Yaddo Mansion Terrace and Porch
-Marcelle Clements, Yaddo: Making American Culture, 2008.
Spencer and Katrina Trask designed Yaddo to have a large terrace fronting the lawn, as well as a smaller covered porch. Terraces and porches were common architectural features for late-nineteenth century mansions. During the Victorian period, elite and middle-class Americans enjoyed taking in the fresh air while socializing or recreating on their houses’ porches or terraces. The Trasks’ architectural inspiration, Haddon Hall, in England did not have either of these features. The terrace at Yaddo served multiple purposes. From the lawn, the terrace’s stone walls resembled the ramparts of a medieval castle. The terrace had two levels with flights of stairs spanning the change in elevation from the lawn to the mansion’s raised first floor. The elevated ground floor further contributed to the building’s castle-like appearance. The terrace also functioned as an extension of the indoor social space. There was some built-in seating and plenty of additional open space that could be furnished to suit the occasion. Less essential to Yaddo’s Tudor Revival design than the terrace, the Trasks also had a covered porch constructed on the wooded south side of the house to provide a more sheltered outdoor space.
The porch and especially the terrace have played important roles in the Yaddo art colony because they serve as outdoor counterparts to the Great Hall. In good weather, Yaddo guests frequently socialized out on the terrace after they finished working at 4:30 in the afternoon. Artists and writers had cocktail hour together prior to having dinner in Yaddo’s communal dining room. Socializing, partying, and playing around during cocktail hour and dinner served as a release for guests after they had spent the day working in solitude. The comradery and frequent antics caused many artists and writers to form lasting friendships with other guests during their communal social time at Yaddo. Socializing also led to many romantic and sexual relationships. Some guests met their spouses or long term partners at Yaddo, like Henry Roth who married Muriel Parker and Jean Garrigue who had lengthy relationships with Josephine Herbst and Alfred Kazin. Of the relationships formed at Yaddo, one of the most notable was the love affair between writers Newton Arvin and Truman Capote. The relationship had a profound impact on Capote’s career. Yaddo guests also had innumerable hookups. Writer John Cheever liked to brag that he had sex on every flat surface at Yaddo.