in our part of the world, it is under some strain because things like the water get turned off and turned back on again. So, there’s both external issues, in terms of repointing and some roof work that has become quite severe. Then there’s also leaks that come from a non-winterized building having to go through cycles of closing,” said Richardson.

The entire project, including the live-work studios, is expected to cost approximately $7 million. It will be funded, in part, by a $250,000 grant included in the 2015-2016 state budget, and another $250,000 that had been appropriated in the 2014-2015 budget, which will be released once the renovation work begins.

Last year, $2.3 million in pledges and donations was raised from the private sector for the building and renovation project.

Studio infrastructure including roads, lighting and sewers, is presently being installed.

“All of the work, we’ll be working with local companies and suppliers. That’s very important to us,” Richardson noted. “We’re very appreciative of New York state’s support and of the individuals’ support and our goal is to do all that we can to be big contributors to the region.”

Built in 1893 as the estate of Spencer and Katrina Trask, Yaddo opened its doors as an artists’ retreat in 1926 and has hosted 6,500 artists since then, including poets Sylvia Plath and William Carlos Williams, and composer Leonard Bernstein. Each year, Yaddo hosts up to 220 artists working in a variety of disciplines. The estate was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013.

The gardens surrounding the estate are open to the public and are visited by nearly 60,000 people annually.

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