The Great Hall at Yaddo
— Sylvia Plath, journal entry from September 16th, 1959
Upon the completion of the reconstructed Yaddo Mansion in 1893, Spencer and Katrina Trask sought to furnish their new home with all the trappings of an English Tudor country estate as well as all the comforts of a modern American home. The Great Hall at Yaddo was thus populated with furniture collected from far and wide, as well as custom-built pieces that evoked the grandeur and splendor of luxurious European estates.
The Great Hall has a number of large fireplaces, but perhaps the most striking mantel is one designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, then-director of Tiffany & Co., who also received a commission to design many of the stained-glass windows around the estate. The large, intricate glass mosaic above this fireplace depicts a blue phoenix rising from a bed of red and orange flames. Below this scene, the mantle is emblazoned with a Latin phrase,
Flamis invicta per ignem Yaddo resurgo ad pacem.
In English, this translates to:
Unconquered by flame, I, Yaddo, am reborn for peace.
The phoenix mosaic serves as the greatest illustration of the Trasks’ vision of Yaddo. At the close of the nineteenth century, Spencer and Katrina Trask had suffered numerous tragedies—the original house at Yaddo burned to the ground in 1891, and in that same decade, all four of their children would pass away unexpectedly. The Trasks were acutely aware of their large estate at Yaddo as well as the fact that they had no living heirs to inherit the property. From the ashes of their numerous personal tragedies, the Trasks decided to turn Yaddo into an artists’ colony, ensuring that there would always be a space for talented individuals to “create, create, create” without interruption.
To this day, the Great Hall serves as the primary socializing space for Yaddo’s residents. After the quiet hours expire and the guests have sat down for dinner together in the Dining Room, they are free to socialize in any of the larger spaces around the Mansion. Residents are discouraged from reading manuscripts and are instead encouraged to let the conversation flow freely.