TwHP Lessons

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site:
Home of a Gilded Age Icon

[Cover photo] Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
(Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site)


ugustus Saint-Gaudens had been told that this region of western New Hampshire along the banks of the Connecticut River was the "land of Lincoln­shaped men." That description drew him to Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1885 to find a place where he could model his latest commission, a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Seeking only a temporary residence and studio, Saint-Gaudens and his wife, Augusta, were directed to an old rundown tavern.

Saint-Gaudens was initially appalled by the place, but his wife saw possibilities. Before long the family established a summer home and studio there. Here in the shadow of nearby Mt. Ascutney, Saint-Gaudens conceived a host of projects. Here he became the leader of the art colony and community that grew around him. And it was here that he battled cancer and sought release and health through vigorous physical activity. In the end, after having operated at the height of his career four studios—one in Paris, two in New York City, and the Cornish site—he would choose to be buried here.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is a window into one aspect of the Gilded Age: the role of the artist. The house and grounds reflect what was important to "highbrow" Americans at the turn of the century. For example, the importance of leisure is evident in the gardens and grounds adjoining the Pan Pool and the remnants of the small golf course the artist had built. Not surprisingly, money was another important component of Gilded Age America. Saint-Gaudens was a man who enjoyed the finer things in life and was not necessarily modest in his habits. Although he is known primarily for his 35 public monuments erected across the United States between 1880 and 1907, the vast majority of Saint-Gaudens' works were bas-relief portraits commissioned by private clients.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Cornish, New Hampshire, and
 Surrounding Region

 2. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Who Was Augustus Saint-Gaudens?
 2. Arrival at Cornish
 3. The Cornish Colony
 4. Henry Adams' Reflection on the
 Adams Memorial

 5. Letter to the President

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
 2. Aspet, past and present
 3. Adams Memorial
 4. Samuel G. Ward
 5. Coin models

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Artist and Client
 2. Coins, Coins, Coins
 3. Meet the Cornish Colony
 4. Exploring the Artist's World
 5. Local Wonders

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This lesson is based on Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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