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SARATOGA SIDEBAR


CONGRESS PARK’S “SPIT AND SPAT” FOUNTAIN IS A SUMMER CELEBRATION OF LIFE AND JOY.


MONUMENTAL You can tell something about a city by its statuary. Fre- quently what is carved in stone and cast in bronze is a commu- nity’s pride in its military history, represented by generals on horseback, doughboys with rifles, and mythical symbols of vic- tory and peace.


Near Saratoga Springs, a national park marks the site of the 1777 Battles of Saratoga. Among its most interesting statues is the “boot monument,” which honors Benedict Arnold’s hero- ism and leg wound but also dishonors his treachery by leaving off his name. Likewise, the nearby Saratoga Monument includes statues of Generals Gates, Morgan, and Schuyler but leaves the fourth niche, Arnold’s, empty. In Saratoga proper, in Congress Park, an impressive bronze soldier, crafted by Fiske Iron Works and dedicated in 1875, commemorates the Civil War service of New York State’s 77th Infantry Regiment. But much of Saratoga’s statuary isn’t military; it’s a celebra- tion of life, art, and culture. Foremost is Congress Park’s bronze Spirit of Life. Created by Daniel Chester French in 1914–15 as a memorial to civic-minded financier Spencer Trask, it depicts a heroic winged female holding aloft a basin of perpetually flowing water. Water likewise streams per- petually—at least in the summer—from the conch shells held by two marble tritons, fondly called Spit and Spat, in the park’s Italian Gardens behind Can- field Casino. Next to them are pillar-like statues of the Greek god Pan and female followers of Diony- sus that were recreated a few years ago with the help of old photos and the advice of Skidmore classicist Leslie Mechem.


On South Broadway in front of the National Museum of Dance is a welded steel sculpture by Judith Brown of the Greek goddess Athena danc- ing. In the Spa State Park, George H. Snowden’s


68 SCOPE SPRING 2011


1934 allegorical stone sculptures Earth and Water decorate two niches on the side of the Hall of Springs. At the Yaddo estate, Spencer Trask’s late Victorian mansion is surrounded by gardens he designed as a gift to his wife, Katrina, and as an assertion that there was still life to be celebrated after the devastating loss of all four of their children. Yaddo is now a world-famous artists retreat, and those public gardens include a large marble fountain depicting water nymphs stretching awake, Italian marbles of the four seasons, and William Ordway Par- tridge’s chivalric youth Christalan. Of course, it wouldn’t be Saratoga without horse monu- ments. Outside the National Racing Museum is a bronze of Seabiscuit, while Secretariat stands proudly in the courtyard inside. Downtown, City Hall is guarded by two cast-iron lions, restored there in 2008 after decades of being climbed upon by kids in the East and West Side recreation parks. Skidmore’s campus has fewer statues of prominent thinkers and doers than many older colleges. In the heyday of the Woodlawn estate, an 1872 marble of a pensive Hiawatha by Augustus Saint-Gaudens graced the Wayside Cot- tage lawn, which is now the quad south of Scribner Library. (Once rumored to have been stolen, the statue was in fact sold at the estate auction in 1916; it is on display in New York City at the Metropolitan.) The campus does have some fig- urative as well as abstract sculptures—for in- stance, the Alumni Memorial Garden features a statue of the Hindu earth goddess Bhumi Devi, by Barbara Stroock Kaufman ’40. If the ethos of a place can be read in its monuments, Saratoga Springs is clearly a com- munity that honors its past and fully embraces the joys of its present. —KG


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