A plaque installed Saturday on the Great Lawn at Yaddo marks the artists’ retreat as a National Historic Landmark.
The designation was awarded in March 2013, but writers and artists have long known of the property’s historical significance.
“I think to most writers and most artists, we’ve always considered it an historic landmark,” said Leslie Youngblood, a New York City writer who has been drafting a novel at Yaddo for three weeks. “Most of my mentors or people that I’ve admired in the writing world have been here, so to me, it’s always been a historic place that I have strived to attend.”
Yaddo artists have won 71 Pulitzer Prizes, 68 National Book Awards, a Nobel Prize, three Academy Awards and many other honors. Since 1926, the 55-room Yaddo Mansion has hosted more than 6,000 artists, among them Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Sylvia Plath.
“To know that James Baldwin has been here, Langston Hughes — as far as I’m concerned from an African American perspective — is just really phenomenal,” said Youngblood. “James Baldwin. I’m actually staying where he stayed.”
Youngblood and other artists in residence were part of Saturday's celebration, which took place under a white tent. The unveiling of the plaque was preceded by remarks from Elaina Richardson, president of Yaddo; U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam; U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and A.M. Homes, a novelist who co-chairs the organization’s board; and followed by champagne.
“It’s no small feat that here come the artists, because this is a perfect setting,” Tonko said, a fountain flowing behind his audience and the 1893 mansion looming in the distance behind him.
Elisabeth Frost, a New York City poet, agreed.
“Yaddo is a sanctuary away from the world, in order to have time and extraordinary respect and care,” she said. “It’s my first time here, and I can’t believe my good fortune that I’m here at this really historic moment.”