The Trasks of Yaddo


The house that Trask built.

By Mike Hare

It's one of the best kept secrets in Saratoga, but John Cheever, Leonard Bernstein and
Truman Capote knew about it. They're just a few of the thousands of artists who've
spent summers at Yaddo.

But the romantic tragedy that surrounds Yaddo began years before their visits.

In the early 1880's Spencer and Katrina Trask came from New York City to Saratoga to go house hunting. They purchased property just east of the new Saratoga Racecourse. He was an investor, she was a poet and patron of the arts. They were very wealthy, and deeply in love. Their home was always filled with artists and writers. Guests stayed for weeks at a time. From the outside, it looked as if they had it all.

But all their money couldn't protect them from tragedy. All four of the Trask children died before they were teenagers. One lived only 12-days. In 1891, their home burned to the ground and they built the stone mansion that stands today.

Spencer continued his work and volunteered to help Governor Charles Hughes save Saratoga's mineral springs. On New Years Eve in 1909 he took the train to New York City to deliver a report on their efforts. At Croton-on-Hudson a freight train slammed into his express train. Trask was the only person killed in the accident.

Katrina stayed on at Yaddo for the rest of her life, and artists continued to visit. After turning down his proposals many times, she eventually married Spencer's business partner and close family friend George Foster Peabody.

Peabody helped Katrina turn her home into the artists retreat we know as Yaddo.
In 1926, four years after she died, the first class of artists moved in. Since then, Yaddo has nurtured the talents of thousands of authors, composers, screenwriters, painters, poets and other artists. The rock garden and rose garden, designed by Spencer as gifts for his wife, are open to the public from dawn to dusk.

What about the name? Why is it called "Yaddo"? The name was invented by one of the Trask children, Christina, who thought it rhymed with shadow and made beautiful poetry.

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.


It's such a beautiful place! I never knew where the name came from or why it was built out of stone before reading your story! Thanks for sharing!

A ghostly house, a presence of time brought forth for use for the nourishment of minds, how do I know, the windows look out with the souls of time.

The stone, of course, with their shadows of gray are the pride of all who stand and gaze. Walk through the halls with the spirits within they follow and caress blanketing all.

The grounds are covered in a layer of green, the cedars are there of course they will not leave, their boughs tip gently in the breeze.

Now, I bid you adieu hoping one day I will see you for real for as of now you are just a place, one that I hold deeply in my heart for as I grow old my time is short but in my dreams you are always there, the time clock ticks, the hour glass short, my grains of sand almost gone but my spirit will hover when I am gone.

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