Yaddo’s recovery is nearly complete
Sunday, January 24, 2010
By Tatiana Zarnowski (Contact)
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Quick Response Restoration employees, Evan Leggett, right, and Steven Nadeau,left, move books into the library space in the building at Yaddo that has been restored and refurbished after a smokey fire two years ago.Text Size: A | A | A
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Twenty months after a fire damaged Yaddo’s office building, the nonprofit artist retreat is still getting itself back together.
The $1.8 million restoration is nearly complete, with some refurnishing left and recovering items in storage. Work is expected to be totally finished by mid-March.
The changes improve handicap accessibility and modernize the building while still keeping its original atmosphere.
“I think people that were guests at Yaddo before will have that same feel when they walk into the building,” said Yaddo spokeswoman Lesley Leduc. “The building still looks the same from the outside.”
All artist services have been moved to the ground floor of the office building, a former garage for the Yaddo estate. An elevator — required by the building inspector and paid by insurance — makes the building handicapped-accessible for the first time ever.
The May 10, 2008, fire in Yaddo’s basement started with a riding lawn mower and spread to storage materials. An alarm alerted the fire department.
No one was in the building on that weekend night except the resident cat, Mr. Pink.
The cat was rescued unharmed and the fire extinguished before it could travel to the first floor.
But smoke permeated both upper floors, saturating the library’s 6,000-plus books, employees’ paper files and furniture.
Everything was taken away by fire recovery company Quick Response, passed through an ozone chamber to neutralize the smell or stored in trailers on the Yaddo property.
“They were the furthest from the fire,” Leduc said of the library books, which were all written and donated by Yaddo artists. “Nothing of historical value or significance was lost.”
That’s a small miracle, considering the treasure trove of information stored at Yaddo about resident artists and historical information about Spencer and Katrina Trask, who lived at the estate before their deaths.
Artist guests in the last year and a half missed not being able to use the library, Leduc said, but overall, artists weren’t affected by the fire.
At that time, Yaddo was weatherizing the mansion kitchen so it could be operated in the winter, so guests have been fed there since the fire. Before that, the office building’s second floor housed the “winter kitchen,” because the airy mansion was too difficult and expensive to heat in the winter.
Staffers were put out by the fire, and moved into the mansion’s music hall, working in close quarters right after the blaze.
Then they moved back into the office building, working off folding tables and with improvised lighting.
Even now, employees are just beginning to get their furniture back.
The trying time has inspired kindness from the Yaddo artist community, Leduc said. One former guest donated money for adjustable library shelves.
“Our librarian is ecstatic,” she said of volunteer librarian Susan Brynteson, who comes once a year from Delaware to catalog and shelve books.
Of the $1.8 million in work, $1.4 million was covered by insurance, and the rest are voluntary upgrades, such as bringing undamaged wiring up to today’s standards in the 1910 building and making the heating system more efficient, Leduc said.