I have been to the Yaddo grounds many times but have never taken one of the docent led tours until this past Friday evening. The rain mercifully stopped just before the tour began at 5 p.m. One other person besides myself attended the tour and our guide was the lovely Yaddo Garden Association volunteer, Ms. Bishop. The tours are $10 and no sign up is required.
The Yaddo artists colony sits on 350 acres and is stunning with peak foliage in effect, but Yaddo is beautiful anytime of year. The Rose Garden is free and open to the public. The mansion and the rest of the property is private. The property sits parallel to the Saratoga Race Course, so close in fact that the races can be heard from the property. Although we did not see or sense any ghosts or paranormal activity on this tour, it is said that the mansion has seen and felt the presence of Katrina Trask herself by the many artists who have stayed there.
Spencer Trask, a financier and Katrina, a poet, founded The Corporation of Yaddo and it is one of the most famous artist colonies in the world. James Baldwin, Sylvia Path, Mary Gaitskill, JoAnn Beard, and Truman Capote are just a few of the major talents that have visited Yaddo. Patricia Highsmith (of The Talented Mr. Ripley fame) left her entire estate to Yaddo. The symbol of the pine cone which can be seen on the Garden Gates is the symbol of Spencer Trask and the symbol of the rose symbolizes Katrina. Contrary to popular believe the Trask’s children never lived on the Yaddo property (each of the Trask’s four children died prematurely.)
The original Yaddo property had been a farm and in 1850 it was sold to a father and son who were both doctors. They built a wooden house on the property. The Trask’s bought the property in 1881. The wooden house was destroyed by a fire ten years later. The Trask’s replaced the structure with the stone mansion that sits on the property today; it was inspired by houses in English Countryside and places they had seen while touring Europe.
Volunteers maintain the rose gardens at Yaddo. There is a sundial just off the rose garden and in between the pergola. It is inscribed with the poem by Henry Van Dyke entitled, Time Is:
Too slow for those who wait
Too swift for those who fear
Too long for those who grieve
Too short for those who rejoice
But for those who Love Time Is
This poem was read for Princess Diana at her funeral.
For more information about Yaddo and the gardens and tours, call (518)584-0746 or go to their website: yaddo.org