The Stone Tower at Yaddo
— Marjorie Peabody Waite in "Yaddo, Yesterday and Today" (1933)
The Stone Tower was most likely constructed around 1893, the same time as the Yaddo Mansion. The Trasks intended to use the upper story of the structure as their family chapel, with the lower level being used to store ice. The Trasks later came to realize that the stone they had used for the construction of the tower was too porous to keep cold air inside, rendering it more of a decorative folly than a usable icehouse. By the time the estate opened as an art colony in 1926, the Stone Tower found a new purpose as the “Composer’s Studio.”
Set off far from the estate, among the thick forests and crystal-clear lakes, the Stone Tower served as the perfect location for music composers to work out the kinks in their latest pieces without disturbing other guests at the estate. The Music Room at the Yaddo Estate was intended more for the performance and enjoyment of finished pieces; for writing, practicing, and rewriting, the bucolic setting of the Stone Tower was highly prized among composers. Aaron Copland, the storied American composer and conductor, composed his Piano Variations in the Stone Tower in 1930. Copland also played a large role in planning the Festival of Contemporary Music at Yaddo that same year; he would go on to plan a second iteration of the festival in 1932.
Although the Stone Tower was set off quite a ways from the mansion proper, it was therefore much closer to the Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs. On race days, it was possible to hear the sound of the starting bell and the roar of the crowds from the mansion. The hubbub was likely much louder in the vicinity of the Stone Tower, and almost certainly tested the concentration and patience of numerous composers who worked there.
While the Stone Tower remained a favorite among visiting composers, the studio remained available for other Yaddo residents to use at their leisure. Writers, especially, found the site’s seclusion conducive to deep periods of concentration. The long, meandering walk from the main mansion invigorated the mind and spirit of many artists who called Yaddo home—if only for a little while.