Coordinates: 43°04′07″N 73°45′29″W / 43.06848°N 73.75813°W / 43.06848; -73.75813
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TypeArtist colony
PurposeTo nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment
HeadquartersSaratoga Springs, New York
Coordinates43°04′07″N 73°45′29″W / 43.06848°N 73.75813°W / 43.06848; -73.75813
Region served
United States

Yaddo is an artists' community located on a 400-acre (160 ha) estate in Saratoga Springs, New York. Its mission is "to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment."[1] On March 11, 2013 it was designated a National Historic Landmark.[2]

It offers residencies to artists working in choreography, film, literature, musical composition, painting, performance art, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and video. Collectively, artists who have worked at Yaddo have won 82 Pulitzer Prizes, 34 MacArthur Fellowships, 70 National Book Awards, 24 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 108 Rome Prizes, 49 Whiting Writers' Awards, a Nobel Prize (Saul Bellow, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976), at least one Man Booker Prize (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004) and countless other honors.[1] Yaddo is included in the Union Avenue Historic District.


The estate was purchased in 1881 by the financier Spencer Trask and his wife, the writer Katrina Trask. The first mansion on the property burned down in 1893, and the Trasks then built the current house. Yaddo is a neologism invented by one of the Trask children and was meant to rhyme with "shadow".[3]

Artists' colony[edit]

Christalan (1900), memorial to the Trasks' four children.

In 1900, after the premature deaths of the Trasks' four children,[3] Spencer Trask decided to turn the estate into an artists' retreat as a gift to his wife. He did this with the financial assistance of philanthropist George Foster Peabody. The first artists arrived in 1926. The success of Yaddo encouraged Spencer and Katrina later to donate land for a working women's retreat center as well, known as Wiawaka Holiday House, at the request of Mary Wiltsie Fuller.[4] At least in its early years, Yaddo was funded by profits from the Bowling Green Offices Building in Manhattan, in which Spencer Trask was extensively involved.[5]

A calm lake with refelctions in the water, to the right is Stone Tower studio behind trees
Postcard of a lake at Yaddo with the Stone Tower studio, a former chapel.[6]

In 1949 during the McCarthy Era, a news story accurately accused writer Agnes Smedley of spying for the Soviet Union.[7] Smedley had traveled with Mao Zedong to report on the Chinese Communist Revolution and, beginning in 1943, had spent five years at Yaddo. Poet Robert Lowell pushed the Board of Directors to oust Yaddo's director, Elizabeth Ames, who was being questioned by the FBI. Ames was eventually exonerated of all charges but learned from the investigation that her assistant Mary Townsend was an FBI informant.[8][9] Ames remained director until her retirement in 1969, having overseen the Yaddo community from its creation in 1924.[10] Ames was succeeded by Newman E. Waite who served as president from 1969 until 1977 when Curtis Harnack assumed the position.[11]

Literary critic and eventual Yaddo board member Louis Kronenberger wrote in his memoir that to call Yaddo "a mixture of some of the most attractive, enjoyable, generous-minded people and of others who were weird, megalomaniac, intransigent, pugnacious is only to say that it has housed and nourished most of the finest talents in the arts of the past forty-odd years—the immensely fruitful years of Elizabeth Ames's directorship."[12]

Recent years[edit]

In May 2005, vandals, using paintball guns, damaged two of the Four Seasons statues, the Poet's Bench, a fountain, and pathways with blue paint.[13] Repairs cost $1,400.[14] In 2018, Yaddo elected photographer Peter Kayafas and novelist Janice Y.K. Lee as co-chairs of its board of directors.[15]

Yaddo has received large contributions from Spencer Trask & Company and Kevin Kimberlin, the firm's current chairman.[16] Novelist Patricia Highsmith bequeathed her estate, valued at $3 million, to the community.[17][18]

Facilities and gardens[edit]

Pergola in Yaddo's gardens, photographed c. 1900–20

Yaddo's gardens are modeled after the classical Italian gardens the Trasks had visited in Europe.[19] The Four Seasons statues were acquired and installed in the garden in 1909.[20] There are many statues and sculptures located within the estate, including a sundial that bears the inscription, "Hours fly, Flowers die, New days, New ways, Pass by, Love stays."[21] While visitors are not admitted to the main mansion or artists' residences, they may visit the gardens.[20]

Alumni artists-in-residence[edit]

Yaddo has hosted more than 6,000 artists including:[22][23]

In popular culture[edit]

Jonathan Ames' book Wake Up Sir! (2004) is partially set at Yaddo.

