In 1913, Katrina Trask, philanthropist, Yaddo founder, and Saratoga resident, along with Spencer Trask’s business partner George Foster Peabody, commissioned the Memorial to honor her late husband and his efforts to protect and preserve Saratoga’s natural
springs while further beautifying Congress Park. The work for the Memorial was completed through the artistic collaboration of two significant Americans, sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon. Daniel Chester French was at the time considered America’s foremost sculptor of public monuments including: The Minute Man in Concord, MA; John Harvard at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; and Alma Mater at Columbia University in New York City. Henry Bacon was known for his public buildings and monuments designed in the Beaux Arts style and later received a Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects for his achievements.
The Spencer Trask Memorial was a true partnership during the careers of these two friends, who also designed and executed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. French created the bronze sculpture, Spirit of Life, while Bacon designed the niche, wing walls, reflecting pool, and overlook, largely constructed of Indiana limestone, that established the architectural setting for the sculpture. New York City-based civil engineer, landscape architect, and urban planner Charles Leavitt, Jr., who was also responsible for the significant changes to the Saratoga Race Course at the turn of the century and the design of many private estates of wealthy New Yorkers, prepared the original landscape design.
The Memorial was dedicated in 1915, the same year the City of Saratoga Springs was incorporated. The dedication to Spencer Trask reads: To the Memory of Spencer Trask, His One Object in Life was to do Right, and to Serve His Fellow Men, and Gave Himself Abundantly to Hasten the Coming of a New and Better Day.
Today, the Memorial serves to remind us of our civic responsibility to preserve our nationally and locally significant cultural resources, to give back to the community, and find comfort and respite in beauty. As the Saratoga Sun published in June 1915 stated, “The sun shining up on it gave added beauty and effectiveness and the statue will always be, besides being a memorial to Mr. Trask, one of the beauties of the parks, which will attract the eye of all who come to this city.”