The home, studio, and gardens of America's most noted sculptor are preserved at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. The 150-acre site, dotted with casts of some of his sculptures, offers a crash-course in the career of an important artist, as well as a glimpse into the life of a wealthy, artistic couple of the late nineteenth century.
©National Park Service
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site was a frequent meeting place of an active
and vibrant group of artists.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens came to the rolling hills and dark pines of the upper Connecticut River Valley in the summer of 1885. He was already well-known for the Farragut Monument in New York's Madison Square Park, private commissions in the interiors of the Vanderbilt and Villard houses in New York, and Trinity Church in Boston.
He bought the old Wayside Inn in Cornish and transformed the rural home into a replica of an Italian villa; the outbuildings were turned into studios. Other artists soon joined Saint-Gaudens and his wife at their rural retreat, including painter Maxfield Parrish, poet Percy MacKaye, and actress Ethel Barrymore. Saint-Gaudens' home became the center of a lively group of painters, writers, and musicians known as the Cornish Art Colony.
The pastoral setting of Cornish inspired some of Saint-Gaudens' most familiar works, including "The Standing Lincoln" in Chicago and "Diana," which once graced the tower of Stanford White's Madison Square Garden (but is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). While in Cornish, Saint-Gaudens also sculpted the haunting memorial to historian Henry Adams's wife in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Cemetery and the equestrian statue of William Tecumseh Sherman, which stands near New York's Central Park. This work won the Grand Prix in the Paris Salon of 1900.
Seven years later, Saint-Gaudens died. His son and wife, Augusta Homer, and later a board of trustees, maintained the property for tourists until the National Park Service acquired it in 1964. The interior of the house, decorated with American, English, Arabic, Flemish, and Japanese furnishings and objects, reflects Augusta Homer's eclectic tastes. Works by Augusta and members of the Cornish Art Colony can be found throughout the house.
Fire eventually destroyed two of the studios, but the Little Studio, as Saint-Gaudens called it, remains. An exhibition gallery displays originals, casts, and replicas of the sculptor's works. The artistic skills of Saint-Gaudens can also be found in the colorful gardens, reflecting pool, and evergreen hedges of the grounds.
The memorial was made possible by a fund established by Joshua B. Smith, a fugitive slave from North Carolina who became a state representative from Cambridge. It took Saint-Gaudens 13 years to complete the high-relief bronze statue, which was dedicated on May 31, 1897.
Saint-Gaudens national Historic Site Information
Address: 139 Saint-Gaudens Rd., Cornish, NH
Hours of Operation: Daily from late May through October 3, 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Admission: $5 for adults, free for children 16 and younger
Learn more about these other national historic sites:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- New Hampshire State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Hampshire as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.