Dagger of the Mind (1941), a novel by 1930s Yaddo resident Kenneth Fearing, takes place in Demarest Hall, an art colony modeled after Yaddo.[25]

In You season 1, episode 8: "You Got Me Babe", Blythe helps Beck focus on writing and break through writer's block by disconnecting Beck from her cellphone and the Internet, and setting up Beck's apartment to make her "own Yaddo".[26]

Yaddo is mentioned repeatedly throughout the Theresa Rebeck play Seminar.

In the 2018 Netflix comedy-drama Private Life, aspiring writer Sadie (played by Kayli Carter) gets the opportunity to spend a month at Yaddo to focus on refining her writing skills. It is also repeatedly mentioned and referenced throughout the movie, e.g. by a coffee mug showing the Yaddo name on it. A few scenes of the movie are set at Yaddo‘s location as well.

Mentioned in the Showtime series The Affair season 2, episode 11 where Noah Solloway's agent offers to set him up at Yaddo to write his second novel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History", Yaddo, archived from the original on August 14, 2010, retrieved September 20, 2011.
  2. ^ "New Sites Recognize More Complete Story of America, including Significant Latino, African American and Indian Sites". US Department of the interior. March 11, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Yaddo and Substance". Time. September 5, 1938. Archived from the original on July 27, 2009. Creating at Yaddo last week, at mid-season of the colony's twelfth year [1938], was a typical group of writers and artists who have given substance to Katrina's vision. But whether or not they fit her romantic conception was an open question. By contrast with aristocratic Katrina and the elegant surroundings she provided, most of the season's 27 guests stood out in striking left-wing contrast: Poet Kenneth Fearing (Angel Arms, Poems), Critic Newton Arvin (Hawthorne), Novelists Joseph Vogel (At Madame Bonnard's), Leonard Ehrlich (God's Angry Man), Henry Roth (Call It Sleep), Daniel Fuchs (Low Company).
    "One of the show places of the U.S., Yaddo is a 500-acre (2.0 km2) estate with pine groves, vast lawns, artificial lakes with ducks, famous rose gardens, and white marble fountains. The name Yaddo was a baby pronunciation given by the Trask children (all four of whom died in childhood) to The Shadows, a famous inn formerly on the site of the Trask estate, where the Trasks had spent their summers. It was one of the dozen places where Poe was supposed to have written The Raven, and Katrina said it inspired her own poetry.
  4. ^ History, Wiawaka, retrieved June 9, 2011.
  5. ^ Ware, Louise (2009). George Foster Peabody: Banker, Philanthropist, Publicist. University of Georgia Press. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-8203-3456-1. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  6. ^ Grenier, Emily. "The Stone Tower at Yaddo". UpstateHistorical. Archived from the original on December 17, 2023. Retrieved February 20, 2024.
  7. ^ Ruth Price, The Lives of Agnes Smedley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 5-9.
  8. ^ The Lowell Affair: Yaddo's Red Scare, NYPL.
  9. ^ Blumenkranz, Carla (May 23, 2023), Deeply and mysteriously implicated, Poetry Foundation.
  10. ^ "Elizabeth Ames, Creator of Yaddo, Upstate Cultural Haven, Dies at 92," New York Times, March 30, 1977.
  11. ^ Guide to the Yaddo records, NYPL.
  12. ^ Louis Kronenberger, No Whippings, No Gold Watches (Boston: Little Brown, 1970), 269.
  13. ^ Kinney, Jim (May 18, 2005). "Vandals Strike Yaddo Gardens". The Saratogian. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  14. ^ Kinney, Jim (May 21, 2006). "Yaddo Vandals' Damage Undone". The Saratogian. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  15. ^ "Yaddo board names new co-chairs". Times Union. September 10, 2018. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  16. ^ "$1M gift received by Yaddo". The Business Review. Albany, New York. December 17, 1998. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  17. ^ Barron, James; Martin, Douglas (February 18, 1998). "Public Lives; Here and There". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  18. ^ Willcox, Kathleen (June 1, 2016). "Patricia Highsmith, Yaddo and America". Saratoga Living. Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  19. ^ Yaddo Gardens website.
  20. ^ a b "At Yaddo, statues truly are for all seasons," Daily Gazette Schenectady, New York, January 21, 2017.
  21. ^ Poetry of Henry van Dyke. The poem was written specifically for the Yaddo Garden.
  22. ^ "Guests – Lists of Artists". Yaddo. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  23. ^ "Artist Guests". Yaddo. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  24. ^ "Our Artists". Corporation of Yaddo. Retrieved July 8, 2023.
  25. ^ Fearing, Kenneth (2004). The Collected Poems of Kenneth Fearing. Indiana: Indiana Press University. p. XVIII. ISBN 0943373255.
  26. ^ "YOU (2018) s01e08 Episode Script: You Got Me Babe". Springfield! Springfield!.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]