Yaddo Mansion
September 29, 2016


A History of Yaddo

The property on which Yaddo stands originally housed a farm, grist-mill, and tavern operated by Jacobus Barhyte, a Revolutionary War veteran who fought at the Battle of Saratoga. Many well-known writers of the 1830s and 1840s dined at Barhyte’s tavern, among them Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1881, Spencer Trask, a New York City financier, and his poet wife, Katrina, bought the property, naming it “Yaddo” at the suggestion of their young daughter. When the main residence burned to the ground 10 years later, the Trasks built the present mansion, completed in 1893. It was the scene of famous house parties attended by artists, statesmen, and industrialists.

Spencer designed the Yaddo Gardens in 1899 as a gift of love to his wife Katrina. The Trasks based their design for the Rose Garden on Italian classical gardens, which they had seen on trips abroad. The adjoining Rock Garden expresses in contrast an Anglo-American tradition of interest in indigenous landscape. Together, the gardens combine the formal and the free, the poetic and the idyllic, human art and nature. Katrina wanted her garden to be a garden of delight, a garden of romance, as an expression of her own life.

Engraved at the center of the arch on the gate are the initials ST KT for Spencer and Katrina Trask.
January 28, 2016

The future of this great estate was determined after the deaths of their four children left the Trasks without heirs. In 1900, they secretly formed what would become known after their deaths as The Corporation of Yaddo and they endowed it in perpetuity to administer a working community of artists. Noted philanthropist George Foster Peabody, a lifelong friend of the family and husband to Katrina Trask in the last year of her life, put their plan into operation after Spencer Trask died in 1909 and Katrina Trask in 1922.

National Historic Landmark
January 28, 2016

I discovered the entrance on accident, exploring the back roads of Saratoga Springs after an orthodontist appointment. As I was getting ready to jump on the Northway to go back home, I saw the front gate entrance proudly bearing the name Yaddo.

I remembered the name Yaddo from a conversation I’d had with a girl that grew up in Saratoga Springs.

I don’t know what I was expecting…
I also wasn’t let down.

I feel like the first time I walked around the gardens was the most magical.
Perhaps it was because everything was so new.
Hidden gems on the grounds still waiting to be found.
Perhaps it was because it was the only time I ever visited Yaddo where I was completely alone.
Apparently, over 50,000 people visit the gardens each year!

I get a good laugh about me going to a rose garden in the winter, but in all honesty, it was exactly what I wanted.

refreshing aloneness!
the crisp winter air
stabbing at my lungs
I breathe
slowing down time
my body feels
a magical and vibrant energy
from the frozen ground
reminding me to
just be

Frozen Rock fountain at the upper level of the Rock Garden.


View from the Rose Garden of the Balcony where the Sundial rests, and the Pergola.


Under the Pergola.
May 26, 2016

I thought it would be a good time to revisit the Gardens at Yaddo because surely there would be flowers, the statues would be uncovered, and the fountains would be flowing. To my surprise, that wasn’t the case.

Of course some things were different.

The statues had been uncovered, but only one fountain was flowing.

and there weren’t any roses…

It was a warm and sunny day
I was trying to determine whether or not the sundial showed the correct time.


a stranger asked me,
“Have you ever hugged a tree?”
the words hung in the air
full of doubt
(why would this question come up amongst strangers?)
“Actually, I have.” I said matter-of-factly with a smile.
The same smile that drew her to me initially.

She had mentioned my smile when she first approached me.
I can’t seem to forget this exchange with a stranger.
It makes me wonder how others perceive me.
And I also wonder why it is that strangers always talk to me…

perhaps it is my smile

Foot of the Sundial.


Trillium could be seen throughout the Rock Garden.


The Wood Nymph Statue in the center of the pond in the lower level of the Rock Garden.
September 29, 2016

I felt like I should see what the Gardens at Yaddo looked like, one more time before winter approached. Maybe this time there would be roses…

The whole garden was in bloom! 
Standing in the Rose Garden.


Roses blooming all along the Pergola.


View looking out over the Rose Garden from the Balcony.
The “Four Seasons” Statues can be seen bordering the far side of the garden.

The Gardens at Yaddo

The Rose garden is laid out on a north-south east-west axis. It is divided into four beds centered by a fountain and overlooked the three terraces, a balcony, and a rose-covered terra cotta columned pergola. Red, pink, white, and yellow hybrid tea roses and floribundas planted together reflect Katrina’s color scheme. In 1994, standard roses were introduced. Polyantha roses were planted at the base of the standard roses to simulate the early planting of dwarf roses.
View looking out over the Rose Garden from the Balcony.
All the statues are covered for the winter season.
January 28, 2016


Fountain in the center of the Rose Garden.
I was distracted for a while at this fountain.
Communicating with the dead.
My father and my Grandma Alice in the same garden.
So comfortable, so serene.
September 29, 2016

The sundial on the balcony is inscribed with a message from the Trasks’ friend, the poet Henry Jackson van Dyke:

Hours fly, Flowers die, New days, New ways pass by, Love stays.

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



East of the rose beds are Italian marble statues of the four seasons and a statue of a youth, “Christalan,” sculpted in marble by William Ordway Partridge in 1900 as a “memorial to the children of this house.” Christalan represents youth, chivalry, and victory over mortality.









Christalan Statue


The renewal of the Rock Garden, west of the pergola, emphasizes the original design features of an upper and lower pond with fountains and a long connecting rill of flowing water bordered by dolomite rocks with a separating rocky incline. All are planted with spring and summer flowering perennial plants. As much of the original plant material as made possible by the shading of mature trees has been incorporated. The effect is as close as possible to the 1905 garden given the different light conditions. The lower pond area is highlighted by restoration of the “riot of color” of the flowering plants growing there.

Rock fountain in the upper section of the Rock Garden.
September 29, 2016


Wood Nymph Statue in the lower pond of the Rock Garden.
September 29, 2016

Yaddo’s Mission – to provide artists uninterrupted time to work, good working conditions, and supportive community – has remained central to its operation throughout the years.

All photos were taken by me.
Information about Yaddo.
I got my information about Yaddo from the brochure available at the gardens.