Yaddo Mansion: Inside the Painstaking Restoration of America's Most Historic Artists' Retreat

January 30, 2020

Yaddo Mansion

Our masonry team successfully completes the restoration of Yaddo Mansion, the 1890's country estate of the Trask Family, honorably known as America's most historic artists' retreat.

The project entailed structural stabilization, stone cleaning and masonry repointing, upgraded electrical systems, in addition to the replacement or repair of all the mansion’s 338 windows.


Following the successive deaths of all four of their children, aged from 12 days to 11 years old, between 1880 and 1890, financier Spencer and writer Katrina Trask in 1900 bequeathed the near entirety of their considerable fortune toward establishing an artists' retreat on their rambling estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. “Since God in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to take all our children to a larger place,” Spencer Trask wrote, “we cannot believe it right that we should limit the possession of Yaddo to any one individual or family.”

The artists' retreat opened its doors in 1926. Lodged during the summer in the estate’s imposing main house—known aptly as the Mansion—plus various all-season outbuildings, Yaddo’s fellows have come to represent a virtual who’s who in American arts—from writers James Baldwin to Jayne Anne Phillips, composers Leonard Bernstein to Laurie Anderson, visual artists Milton Avery to Terry Adkins. (International artists are welcomed as well.) After working in a uniquely domed room in West House, the largest outbuilding on the 400-acre estate, Philip Roth dedicated his novel The Breast to the retreat. John Cheever contributed a portion from the Hollywood sale of his short story “The Swimming Pool” toward building Yaddo’s pool.

But age, usage, and weather are wearying bedfellows. In 2012, the Yaddo Corporation, under the helm of former Elle editor in chief Elaina Richardson, boldly drew up a comprehensive renovation plan, beginning with a $10 million restoration of the Mansion’s envelope and the addition of five new, independently standing work-live studios. Three-quarters of those funds were dedicated to the former. “There was an argument for not investing all that money and simply creating something newer,” Richardson says, “but the Mansion was identified as the soul of the estate, the core of the artist experience.”


Link to the full Architecture Digest article HERE

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