Spencer Trask Memorial & Spirit of Life Restoration Campaign

Spencer Trask Memorial & Spirit of Life - Historic Postcard Image


June 26, 2015 will mark the centennial of the Spencer Trask Memorial and in preparation, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation (SSPF) has partnered with the City of Saratoga Springs to restore this nationally and locally significant memorial. 

In 1913, Katrina Trask, philanthropist, Yaddo founder, and Saratoga resident, along with George Foster Peabody, commissioned the Memorial to honor her late husband, Spencer Trask and his efforts to protect and preserve Saratoga’s natural springs while further beautifying Congress Park.  The work for the Memorial was completed through the artistic collaboration of two significant Americans, sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect, Henry Bacon. The Spencer Trask Memorial was a true partnership during the early career of these two friends, who also designed and executed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.  French created the bronze sculpture, Spirit of Life, while Bacon designed the architectural and landscaped surrounds. The Memorial was completed in 1915, the same year the City of Saratoga Springs was incorporated.

In 1982, a well-intended cleaning of the Spirit of Life sculpture was started by the Department of Public Works, but was stopped by concerned citizens because an inappropriate method was being used.  That was when the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation became partners with the City to undertake the first restoration.  SSPF spearheaded a fundraising campaign to underwrite the cost of the restoration.  In 1983, the Spirit of Life was repatinated and received a protective coating under the supervision of nationally recognized bronze conservator, Phoebe Dent Weil.  In 1984, the firm Crawford and Stearns, architects and preservation consultants, was hired to develop a restoration plan that included addressing the Bacon designed architectural surround and landscape features.  Based on their recommendations portions of the surround were repaired and/or replaced.

That same year as part of the effort, SSPF sponsored a Spirit of Life Education Program for the public and the Saratoga Springs School System.  The program was presented by Michael Richman, author of Daniel Chester French, An American Sculptor

Nearly 30 years later, it is once again time to restore the Spencer Trask Memorial.  A steering committee made up of city representatives, SSPF members and concerned citizens has been formed to oversee the restoration.  Members include: Samantha Bosshart, Donna Buckley, Cindy Corbett, Jim Gold, Richard Kline, Dee Sarno, Holly Schwarz-Lawton, Skip Scirocco, Julie Stokes, and Jere Tatich.   Thus far the committee has received preliminary cost estimates for restoration of the Spirit of Life sculpture and the masonry elements including the surround, the east balustrade and the rambling creek that leads to the pond.  

A large portion of the Memorial that needs to be assessed is the landscape, which was an integral feature of the memorial. The health of the trees, including the large white pines behind the sculpture which may date from its dedication needs to be evaluated.  A preservation landscape plan also is necessary to determine the original pathways and plantings and best restoration treatments.  Finch Paper of Glens Falls has generously offered the services of its professional foresters to assess the trees at no cost to the City.

SSPF anticipates that the total restoration will cost approximately $225,000 and will take four years to complete.  SSPF is pleased that the City of Saratoga Springs has included $25,000 in its proposed Capital Project Budget to help with initial restoration efforts and is hopeful that it will provide $25,000 for the three following years.  SSPF will undertake a large fundraising campaign that will involve reaching out to private donors – residents, visitors and local businesses – host special events as well as apply for grants.

Furthermore, after submitting an application to Saratoga Springboard, the Spencer Trask Memorial & Spirit of Life Restoration Campaign was selected as that group’s project of the year. Saratoga Springboard is a group of talented professionals who will lend their varied skills in promotion, marketing, and fundraising to aid in increasing awareness of the restoration efforts. We are very excited at this unique opportunity to work with Saratoga Springboard which is dedicated to improving Saratoga’s quality of life by working with local non-profits. .

For those who would like to learn more about Daniel Chester French and his connections to Saratoga Springs, Anne Cathcart, Curatorial Assistant of Chesterwood, the home and studio of Daniel Chester French in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, will be presenting at the Saratoga History Museum on September 27, 7pm at the Canfield Casino as part of the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust Program Series.  

A fun way of raising funds and awareness for the restoration is the SSPF’s upcoming pub crawl that will be held on Saturday, October 15th, beginning at 2pm as a portion of the proceeds will be designated to go towards the Memorial’s restoration.

The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation will formally kick off its restoration efforts with a community meeting on Monday, October 3rd at 7pm at Saratoga Arts Center.   Those who want to learn more or who are interested in participating in the restoration efforts are encouraged to attend.

The Spencer Trask Memorial, 1913-1915, serves as a constant reminder of our civic responsibility to preserve our nationally and locally significant resources, to give back to the community, to have pride in creative partnerships, and find comfort and respite in beauty. As the The Saratoga Sun published in June, 1915 “The sun shining upon it gave added beauty and effectiveness and the statue will always be, besides being a memorial to Mr. Trask, one of the beauties of the parks, which will attract the eye of all who come to this city.” SSPF and the City hope that the public will support restoration efforts of the symbol of our city. 

For more information about the project, getting involved or upcoming events please contact Samantha Bosshart, Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation at (518) 587-5030 or email sbosshart@saratogapreservation.org.

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  1. […] event, set for 2 to 7 p.m. that Saturday, will raise money for the Spencer Trask Memorial & Spirit of Life Restoration Campaign. Tickets are $25 each, or $90 for groups of five. The charge will cover a souvenir pint glass, […]

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