Saratoga Springs’ resident artists’ retreat Yaddo just completed a massive renovation project, and Saratogians are about to get their first glimpse. One of the locations that make Saratoga so unique—and a National Historic Landmark—the iconic, Victorian-style Yaddo Mansion, which dominates the retreat’s 400-acre estate just south of Saratoga Race Course, will reopen this week, just in time for the Yaddo Summer Benefit on Thursday, June 20.
This year’s benefit will offer ticketed guests a chance to tour the mansion for the first time since it closed for repair in 2017. The renovation cost an unprecedented $10 million, and has brought the historic, 1893 mansion back to its original splendor. “This is a triumphant moment for Yaddo as we unveil what we, our board and other generous donors have done to reinvigorate Yaddo and ensure that all it’s meant to individual artists and to American culture is honored,” says Yaddo President Elaina Richardson.
The massive, multistage renovation actually began back in 2014, with the goal of preserving and updating Yaddo’s facilities, especially its sprawling, 55-room mansion. The first phase of the renewal project involved the construction of five, new live-work studios by Saratoga’s own Phinney Design Group, which were completed in 2016 and earned Phinney The American Institute of Architects Eastern New York (AIAENY) Honor Award. The second phase required the closing of the entire Yaddo Mansion for an 18-month restoration that focused on a long to-do list of issues that had beset the mansion for years. The project entailed structural stabilization, masonry repointing, upgraded electrical systems plus the replacement or repair of all the mansion’s 338 windows. Project architect Stephen Reilly of Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture & Preservation in Albany even installed a glimmering, new copper-and-slate roof and had local artisans painstakingly restore the mansion’s intricate and irreplaceable 19th-century stone and metalwork.
The Yaddo Corporation was founded by Katrina and Spencer Trask in 1900; however, the retreat didn’t open its doors to the first batch of artists until 1926. Since then, Yaddo has hosted a staggering number of talented individuals (particularly writers), including 76 Pulitzer Prize winners, 68 National Book Award winners and one Nobel Laureate (Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976). Other talented Yaddo residents have included composer Leonard Bernstein, poets Sylvia Plath and Langston Hughes and even The Godfather author Mario Puzo, who wrote a large chunk of the novel at Yaddo. “We’re looking forward to throwing open our doors and celebrating Yaddo 2.0—a place that is burnished, expanded and fully prepared for a second century of world renown,” says Richardson.
Speaking of that Summer Benefit, this year’s event will feature an auction, lots of specialty cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres on tap, plus a live performance by songwriter, author and Yaddo alum Mike Doughty, who co-founded the popular 1990s band Soul Coughing. Single patron tickets cost $175 and can still be purchased online.