Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park
The former home of America’s preeminent 19th century sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, now serves many purposes to the community, among them art museum, nature preserve, artistic development, and garden retreat. Saint-Gaudens began to spend his summers in the area beginning in 1885 and purchased land there in 1891. The main house, known as Aspet, was built from a former tavern and Saint-Gaudens added several studios and landscaped gardens to the property. As a national historical park, it now displays over 100 of his works in various settings, to include original sculptures as well as reproductions of his more famous works. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
Backstory and Context
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was born in Dublin, Ireland to an Irish mother and French father in 1848 and the family immigrated to New York City that same year. He eventually apprenticed with a cameo cutter and then furthered his artistic education at the National Academy of Design. At nineteen, he travelled to Europe where he studied in both Paris and Rome. It was while in Europe that he began his impressive career as a professional sculptor. Saint-Gaudens was back in America by 1881, when he created his first large-scale work, “Admiral Farragut.” He then went on to be one of the country’s greatest and most influential sculptors, creating works dedicated to President Lincoln, the 54th Massachusetts Civil War Regiment, and General William T. Sherman. His designs have also graced U.S. coins, to include a $20 gold coin minted in the early 20th century and the American Eagle gold bullion coin minted in 1986. He died in 1907 at Aspet.
Saint-Gaudens began renting space in a former tavern owned by friend, Charles Beaman, near Corning, New Hampshire in 1885. While still living in New York, Saint-Gaudens spent summers in New Hampshire and began what would come to be known as the Cornish Art Colony as he was more than willing to tutor young artists. Saint-Gaudens eventually transformed the former tavern into a Federalist mansion and added studios to the property for himself and his visitors. Saint-Gaudens purchased the property from Beaman in 1891 and made it his permanent residence from 1901 until his death in 1907.
The property remained in the hands of his wife, Augusta, until her death in 1926 when it was taken over by the Saint-Gaudens Memorial, a non-profit organization created by Augusta in 1919. It then served as a museum dedicated to Saint-Gaudens until 1965 when it was transferred to the United States Department of the Interior. Meanwhile, more land was donated to the future National Park in 1930, the 1970s, and 1998 to include Beaman’s nearby Blow-Me-Down Farm which brought its total size to 195 acres. It was then designated a National Historical Park in early 2019 by passage of the John D. Dingle Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.
Today, the park is home to numerous exhibits, works of art in nature, educational programs, gardens, and hiking trails. A gallery complex, built in the 1940s, provides a venue for indoor art and exterior sculptures, to include a reproduction of “Admiral Farragut.” Also at the park are terraced gardens designed by Saint-Gaudens and architect Ellen Shipman, Pan’s Garden which features a marble pool and statue of Pan, an outdoor room, atrium, and a replica of Saint Gaudens’ “Standing Lincoln.”
Pfister, Tom. "New Name Suits Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park." Forbes. March 19, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tompfister/2019/03/19/new-name-suits-saint-gaudens-national-historical-park/
"Saint-Gaudens Memorial Celebrates Cenntennial, Partner Park Gets New Name Designation." Antiques and the Arts Weekly. July 24, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2019. https://www.antiquesandthearts.com/saint-gaudens-memorial-celebrates-centennial-partner-park-gets-new-name-designation/
Murkowski, Lisa. "Senate Report 115-299-Saint Gaudens National Historical Park Redesignation Act." Congress.gov. July 12, 2018. Accessed September 15, 2019. https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/115th-congress/senate-report/299/1
Kelly, George. "Guide to the Saint-Gaudens Estate in Cornish, New Hampshire. nhmagazine. May 13, 2013. Accessed September 15, 2019. https://www.nhmagazine.com/guide-to-the-saint-gaudens-estate-in-cornish-new-hampshire/