Public Invited to Help Complete Spirit of Life’s Restoration
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In less than four months, the iconic Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial in Congress Park will celebrate its 100th birthday. The public is invited to an official rededication ceremony on June 26, as part of the city’s Centennial activities. This will be the culmination of years of effort to restore a nationally significant work of public art. In order to assure that the restoration will be completed by that date, an appeal to the community at large has been issued.
This month the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation has asked the public for help to raise the remaining amount needed to complete the restoration of the unofficial symbol of Saratoga Springs. Thanks to the widespread support to date from many local individuals, businesses and foundations along with the Foundation’s work and the City’s commitment, less than 10 percent of the project’s total cost of $660,000 remains to be raised.
Honorary Co-Chairs of the campaign, Barbara L. Glaser and Kathleen Fyfe, are now appealing to area residents and businesses to support this worthy project and ensure that the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial is preserved for the next hundred years. “As of yesterday, we have only $46,000 remaining.” Glaser said. “I’m particularly excited to work on this campaign with Kathleen, because we represent two generations and she has boundless energy.”
Ms. Glaser said that a social media campaign will be launched soon, but donations can be accepted now on the web, by mail and phone (see details at the end of this story.) For those who are able to donate $500 or more, they will receive a high-quality print of a painting of the Spirit of Life by local artist Kate Edwards. But any amount is welcome.
In 2011, the Preservation Foundation took initial steps to restore the Memorial. In anticipation of marking both the Memorial’s and the City’s centennial, on-site work began last spring with the removal of decaying 100-year-old white pines and work to restore the masonry started this past summer. In addition, this spring conservation of the bronze Spirit of Life sculpture will take place and the restoration of the wide pathways, plantings, benches and lighting will be completed.
“Some to the reasons why I particularly love this project is that it combines open space, public art and preservation,” Glaser said. “Plus the fact that it’s free, not to mention the site of many important family milestones for generations.”
In 1913, Katrina Trask, philanthropist, founder of artist colony Yaddo and Saratoga resident, and Spencer Trask’s business partner George Foster Peabody, commissioned the Memorial to honor her late husband Spencer Trask. The Memorial is the product of the artistic collaboration of noted American sculptor Daniel Chester French, architect Henry Bacon, and landscape architect Charles Leavitt, Jr.
French and Bacon are best known for their collaboration on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. French created the bronze Spirit of Life sculpture; Bacon designed the masonry; and Leavitt, who was responsible for significant changes to the Saratoga Racecourse at the turn of the century, planned the landscape setting. The Memorial was unveiled and gifted to the City of Saratoga Springs on June 26, 1915.
Over the past century, countless residents and visitors have enjoyed this National Historic Landmark. Also, the image of the Spirit of Life has been used numerous times for a variety of logos, including most recently the City of Saratoga Springs’ official Centennial Celebration logo.
In a town known for its civic involvement and pride, this is a great chance for everyone to participate in securing a bit of local history’s future.
Should fundraising efforts exceed the project’s final cost, excess funds will be placed in a restricted endowment fund dedicated to the Memorial’s maintenance and preservation.
Donations are needed as soon as possible to complete the restoration by June 26. They can be made online at spiritofliferestoration.org; by check made payable to Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and mailed to 112 Spring Street, Suite 203, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866; or by credit card over the phone: (518) 587-5030.