Yaddo, a 400-acre artists retreat in Saratoga Springs, is one step closer to achieving landmark status having received an official recommendation from the National Park System Advisory Board on Thursday, Nov. 29.
The next step will be for the storied site to go to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for approval of its National Historic Landmark status.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has stepped up efforts for a landmark status, called on Salazar to quickly approve the designation, although a decision could take several months.
“Saratoga’s own Yaddo has a legacy of artistic tradition that sparked a century’s worth of creativity, and should be considered a National Historic Landmark,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “To this day, Yaddo continues to house artists on the same grounds that were once home to some of America’s influential artists. Landmark status would give Yaddo the recognition it deserves in America’s history, and help attract more visitors and strengthen our tourism industry.”
The National Register of Historic Places contains more than 85,000 entries, of which Yaddo is one. Yaddo Public Affair Coordinator Lesly Leduc said there are only 2,500 National Historic Landmarks, though, and she is excited to have Yaddo considered for the more exclusive group.
“We are thrilled and delighted. It’s been a long time in the making,” she said. “The application process is very detailed and required two years of work. Our application takes into consideration the property, the buildings and our historic artifacts but it’s primarily based on Yaddo’s central role on nurturing and encouraging artists who have defined and shaped American culture for decades.”
The difference between a location on the national registry and one designated a landmark is the latter is considered to be of exceptional value to the nation as a whole.
“The status does not restrict us in any way. It can make us eligible for funding to maintain the grounds,” Leduc said.
Yaddo and its accompanying gardens have a long history in Saratoga Springs. The house and gardens were originally owned by financier Spencer Trask and his wife Katrina, who was a poet.
In 1900, it was left to the city by the Trasks because they had no immediate heirs following the deaths of their four children. The Trasks specified it was to be founded as an artists’ community. The first artists came into residence in 1926 and since then more than 6,000 artists have visited the secluded grounds for uninterrupted work.
Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 66 Pulitzer Prizes, 27 MacArthur Fellowships, 61 National Book Awards, 40 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 52 Whiting Writers’ Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976) and countless other honors.
Although the house is closed to the public, the extensive rose and rock gardens are open to the public seven days a week from 8 a.m. to dusk.