Friday, February 8, 2008

Literary Landmarks in Saratoga County

If you find yourself traveling in upstate New York, you may want to visit these literary landmarks in Saratoga County.

Cooper’s Cave
- At the northern edge of the village of South Glens Falls, underneath the bridge that crosses into the City of Glens Falls, lies Cooper’s Cave. An area extending into Cooper’s Cave was recently opened, overlooking the rushing waters of the Hudson River. The Cave was a site that inspired some of the scenes in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “Last of the Mohicans”. You can visit Cooper’s Cave from Memorial Day to Halloween, 9 am to 8 pm. Admission is free.

Yaddo - Yaddo is an artist and writer’s colony founded in 1900 by philanthropists Spencer and Katrina Trask on their 400-acre estate in Saratoga Springs. Yaddo is located on Union Avenue, just at Exit 14 of Interstate I-87. Residencies are offered to writers, filmmakers, musicians and other artists, during which they are pampered with food and laundry services that allow them to work undisturbed.

Writers that have stayed at Yaddo include Truman Capote, Elizabeth Bishop, John Cheever, Louise Erdich, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Lethem, A.M. Homes, Chester Himes, Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Connor, Grace Paley, Dorothy Parker, Tillie Olsen, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, Eudora Welty, and many, many others. While the rest of the estate is off-limits to the public, you can soak up the atmosphere in the Yaddo Gardens from 8 a.m. to dusk each day. If you would like a guided tour of the gardens and learn a little more about Yaddo history, you can do so for $5.00 on weekends from June to September. I was priveleged to have a rare tour of the Yaddo estate when my artist friend Katie DeGroot was in residency and it is a very atmospheric place: dark, dusty, Gothic arches in the woodwork trim and full of books that needed to be straightened up in this bookman's view.

Grant Cottage - High atop Mount McGregor in Wilton, New York is a rustic Victorian cottage where President Ulysses S. Grant spent the last weeks of his life writing his memoirs. Grant was suffering from advanced oral cancer, probably due to his constant cigar smoking, and he was desperate to finish up his two-volume memoirs in order to provide some income for his family after his death. Grant died at Mount McGregor in 1883 and the house is preserved exactly as it was after his death with dried funeral bouquets in the parlor, and Grant’s couch in the sitting room where he stayed up most nights, writing through the pain. It is a poignant setting.

The Grant Cottage is a State Historic Site open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You go to a parking lot at the base of the Mountain and then catch a ride in a State Corrections vehicle up to the Cottage, as it sits on the site of a low-security prison. Here's the link to get directions and hours.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We'll be down from Canada to visit your enticing and historic area come spring, Rachel. In our part of Glengarry County, Ontario, our founding settlers were the dis-possessed tenants of Sir William Johnson's estates in the Mohawk Valley.

Old Saratoga Springs was, I understand, the birthplace of the potato chip as we know it.

David Anderson, bookseller

Rachel Jagareski, Old Saratoga Books said...

David:

Welcome in advance to our neighborhood! Spring is lovely, although the weather can be iffy, so dress in layers. Legend has it that yes, the potato chip was invented by a chef (I believe his last name was Crum) at Moon's Lake House on Saratoga Lake who was annoyed by a customer who sent back some potato dish, complaining that it was done enough. He then fried the batch in oil and voila, everyone's favorite potato snack was invented.

-Rachel